-*.*.*-

Title: Black Demon

Summary: "Please," he whispered in her ear, mocking her. "Please." And she couldn't help but wonder if this was the first time he's ever said please before, even if he was just making fun of her. Sirius/Ginny

Disclaimer: I only own the plot.

-*.*.*-

Someone was laughing.

Her eyes opened immediately in surprise, searching the dark bedroom. Before she had attempted to lay down to sleep she lit three candles around the room. Now, hours later, only two remained burning. They were both down to the wick. It caused large, dark shadows to flutter across the walls as the flames moved in the still air.

Ginny had almost fallen asleep, she had been right there, but before her mind could completely surrender and allow peace to overtake it she had heard it.

Laughter.

The idea of such an act right now caused her stomach to tighten, in both anger and sadness. Tears had remained caught in her eyes for what seemed like hours now. She was so tired. And soon, she supposed, the sun would be rising and she'd have to face whatever news the day would bring. Ginny wasn't sure she was strong enough.

The loud outburst came again and she waited. Surely someone else in the house would wake up from it. Anyone else. But they were likely long asleep by now, ignorant to the sounds of the world outside their bedroom.

Shifting, Ginny turned her head so her other cheek was pressed against the cool wall. She had fallen asleep in odd positions before but to attempt to sleep sitting up with her face against the wall was a new one. But the covers on her bed made her too hot. Every time she had tried to crawl beneath them it felt like her blood was boiling, her heart racing. In her mind's eye she'd see dark corridors and hear a loud cry for help. A familiar voice yelling her name.

But if she pushed the covers off she'd be too cold. This house was always cold. And Ginny would begin to imagine bright lights and white everywhere and bright red on pale skin. She would see herself racing towards him (please don't do this to him, please, not him, she wouldn't survive this) but never reaching him. Goosebumps would break out across her skin and a cold sweat would drench her.

So she positioned herself against the wall, body covered by the blanket and face pressed against the cold wallpaper. Her eyes struggled to stay open as her mind raced. Ginny sat this way for hours, not sure if she was waiting for sleep or waiting for someone to come wake her with news. If she listened hard enough she could hear the soft snoring of the others in their respectable bedrooms. If she focused hard enough she could clear him from her mind.

If she had fallen asleep only five minutes earlier she wouldn't have heard the laughing.

But now Ginny was wide awake. She wished she could ignore the sound from outside her room but she couldn't. Especially since she began to have a feeling on who it was disrupting her peace. With a soft sigh, Ginny pushed the blanket off and slipped from the bed. The flames of the remaining candles burnt out as she opened the door, plunging the room into darkness as soon as she left.

The house was still as she crept through it, her arms hugging her body.

Unsurprisingly, she found exactly who she thought she would standing in the kitchen with his back to her. His body was tense, stress rolling off of him in waves, but still there were loud guffaws escaping him. Ginny must have been quiet reaching the kitchen for it was clear he didn't realize she was there. She was almost right beside him when he did it again.

He laughed loudly.

And anger filled her.

"What's so funny?" she snapped.

Sirius whirled around, startled, and something shattered. Jumping back in surprise, Ginny watched as pieces of glass bounced across the floor in all directions. He cursed and pushed her away in alarm. Her back hit the wall and she yelped in surprise. His movements were so fast that by the time Ginny could refocus Sirius was already moving towards her, his arm stretched out in apology.

"Are you okay?" he asked, his words colored with surprise.

Taking a deep breath, Ginny looked away from Sirius. A teacup had fallen when she had announced herself, shards of glass scattered throughout the kitchen. It had been a bland teacup, one that Ginny hardly remembered, but she could see pedals of a red rose on some of the pieces of glass. He took another step towards her and Ginny looked up at him.

Was she okay?

She didn't respond and Sirius accepted her answer with understanding. His large hand brushed her arm, squeezing it gently, before he bent down. Long hair covered his eyes and Ginny took the moment to compose herself.

It seemed he needed the moment to compose himself also. By the time she was ready for Sirius, the unspoken apology he had offered her seconds before was gone.

"What- Ginny, what the bloody hell? Why are you awake?"

He shoved her hand away when she bent down to try to help him clean up the teacup. She leaned back on her heels and raised her eyebrows. Sirius was angry, something boiling below the surface, which seemed ironic since it was just moments ago that he was laughing to himself.

"Go to bed, Ginny. You need your rest," he said, as though he could hear her thoughts.

"That's not up to you, is it?"

"Don't be a prat-" He stopped and took a deep breath.

His hands were shaking.

They both remained squatting on the floor in silence. The word (prat), something affectionately tossed between friends, seemed to echo between them and Ginny tilted her head. For the first time since she had been awoken rudely at Hogwarts, dragged into the Headmaster's office, and told the news of her father, Ginny's mind was not focused on tomorrow. It wasn't focused on her dad, laying in a hospital bed, dying. It was analyzing the man in front of her.

Sirius was such a strange creature, which didn't help the fascination building within her. After the summer, after he had awoken her from her nightmare, she had felt oddly bonded to the damaged man before her. He understood. He didn't judge her. He accepted her demons, her flaws, and acknowledged them. That was more than any of her own family had done and it had been years since the Chamber.

It felt only right to accept him also, just as she had promised him she would. Ginny wanted Sirius to feel comfortable with her, she wanted him to know she was there for him. But Ginny was not stupid. Sirius had lived a whole life before they had ever met, before she had even been a thought in her parents' mind. His damage ran deep and she didn't need for him to tell her that. It shined so clearly now, through the cracks in his skin. He could not be fixed, not easily.

Neither could she.

Ginny sat down completely on the floor, her legs aching from exhaustion. She did need to rest, he was right on that, but sleep was far from her mind.

"I'm sorry to have woken you," he started over hesitantly. "I did wake you, didn't I?"

When she shrugged, he sat down on the ground also. The pieces of the teacup were in a pile in front of his feet.

"I could never sleep easy in this house," Sirius admitted. "It's become easier with all of you here. Honestly, it has. But tonight…"

She shivered and rubbed her arms. He glanced at her, his hair falling from his eyes.

"Want to hear something odd?"

Ginny nodded. A wary smile came to his lips.

"I tend to laugh in the most inappropriate situations. I just- I can't help it," Sirius paused, squinting his eyes as he thought over his next words. "I think it's because of how much I hated my mother."

"What?" Ginny laughed, rocking closer to Sirius.

He let out a bark of laughter at her obvious surprise.

"It's true. My mother hated anything loud so… to piss her off just the right amount I'd laugh whenever she wanted me to react any other way. If she made me angry, I'd laugh right in her face. If she wanted me to cry, if she did something horrible…"

Ginny wondered what Sirius' mother could have done to purposely make her son cry. Her stomach tightened as various situations arose in her thoughts.

"She hated it. But I suppose she has had the last laugh. Because now I can't stop. I must look like a lunatic, laughing in awkward situations. And it must have angered you a bit when you found me laughing down here after the news of your father."

His eyes caught hers.

"I'm sorry about that. I-I really hope I didn't wake you. But I do hope Arthur, your father- he'll be fine. He will. I'm sure news of him in the morning will be good news. Your father is a fighter."

Tears burned her eyes but she couldn't look away from Sirius.

"I know," she managed to whisper. "But Harry said it was a snake."

She could envision the snake attacking her sweet father; she saw snakes in her nightmares all the time. She could hear Tom's laughter even now. It made her sick.

"A snake will not bring down Arthur Weasley," Sirius confidently told her.

She wondered if he was really so sure. Ginny looked at the floor and picked at a stray piece of glass.

"The sun will be up soon enough. And everything will be put to rest," he promised her softly.

"That's what I'm afraid of."

He moved towards her and she could feel his warmth even though they didn't touch.

"Go sleep. If I hear any news, I'll wake you."

Brushing at her eyes with her nightgown sleeve, Ginny nodded in agreement and slowly stood. Her legs screamed in protest and she moved away from him but she wanted to do something, anything, to show her appreciation for him treating her like an actual adult and not like a child. Sirius looked at her differently, just as she looked at him differently, and it made her stronger. It really did.

She took a small step back and placed her hand on his shoulder. Squeezing it once, she offered Sirius a smile before walking out of the kitchen. Ginny hoped he was right. Her father was a fighter, he would survive this, everything would be fine, right?

-*.*.*-

Your demons do not define you.

There was something caught in her throat, choking her, and her eyes snapped open from the surprise of it. Instinctively, Ginny's hands reached for her throat as she quickly sat up. One of her dorm mates was snoring in the bed next to her. Another one yawned, disturbed by Ginny's sudden movements, and turned over.

Ginny took a deep breath.

Nothing was choking her. She could breathe fine. Everything was okay. Sweat had broken out across her forehead, though, and her hands were twitchy. Crawling out of bed, she tried to remain quiet as to not disturb the others in the dormitory. The past few days had been exciting enough for the students of Hogwarts, theories of what exactly happened at the Ministry of Magic swirling from one student to the next, becoming more ridiculous the further it was passed along. The last thing Ginny needed was for someone to see her sneaking out of the dormitory in the middle of the night.

But she couldn't stop herself.

The idea of trying to fall back to sleep after the feeling of being unable to breathe was unappealing. She'd rather sit in the Gryffindor common room alone and…

Everything was fine. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna- they had all made it out of the Department of Mysteries fine. Just fine. Though Hermione and Ron were still stuck in the Hospital Wing, Ginny knew there was nothing to really worry over. And yet the feeling of dread continued to catch her off guard since she had left the Department of Mysteries.

At first she hadn't been sure why she was feeling the painful pinch in her stomach, why nausea would hit her unexpectedly while she was laughing with friends, why her emotions would run scattered throughout the day, up and down, while she watched helplessly with no control. Her only savior was her ability to escape any situation when her feelings would hit an all-time low. The random need to cry, sob, was one she didn't often feel.

Ginny hadn't wanted to take the time to really evaluate why she was feeling so off. She knew why. But to really admit it, to really think about it, made her nervous.

So Ginny distracted herself with her family drama for a bit. Her mum and dad had been furious that two of their children had left Hogwarts to knowingly go into a dangerous situation ("You're only children! What were you thinking?") but their relief that nothing serious had occurred, that Ron and Ginny both lived another day, had cooled their anger. Then she pretended it was the side effects of the battle at the Department of Mysteries. Ginny distracted herself with the idea that perhaps the symptoms were from a spell she had been hit with.

But now, as she crept down the steps and peered around to see if there were any students in the common room, Ginny knew she'd have to admit what was bothering her. The fire was low in the crate, likely because students should have been asleep for hours now, but it cast enough light that Ginny felt comfortable to lay on the couch in front of it.

Her hands were still twitching so she held them together and squeezed tightly. When the hold became too painful, she shakily reached up and pressed the heel of her hand into her left eye. She didn't want to cry. She hated crying.

Nonetheless the tears came.

Sirius was dead.

The fact, something she had hid from for days, was unwilling to stay hidden for much longer. Sirius was dead and it was all their fault. If only they hadn't gone to the Department of Mysteries, if only they had listened to Hermione, if only Kreacher hadn't lied to Harry.

Ginny had been one of the last of the six students to be healed. Ron and Hermione had to stay for a few days in the Hospital Wing but everyone else's injuries were quick fixes. When Harry, Neville, and Luna were all shooed out of the Hospital Wing, Ginny had asked Ron and Hermione for more information. The guilt was overtaking her. Hermione filled her in on everything, reaffirming how responsible the party of six were. They had basically killed Sirius themselves. It was all their fault.

By trying to rescue Sirius they had killed him.

Sirius and Ginny, they could have been friends. Good friends. They were certainly on their way. He had helped save her. He had spoken to her like an adult. Like a person. She had felt his warmth, his concern. They could have been friends.

And now he was beyond reach.

There was an emptiness inside her that she couldn't explain. Sirius wasn't her godfather. He wasn't her last connection to her parents. Ginny was not Harry. She didn't deserve to be upset, not like this. Even Harry seemed determine to fight through his emotions, to use Sirius' death as armor to help him versus hinder him. She didn't want to have to explain her tears to anyone. No one would understand. If anything, Ginny had to support Harry through this loss. It was his loss, after all, and not her own.

A slight tingling in her hand caught her attention. Looking at her palm, she wondered at the feeling. The skin around her eyes felt tight from her tears and lack of sleep. Twisting and turning on the couch, Ginny faced the dying fire. Sleep would come to her soon. Tomorrow would be a better day. She couldn't change the past, as much as she would like to. Life had to go on. She had to accept what had happened.

Sirius was dead and he was never coming back.

-*.*.*-

Kingsley pressed the tip of his wand to the door which had no handle and it opened a crack. Behind it was something powerful. She could feel it in her bones. Offering a tight smile to Kingsley (what was she getting herself into, this couldn't be right), Ginny pushed open the door and walked into the blindingly white room. Suddenly feeling very alone without the Minister of Magic beside her, Ginny continued forward. One step after another.

And, with little searching, Ginny saw him.

Sirius Black.

She inhaled to calm her nerves but instead found herself gagging, choking, on the unfamiliar smell of cigarette smoke. He heard her and turned.

"Sirius?" she called.

His name echoed in the large room. He was back, he was alive, Kingsley wasn't lying. But Sirius wasn't the Sirius she remembered, he was a Sirius she never knew. Young, vibrant, with far too much cynicism in his eyes.

"You must be Ginny," he replied, blowing smoke from his mouth.

The smoke was filling the room and Ginny coughed, resisting the urge to cover her mouth and nose with her hand. Stepping closer to him, Ginny thought of what to do next. What was there to say? He was dead and now he was very much alive. Harry wasn't allowed to know about this meeting.

Dropping his cigarette on the ground, Sirius continued to stare at her with only slight interest. He was trapped, caged, unwilling to show his cards until he was sure she was worth it. But this was Sirius. And she was the only person who knew he was alive other than a select few.

And he knew her.

"You do remember me," she noted softly.

In a sudden movement, Sirius jumped out of his chair. It went crashing to the floor and the noise was loud, so loud that Ginny flinched in surprise.

"Ginny, Ginny, I'm here," Sirius grabbed her.

She pushed away, startled at his sudden touch.

"Let go-"

"Listen to me," he pleaded. "It's me. It's Sirius. The real Sirius."

Ginny looked at him in confusion but his stormy eyes held no lies or explanation. Panic rose in her as his grip tightened on her arms.

"Let go. Kingsley! Let go-"

"He's going to try to separate us!" Sirius desperately shouted.

Reaching for her wand (where did it go? Where is it?), Ginny looked behind her for Kingsley. The Minister of Magic didn't seem to hear her though. Her hand came up empty and she looked quickly back at Sirius. His mouth was forming words, frantic, but she couldn't hear anything. A roaring sound, a loud crying, pierced the room.

"Sirius, let go!" Ginny screamed, wrenching herself free of his grasp.

She stumbled out of her seat and hit a wall. The wailing continued and Ginny closed her eyes, attempting to block everything out.

It worked. Everything was quiet. Everything was still.

Ginny opened her eyes slowly, cautiously, unsure of what happened. She was no longer at St. Mungo's. She was outside. It was night and her back was pressed against a tree. A cool breeze made the dying leafs above her dance. And in front of her was a house. The front door was wide open and the lights were on, bright enough that her eyes felt like they were burning by staring into them.

She slowly stepped away from the tree and towards the house, drawn to it. There was no noise, not even that of crickets, of the wind. Everything felt muted.

Something was wrong.

Ginny felt her pockets for her wand again but couldn't find it. She had left it at… St. Mungo's?

She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. Something was definitely wrong. Her thoughts were slow, heavy. Her sense of time was off. She had just been at St. Mungo's and now she was outside in a foreign neighborhood. What was going on?

Ginny went to step away from the tree when she was grabbed abruptly.

"Ginny, Ginny!"

It was Sirius, his eyes wild.

"We have to go, we have to-" his voice was caught in his throat.

"Sirius?" said Ginny, trying to tug her arm out of his grip. "Where are we? What's going on? What happened?"

Something had clearly disturbed him. Sirius didn't look like the man in the hospital room just a moment ago. His face was wet (from tears?) and his eyes were bloodshot. His whole body was convulsing as he tried to catch his breath.

"Not this, not here, we have to-we have to-"

He closed his eyes.

"Please," he pleaded. "Please, we have to leave. You have to remember me."

Ginny looked back at the house, trying to connect the dots. But there were larger things to worry about. She had to get Sirius back to Kingsley, she had to get him back to St. Mungo's before anyone saw him. Kingsley had said no one was to know about Sirius. They had to get out of this neighborhood.

But how?

"Sirius, you need to calm down," Ginny said firmly. "We need to see if these people, if they can help us get back to St. Mungo's. You have to trust me. You have to-"

"No! NO! No, not this memory, please, Ginny, please, remember me," Sirius cried. "It's me. This is your dream! Ginny, I can't, I can't go in there. You have to remember me. I can't go in there, James is in there. Lily. I can't-"

Eyebrows drawn, Ginny shook her head.

"What are you talking about? I do remember you. You're Sirius Black-"

"Not James. Not James."

The tears were real this time. They fell from his eyes fast, staining his cheeks. He was staring beyond her now, having lost himself in the confusion that Ginny didn't understand. And suddenly he let go of her. He stumbled towards the house, leaving her alone in the night. Without hesitation, Ginny ran after him. Kingsley would kill her if someone saw him. And she had to make sure whoever lived in this house didn't panic when Sirius just walked through their front door.

She yelled after him but he didn't turn around. Running across the yard, Ginny stopped when she neared the front door. A wave of familiarity hit her but she wasn't sure why. She had seen this house before at some point in her past… but she wasn't sure when. Taking a step closer, Ginny clenched her fists. Something dark… something bad had happened here.

A piercing cry rang through the air, startling Ginny. She raced into the house, ignoring the feeling of foreboding that washed over her. The front door had been hit with a spell, almost knocked off its hinges, something she hadn't noticed from a distance. She ignored it. There was broken glass in the living room, she could hear a crying baby somewhere in the house, and there were Halloween decorations blasted off the wall. Ginny overlooked it, focused on one thing.

She had to find Sirius. The need to find him was suddenly overwhelming and she ignored her instincts to find that child in order to find the man. It didn't take long.

The piercing cry was from him.

She found him at the base of a staircase, cradling a body. He wasn't facing her so she couldn't see who he held but the person's legs were splayed awkwardly. Whoever it was was dead, Ginny knew that instantly.

"Sirius? Sirius?"

Ginny circled him, stopping only when she caught sight of his face.

"Not James, you can't leave me, brother, I did this, please-"

Harry? The panic that rose within her was suffocating and Ginny dropped to her knees. The man in Sirius' lap, in his arms, looked strikingly like Harry. But the wide, lifeless eyes were not green, instead brown, and the face a bit rounder. It wasn't him, it wasn't Harry.

Ginny stared at the body in confusion, her eyes darting from his face to his motionless chest to his left hand, a wand still clutched in his grasp. Sirius' sobs echoed in the background as Ginny looked away from the man and around the house. A picture of a laughing baby boy hung on the wall above the fireplace. A toy broomstick was carelessly tossed in the corner. A baby continued to cry upstairs.

What was going on?

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, James, please, not you-"

Ginny looked back at Sirius. He was nearly unrecognizable now, despair wrecking him.

"Sirius? Sirius, we have to go, something's wrong."

He didn't seem to hear her, clutching the body so hard he'd have left bruises if the man was still alive.

"Sirius! Sirius, please, something is wrong, we have to leave! Sirius!"

Her pleas reached him in their desperation. He was nearly breathless from crying. But when his eyes met hers he seemed to focus slightly.

"Ginny, you need to remember me. I can't do this- I can't do this alone, please," he pleaded.

A sound from the upstairs stopped them both. Turning to look up the dark stairs, Ginny struggled to see who was moving around in the shadows. Sirius grip on the body tightened before he gently released him, placing the body softly on the ground. He stood up, fists clenched.

"Come out!" he ordered, more strength in his voice than moments ago.

A large figure moved through the shadows before stepping into the light. Ginny jolted in shock at who it was. Sirius did too, lost in the moment.

"Hagrid?" Sirius called.

Hagrid moved down the stairs slowly, cradling something tiny in his arms. His eyes were red and swollen and he gave a loud sniffle every step.

"Is that-is that Harry?" Sirius asked, his voice breaking.

Hagrid nodded, using his free arm to wipe at his wet face. Ginny watched the scene as a bystander. What was happening? Why was Hagrid here? And that was… Ginny tried to peer at the bundle in Hagrid's arms but all she saw was a chubby hand gripping the blanket it was wrapped in. Sirius followed Hagrid, wounded, as Hagrid went to exit the house.

There was noise outside. Ginny could see figures through the front windows hesitantly beginning to approach the house. Muggles.

Hagrid wrapped an arm around Sirius' shoulders as they approached the front door and Ginny realized she was about to lose Sirius. She lurched towards him; if she could just grab him she could get them out of here, she could have time to figure out his rambling nonsense in a place that didn't reek of death and destruction. But when she went to grab him she fell through him and landed hard on the ground.

The stone scratched her cheek and she winced, feeling the open wound it created. She pushed herself up, arms shaking, and was ready to yell for Sirius when she realized she was no longer in the cottage. The smell of death still lingered but for an entirely different reason.

The cottage had transformed into something entirely different. Ginny looked around wildly, eyes searching the dark. She was in a long corridor, dimly lit by lanterns that hung on the walls. On both sides of her were bars that went from the ground to the ceiling. The sound of waves hitting rock drowned out any other noise there was.

Hurriedly, Ginny stood. Sirius was in here, she knew it, she could feel it in her very bones. She had to find him, to save him, they had to get out of here. Whatever was happening, she could fix it once she found him.

A thought was itching at the back of her mind but she had no time to look into it.

Running down the corridor, Ginny screamed Sirius' name, looking quickly into each cell to see if she saw the man. Each cell was empty, filled only with darkness and sea salt. Vicious chills shook her body. The further she ran down the corridor, the colder she became. It was as if she was running into a storm, a storm she wouldn't escape.

"Sirius?" she cried.

Something was happening. Something dark was happening to her and to Sirius. This wasn't a dream but it wasn't real life either, that much was clear now. She had seen Hagrid, she had seen… she had seen James Potter, dead at her feet. And now she was here.

Ginny fought to admit it but the realization arose in her mind without permission. This was more than a dream but it wasn't real life.

"Ginny!"

Her name stopped her in her tracks. She looked behind her frantically and saw a pair of arms waving from one of the cells she had already passed.

"Sirius, Sirius, are you okay?"

She grabbed his hands, cold to the touch, and stared at the man before her. His hair was long and matted, his lips chapped so badly they bled. He was literally skin and bones. Only his eyes let her know he was the man she was looking for.

"Ginny." His voice was raspy from lack of use. "This isn't real. You must remember. We are here to fight him."

"Fight who?" she asked frantically.

"Tom."

Ginny jolted at the name and tried to tug her hands towards her but Sirius held on tight. His eyes were sharp and he spoke quickly, as if there wasn't enough time.

"Don't be afraid. We can beat him."

"What are you talking about?"

"You must realize. We're in this fight together."

"Together?"

Sirius nodded.

"He knows. He's going to try to keep us separate. Remember, remember, Ginny, we're here to fight him-"

He stopped suddenly and Ginny instantly knew why. A coldness only slightly familiar to her swept down the corridor and into the cells so suddenly that Ginny lost her breath. Sirius dropped her hands and stepped backwards, panicked. His eyes darted around the cell before landing on her. He ran towards her and hit the bars hard. She held back a scream.

"They're coming, the Dementors. Run. I'll find you."

Ginny wrapped her arms around herself.

"I'm not leaving without you," Ginny said firmly, despite the lightheadedness that was overcoming her.

A small smile appeared on Sirius' lips.

"There's the Ginny I know," he muttered softly.

The cold became more intense and Ginny looked down the corridor. She had flashes of her second year, of the cold coming from the Dementors, of all the memories of Tom that would consume her. Nausea picked at her.

Something was gliding towards her from the darkness and she realized many things at once. The Dementors were coming for her. And she was in Azkaban when Sirius was still jailed there. He knew about Tom, which meant that someone had to have told him. But if he was jailed in Azkaban… It was all too confusing.

"Run. I can fight this. I will find you."

She stared hard at Sirius, seeing the panic that shined beneath his eyes. He was afraid too. And while he was significantly less confused than her he had made a point that they were in this together. Whatever was happening Sirius was there for her. So Ginny ran. She left the Dementor and Sirius, his words repeating in her mind. The lanterns burst as she ran by them, showering her in glass and fire, and she plunged forward into the darkness. She ran until she could no longer feel the terror of the Dementor, until she knew she was too far away from Sirius to save him, until she hated herself enough that she had to stop.

This was her dream, Sirius had said. This wasn't real. She had to remember. Ginny clenched her eyes shut, leaning against the wall beside her. They were going to fight… they were going to fight Tom. Ginny steadied her breathing and bit her lip hard.

This was a dream.

If this was a dream, if this was just a dream…

Your demons do not define you.

Sirius Black. Her Sirius Black. The man who kissed her forehead before they went their separate ways to go to sleep. This was a dream. And they were here to defeat Tom Riddle. If she focused enough she could picture his wolfish grin when he baited her at the house they had been sent to, could see his eyes widen when they met hers across the Ministry floor, could feel the roughness of his hands as hers brushed over his.

How could she have forgotten who Sirius was to her, even in a dream?

She shivered and looked around. Reaching out into the darkness, her hand pressed against a bumpy, cement wall. The air grew heavy and smelled of old, sitting water. Ginny knew where she was. She knew where the corridor she ran down, away from the Dementor, away from Sirius, had led her.

The Chamber of Secrets.

It was odd, she noted, to be aware during a dream. Her feet were now bare and cold when a moment ago she had been wearing shoes. The corridor had expanded into an all too familiar chamber. She felt incredibly small, as if she were eleven again. If this wasn't a dream she wasn't sure what explanation there was for what was occurring around her.

Continuing forward, and wishing again she hadn't left Sirius, Ginny looked around. Whispers of something coming drifted to her but when she tried to see who it was speaking she couldn't find anyone. Perhaps it was no one. Perhaps it was the snake. Perhaps it was Tom.

Ginny ignored the instinct to close her eyes, to huddle in the corner. Sirius said he would find her. She had to look for him too.

The whispering stopped and Ginny did also. She was now bathed in light streaming in from a crack in the chamber ceiling. Shadows danced across the room, offering her glimpses of areas that before had been too dark for her to see. She saw no Sirius. She saw no Tom. But there were plenty of statues of snakes on the walls, some looking so realistic she'd flinch.

Without permission, panic began to build in her chest. What was she doing here? Why did she think she could do this?

She could picture Tom, looming over her as she struggled to breathe. He was taking everything from her, he was never satisfied, he always wanted everything. And who was she to deny him? She was just a little girl, a nobody, no one would ever notice her. Her own flesh and blood barely looked at her as they walked by her in the corridors, laughing with their friends. But Tom, he always paid attention. He was always there for her.

He would never leave her alone, not even as much as she wished it.

Ginny took a shuddering breath and covered her ears with her hands. She wasn't strong enough for this, for him. She'd never win. Why did they think this was a good idea? No one could save her.

The low chuckle that came from the darkness seemed to agree with her.

Her hands dropped to her sides in surprise. Desperately, she looked for him.

"I'm not sure what game you're playing with me, Ginny dear."

Without a second thought, Ginny stepped backwards but stone greeted her spine. She gasped in surprise; there wasn't a wall there before.

"Your friend," Tom continued.

And Ginny saw him then. Long, slender, dark, beautiful, disgusting- Tom walked towards her from the shadows, a smile curled on his lips. The darkness clung to him as though it were a part of his skin. He belonged there. As soon as he stepped into the light, close enough to her that she should have been able to feel his warmth, his smile grew larger.

"You really ought to stop bringing your friend here," Tom told her, tapping her nose with a slender finger. "This is our time. It's very rude to bring unwanted guests."

She tried frantically to focus on what he was saying but she couldn't. He was still approaching her, invading her personal space, and she was helpless to stop him. Ginny felt nauseous as his fingers ghosted across her cheek. Snapping her head away from him, she hit her cheek hard against the wall. The cut that was already there from earlier, swollen and pumping blood from its crack, roared in pain. Tears leaked out of her eyes unwillingly.

"Come now," Tom hissed. "Let me see your eyes."

He grabbed her chin hard, forcing her to look at him.

"I'd rather not deal with the friend you've brought with you-"

Sirius. The realization of who Tom was talking about (Sirius was here, somewhere, hiding just as Tom had been) caused the world around Ginny to come into focus. She kept her eyes on Tom's but willed herself to listen, really listen. Sirius had said he'd find her. He had said they'd defeat Tom.

Sirius would not leave her.

Her eyes darted to the side and- crack. Tom hit her head hard against the wall behind her. He was yelling at her but all she could hear was a ringing in her ears. Her legs buckled beneath her but he held her up, his hand leaving her chin and moving to wrap around her neck.

"You ignore me? You ignore me, Ginny? You think I will ever left you? That you have ever been complete without me? Every dream, every memory, I'm in it! Don't you like the games I play?"

Tom's teeth were clenched, white and bright. Ginny clawed at his hands.

"You're stronger than I remember," he hissed. "I didn't think you'd find your way out of your friend's memories- what a harsh life he's lived. Poor thing. I should just put him out of his misery."

She tore at his hands, her nails ripping at his skin and- Tom let go of her.

Ginny dropped to the floor without Tom's support and grabbed at her neck. It was sore, swollen, and her lungs burned from the inability to breathe. Gasping, Ginny ran her fingers along her tender skin then dropped them to the floor to steady herself. After a second of silence, where her breathing became somewhat steady again, Ginny noticed her hands.

There was blood and skin stuck in her nails. Quickly, she looked up from the floor.

Tom was staring at her in curiosity and, perhaps, a bit of fear. His hands, normally as perfect as porcelain, had deep scratches in them. Blood blossomed from the wounds and poured freely from his skin.

Ginny had never been able to harm Tom; in her dreams, in real life, never. And he seemed to realize that also. His eyes were wide as he looked at her.

"You're bleeding," Ginny said in disbelief.

Her voice was scratchy but Tom heard her.

"Bet you didn't expect that, did you?"

The new voice came from behind Tom. He spun around, hands clenching, as Sirius approached the pair. Sirius glanced at Ginny, eyebrows raising.

"You okay?"

It was Sirius as Ginny knew him. No longer was he the starving Sirius from Azkaban or the haughty young man in the hospital room. He was young again but his gray eyes were familiar, soft, full of concern.

Ginny nodded, silent in shock.

Sirius didn't move closer but Tom was clearly alarmed. He looked back to Ginny. Tom was as still as a statue except for the blood dripping from his hands.

"You will not torment her anymore," Sirius said firmly. "You've ruined our lives enough as is-"

Tom screamed, lifting his hand. Sirius had a brief look of panic appear on his face before, with a shout, he was thrown back into the shadows. Ginny cried out, rushing to her feet. Whirling back to face her, Tom pointed his finger at her and she stopped in her tracks.

"You think you can just get rid of me?" Tom hissed.

"Do not hurt Sirius," Ginny fired back, voice shaking. "You do not scare me anymore, Tom."

His lips curled in disdain.

"Is that so?"

Tom raised his arm as he did towards Sirius. Something tugged at her stomach, a soft pulling, and then Ginny was slammed down to the ground. She tried to push herself up but she was frozen. Tom hissed.

"I'm a part of you. I will make you relive every moment you hate. I will meet you every night in your sleep. I will torture him through you," Tom promised, spittle flying from his mouth.

She fought to get up but it was as though he had put a foot on her back, forcing her to remain motionless.

Taking a deep breath, Ginny eyed the man above her. No, not a man. He was never a man. Tom was forever a young, teenage boy in her mind. A young, teenage boy who she allowed to torment her endlessly, sometimes for many nights in a row, other times without a peep for years. This boy would always be in her life, he had made sure of that, but as Ginny studied him she wondered why she let it affect her.

What had happened years ago would never leave her, that was true. Tom's grip on her from the diary had made her highly sensitive to dark magic. Her scars from the Chamber of Secrets would always allow for nightmares when she least expected it. Ginny would never be the same after trusting in the black diary that Lucius Malfoy made sure ended up in her hands. The dark magic would forever be imprinted on her.

Sirius' heavy breathing from the shadows, filled with pain and determination, filled Ginny's ears.

Tom Riddle was just a boy with too much power. She could see it in his face, his youth. The softness of his jaw line, which she had always remembered to be so pronounced. The flush high on his cheeks which showcased his annoyance. The anger the boiled in his eyes, uncontrolled.

Blood ran down his fingertips.

He was not immortal. He would one day fade from Ginny's mind. Perhaps not today, no, and probably not tomorrow… but one day.

"You do not define me," she whispered.

Taking another deep breath, Ginny attempted to push herself up again. Pressure pushed back and her muscles strained. A bead of sweat rolled down her forehead as she let out a loud shout.

"You'll always be with me but you do not define me!"

She struggled.

"You do not get to rule me, not anymore."

Ginny felt as though her arms were about to break, fighting against the magic. But she had to win. She would win. There was no other option.

"I'm not afraid of you."

The magic lifted as though it were never there. Ginny had been using so much force to try to get up that the loss of magic working against her made her fall to the side. She stared at the ceiling, shocked, before rushing to stand.

Tom stared down at her as she approached him. He did not seem like the Tom she had always remembered. The blood on his hands had somehow smeared across his cheek. His hair was ruffled. He seemed lost somehow.

Ginny couldn't fight the feeling of relief that came over her.

"I won't let you hurt me anymore."

He smirked.

"You believe it will truly be so easy to get rid of me?" he asked.

Ginny shook her head.

"No. It won't be easy. But it's a start."

And Ginny reached out. Her hand, freckled from the sun, brushed Tom's arm. She could feel the softness of his cloak, could feel his muscles clench in fury, then she felt nothing. Her hand went through him. Goosebumps rose on her skin as her arm drifted through Tom's body as though he were a ghost. His eyes widened and he screamed again, blood curdling.

"You're just a demon," Ginny whispered in wonder.

Sirius came limping out of the shadows. He must have been watching the scene in the shadows, silently supporting her. She stared at him and felt herself relax.

"You tried to trick us," she said, turning her attention back to Tom. "And you almost did. I had nearly forgotten who Sirius was to me-"

"Stupid girl," Tom spat. "You never could tell the difference between a dream and real life."

She pressed her lips together as Tom hunched over, his breathing labored.

"We're too strong for you, Tom." Ginny paused. "I'm too strong for your mind games."

"Is this true love?" Tom laughed loudly. "You think love will cure you of me?"

Ginny shook her head. Sirius walked closer, slowly, his leg injured. She glanced at him, noted his stern nod, and turned back to Tom.

"If it weren't for you, Tom, Sirius would never have been brought back from the Veil. If you hadn't tormented me so much Sirius would have never woken me from my nightmares. We would have never shared blood, we would have never bonded, we would have-"

Tom scoffed but it held no power behind it.

"I suppose you deserve my thanks," Ginny said softly, approaching Tom. He seemed to be fading away, disappearing into the air that they breathed. "Thank you for bringing me Sirius."

Tom was saying something but Ginny couldn't hear it, not even mere feet away from the boy. She watched as his figure completely vanished, not with a bang or a pop but in complete silence.

Ginny stared at the empty space, confused. Was that it? Was Tom gone?

She spoke out loud for Sirius responded.

"Likely not," he told her, wincing. "But it's a start."

Ginny jolted to her senses and rushed to Sirius' side. She pressed a kiss to his cheek; her lips were salty when she leaned back. He grinned.

"Let's wake up, shall we?"

-*.*.*-

Something hit the bed, whipping her in the face, and Ginny groaned angrily. It was certainly, one hundred percent, no doubt in her mind, too early to be awake. Even though she could feel the sun on her face, likely producing several hundred more freckles to cover that one spot on her cheek where the light hit, Ginny knew it wasn't time for her to wake up yet. Something poked her on the arm, hard, and she groaned again.

"Time to wake up, isn't it, sweetheart?"

Muffled laughter followed and Ginny opened one eye slowly. She had been both wrong and right. It was certainly far too early to be awake. The hour hand on the clock that hung on the wall seemed to hover between two and three. In the morning. But she had been wrong to assume it was the sun shining on her face. On the nightstand beside her bed a lightbulb shined brightly. Hermione had gifted Ginny with a lamp for her birthday the previous year, a "touch of Muggle" for her new home.

It appeared that Sirius had taken off the shade so the lightbulb now glared directly onto Ginny's face.

Ginny fought back a growl as she fully woke up, turning her attention to her boyfriend who stood with a mischievous smile by her feet. He must have just tugged on his jumper, a large S sewn into the front of the yellow fabric, for his hair was sticking every which way. He reached down and squeezed her toes. She kicked back at him.

"Why did you wake me up?" she grumbled, snuggling deeper into the covers.

"Now, now." Sirius tickled his way from her feet to her armpits.

She squealed, twisting and turning to get away from his touch. He laughed in her face, minty fresh, before planting a kiss on her cheek.

"You were the one who wanted to celebrate today," he reminded her.

Pushing hair out of her face, she sat up fully. A pair of old, muddy shoes were placed clumsily beside her. One of the shoelaces, brown from dirt, must have been what whipped her in the face.

"What?"

Ginny shoved the shoes off the bed and glared. He grabbed one of her jumpers and tossed it to her. She snatched it before it too could hit her in the face. Sirius winked.

"Those Quidditch games are paying off, eh?" he asked.

"Why are you so awake, Sirius? What's going on?"

She stopped as he crouched down beside her. Grabbing her hands, he pressed a kiss to her knuckles.

"It's been one year," he told her softly. "And I know you wanted to celebrate."

One year. Ginny let out a breath in surprise. It had been one year since she had begun to both let go of the demon that was Tom Riddle and accept him. It had been one year since she had decided she wouldn't worry over it anymore. It had been one year since she had seen Sirius hold James Potter's dead body, since she had seen his starved frame behind a cell at Azkaban, since she had relived walking into St. Mungo's and seeing Sirius come back to life.

Even now, a year later, it was still so fresh in her mind.

And ever since the year had passed so much had changed. She had become a part of the Holyhead Harpies, training to become a Chaser for the team. And Sirius had been able to recollect his life as much as he could. He had begun a charity with Harry and Neville for orphans from the war and worked very closely with that. It was something all three men very deeply cared for. They had just moved in together, less than four months ago.

So much had changed.

Yet Ginny remembered that night so clearly.

She stood and pressed a kiss to Sirius' exposed neck.

"So how are we celebrating?" she asked softly.

Sirius grinned. Wrinkles creased the skin by his mouth. He never liked when she pointed them out so she only did it occasionally, when he was being extra ornery. But whenever he smiled the wrinkles would disappear.

Smile wrinkles.

She found herself smiling back at him before he spoke.

"We're going to go for a run, of course."

Ginny looked at the dirty shoes she had thrown on the floor then back at Sirius. He was ready to go and he tied his hair back as she stared him.

"Right now?"

He nodded.

"I wouldn't have woken you at this bloody hour if we weren't celebrating right now." He leaned in close. "Not when I know you were dreaming of me."

Ginny laughed and pushed him away. He stumbled mockingly, shooting her a wounded expression before heading towards the bedroom door. Pulling it open, he knowingly stepped to the side so Louie, their cat, could run in.

"I'll see you downstairs, love."

Louie wandered over to Ginny, paying her slight attention, before jumping on the bed. Cuddling into the spot she had just been laying in a minute ago, Louie yawned loudly before sleepily eyeing his mistress. Ginny set to the task at hand.

On her dresser, which was covered with herbs and purple flower petals delivered via owl from Neville, sat her wand. She contemplated grabbing it, as she did whenever she went to leave the room, but decided to leave it. Slipping out of her loose shirt, Ginny pulled on a sports bra then a tight shirt that had a large stain by the bottom then the jumper Sirius had tossed at her. A pair of wrinkled shorts were on the ground beside her dresser and, after making sure they were definitely hers, she put them on.

Ten minutes later, grumbling to herself, Ginny arrived in the kitchen. An apple, cut in half, was rolling on the counter. One half was missing, the other was calling to Ginny. Sirius was studying a bowl Ginny had bought a few days before. She had seen it at an antique shop and, despite the large crack, had loved it. Ginny grabbed the half of apple left and took a large bite out of it, leaning against the cabinet as she watched Sirius.

"For the fruit?" Sirius questioned, running his finger along the crack.

She nodded, approaching as she continued eating.

"Reminded me a bit of the Burrow," she admitted.

Sirius contemplated it. Having grown up with far too much money, Sirius had rebelled against his family once again and had grown to love second hand items. Their house was beginning to collect many forgotten things found in hidden spots at antique shops and old boutiques.

"I like it."

"Me too."

The bowl went back on the counter and the pair exited the house through French doors at the end of the hallway. Their hands brushed but neither made an effort to do more. A morning jog, something that had stabilized their relationship so long ago when they had both been angry and lost and confused, was now part of their daily life. Unless, of course, they went out to the pub the night before and had one too many drinks.

Before them lay a familiar, beaten path that curved along their property. Sirius had wanted a small house with a large yard. He had never directly told her he wanted something similar to the first house they stayed in together but she had a feeling that's what he had been leaning towards. She also believed it was simply in his blood to remain as free as possible. After years of captivity Sirius wanted to know he could escape his confides whenever necessary.

Their yard was completely green. A garden, filled to the brim with vegetables and flowers, grew beside their back porch. Large trees sprouted throughout the acre of land, dropping seeds and needles to the ground. The grass grew high in spots they didn't venture often.

Sirius took a deep breath and eyed Ginny. When she shot him a grin back, they began to jog.

Their feet hit the ground in a comforting, well known beat. By now, Ginny felt she could connect the rise and fall of their feet to the same thump-thump of Sirius' heartbeat. That, too, she had made a point to memorize. When they laid together the first night after their confrontation with Tom, when it had begun to seem like all would be okay in the world, she had put her ear to his bare chest as he slept. Sirius had no nightmares that night and his heartbeat was steady, calming, lovely. And when she woke up that morning, Sirius still lost in his dreams, his heartbeat had not changed.

For some odd reason it had shown Ginny that he was here to stay, beside her in life as the magic that bound them had hoped for.

The air was chilly and her body was warming quickly. She pushed up the sleeves to her jumper as they ran in silence. Sirius slowed down before she did but he reached out and grabbed her elbow to slow her too. She stilled, breath heavy, and raised her eyebrows.

"Listen," he commanded.

An owl somewhere in the woods greeted them. In the grass, crickets called to one another. Bugs sang into the night. Ginny looked around, wetting her lips. The stars were bright through the branches. Trees covered the sky from her view but there was a large opening further into the high grass.

Ginny headed that way, Sirius following quietly behind her. Once she could completely see the sky she stopped. As a member of the Black lineage, Sirius had been forced to learn the many constellations in the sky. It was something he had thought he'd hate when it began but had grown to love. And so he had begun the process with Ginny, once she expressed willingness to learn.

"We are but stardust," he whispered in her ear.

He brushed curls from her neck and wrapped his arms around her from behind.

Ginny searched the sky, wishing she could recognize one the constellations before her. Sirius smiled into her skin, as if he understood her desperation.

"I want to marry you one day."

She stiffened in surprise, spinning around in his arms. They had never mentioned marriage. Ginny had assume but she had never thought on it too much. After everything they had been through, after the blood bonding, after the dreams and their house that was almost a prison in a way and the press and Harry and… everything, after everything, Ginny had assumed one day they would marry. But she was still so young. And Sirius was young too, in a way. Thought there was infinite knowledge in his eyes, for he had lived another life and been given a second chance, there was still so much for him to learn.

And Ginny had never wanted to push for anything more than that. She was too afraid she'd lose Sirius. He didn't want to be trapped. And Ginny had been afraid he'd begin to view their relationship as a cage, holding him back from exploring more of the world. Her fear had washed over into the idea of trying out for professional Quidditch, of dedicating herself and Sirius to something long term. Sirius had quickly put an end to her hesitation, though Ginny had been sure he had no idea why she had been so unsure to begin with.

But Ginny had also been afraid of losing herself to Sirius. To think more about marriage, of the future, of children… Sirius was all consuming. And he had already consumed so much of her. Ginny worried sometimes that she simply wasn't strong enough to not give herself completely to him.

His gray eyes seemed to reflect the stars above as he studied her. Sirius didn't need a response. He certainly wasn't waiting for one. A smile tugged at his lips and he squeezed her arms.

"I just want you to know that," Sirius said.

Sometimes she wondered what would have happened if he had never woken her from that nightmare years ago.

He looked up at the sky and shook his head in amusement.

"What are you thinking about?" Ginny asked, voice soft.

Sirius continued looking up.

"We are so very small in the grand scheme of things," he told her, waving his hand in the direction of the stars. "Yet we found each other. And we survived this absolutely insane situation. And we created this… we created something I thought impossible. For James and Lily? Yes, they could love and they deserved it and it was right. But for me? Never, never."

He looked down. And the galaxy was in his eyes.

"You gave me something I never thought I'd have."

She released her breath.

"We deserve this," he whispered.

Ginny smiled.

"We do, don't we?"

-*.*.*-

Author's Note: This is the end! Sorry it took literally over a year to get out the last chapter, especially since this was suppose to be a very quick and sweet story. I suppose it took a life of its own. Sirius and Ginny live happily ever after, in their own way. Thank you all for reading. Perhaps there will be an epilogue but I think their story needs to be left unfinished. Thank you!