It didn't really end like it hadn't really started, with an angry encounter in an empty corridor.
Ginny was taking a shortcut down the back corridor on the third floor when a flash of movement at the corner of her eye resolved into a grip on her upper arm. The fingerprints on her skin were annoyingly recognisable, even after such a short period of familiarity, as Draco dragged her into the doorway of the old Charms classroom.
"What?" she snapped, leaning back on the doorframe, folding her arms across her chest. "What do you want?"
She knew, of course. Or could make a decent guess and had, in fact, been expecting something like this ever since they'd got the Daily Prophet this morning and seen the front page headline. An even bigger response than they'd had any reason to hope for, and even if Ginny had looked, she wouldn't have been able to see Draco all the way across the Great Hall at a busy breakfast.
Not far away at all, now, leaning against the doorframe opposite her and glaring as though those grey eyes really were metal, and sharp, and cutting. "Traitorous bitch," he stated, clear and precise.
She flinched, but lifted her chin. "You can only betray something you once supported." It was a reminder for herself as much as him. She couldn't possibly be feeling guilty, because there was nothing to be guilty about. There had been nothing to betray. Nothing between them but strange words and something shifting and a twisted feeling in the pit of her stomach, but what did she know? She was just a silly girl and it was just her hormones talking.
Just Draco Malfoy - Malfoy, remember what he is - opposite her in the arched doorway, all hard lines as though he'd been etched by an angry artist. "Why did you do it?" he demanded.
"Why shouldn't I?" she demanded back.
"Don't mess me about, Ginevra," he snapped and she cursed whatever misguided instinct had urged her to tell him her full name. "Why?"
"Sod off!" she snapped back, standing up straight.
Draco took half a step forward, mad as hell. "You don't think I have a right to know? This is my family."
She ground her teeth together, her arms falling loose so she could gesture with the force of her own rising anger. "It wasn't just me, you know. Harry, Hermione, Ron... they were all involved. Go yell at them!"
"I don't care about them!"
Ginny already had her mouth open and one hand raised, ready to reply, when what he'd said fully registered. She was frozen, caught in his burning gaze - he didn't care about them. He did care about...
And then his lips were on hers. It was a kiss like a Bludger, knocking all the air out of her and into his mouth as her back hit the doorframe. Her fingers twisted desperately in his hair and her mouth was open with his, his tongue twisting between her teeth. His hands were on her hips and she arched forward against him, into the kiss, until he inhaled sharply against her cheek, ground her back against the doorframe with her spine grating against stone and a moan in the back of her throat. She pressed her fingers into his shoulder, and her tongue into his mouth. Everything she could, she tore from him, with lips and teeth and her knee hooked around the back of his leg with his hand hefting under her thigh. Everything, not thinking, barely breathing, because this was - she knew - the only chance. The only time he'd be pressed against her, frantic, and she'd press back.
It was over too soon, too unimaginably soon, and she half collapsed against the doorframe, biting her own bruised bottom lip as he stalked away down the corridor without a backwards glance.
Three days later, Draco took the Dark Mark.
A week later, Ginny saw it, staring at his arm to avoid seeing that he wasn't meeting her eyes either.
Two weeks later, she met the twins in Hogsmeade for a butterbeer and they were worse than two versions of her mother, until eventually she slammed down her mug and told them she could take care of herself. Steadfastly ignoring the fact that that was what he had said about her, every tone of his voice etched with the words in a part of her brain that couldn't be erased.
They looked at each other, and then at her. "Promise us you won't have anything more to do with that git Malfoy, then," Fred said.
Her gaze never wavered. "Draco Malfoy can burn and die."
George blinked and shifted. "Well, uh, good."
Three months later the War started in earnest, with an attack upon the Muggle House of Parliament. In the chaos of Containment and Response, Muggle-born and -sympathetic wizards started disappearing, in the Ministry and outside it, picked off with an ease aggravating in its nonchalance. Hogwarts remained open, one of the safest places in the Wizarding world still. Even after the night when over two dozen students were found, hexed and cursed into nigh-on unrecoverable conditions. And at breakfast the next morning it became apparent there were other, very significant absences. The "Junior Death Eaters" had defected.
Ginny stared at the gap where Draco should have been until the scene blurred in front of her eyes like one of those Muggle 3D puzzles Dean had shown her once. But she knew there wasn't any hidden picture here. Just the way things were.
When Grimmauld Place was destroyed just after the beginning of her seventh year, the Order moved their base to Hogwarts. Ginny never understood what had happened - Hermione said something incomprehensible about reality being turned inside out in an enclosed space - but Tonks had been lost in that attack, and Kingsley Shacklebolt a month earlier, and Hestia was still unaccounted for, but after five months they'd well and truly lose hope. Ginny scanned the Daily Prophet every day for details of Death Eaters killed, wounded, captured. She wasn't looking for any name in particular, just keeping a mental tally - them versus us. But his name was never there anyway.
She thought about Draco. Ginny could admit that. It was fair enough, wasn't it? He was a part of her history now. But it was history, entirely. And she didn't think much about him. There were far more important things. NEWT study that barely got any of her attention; she spent all her time with the young Order members. It was hard to remember what she had in common with her fellow seventh years, sometimes, even though she wasn't really involved with the Order either. Barred from actual meetings, Ginny got all her news in tidbits from Hermione; a planned ambush in Wales, a great advance in defensive magic, a new spy in the Death Eater ranks after Snape was discovered and forced to flee. He'd spent a month in Dumbledore's office, surrounded by the strongest defenses the Order could arrange, and still the students had avoided the corridor that led to the office, because it rang with the echoes of his screams as Voldemort put the Mark to some of its more nefarious uses.
Remembering that, Ginny only barely had the presence of mind to ask who the new spy was.
Hermione shook her head. "We can't afford another Snape. It's absolutely need to know, Gin."
Even with all these benefits, as time ticked resolutely on, Ginny's mental tally remained even. Them versus us, neck and neck.
"We are going to win, aren't we?" she asked, sitting at the window of Seamus Finnigan's room. As an Order member, he had his own room, and Ginny spent most of her time there, these days. She said it was easier to study there than in the dorm. Seamus did more study than she did.
He looked up from the book of counter-jinxes he was currently reading, and shrugged, shoulders heavy with fatigue.
"I'm sorry," she said immediately. He didn't need any more reasons for depression, not when the 'us' part of Ginny's tally were his fellow Order members. Not when any night he wasn't in bed beside her might be the night he never came back.
A 'War fling' Hermione called their relationship. But then again, that was what she called what was going on between her and Ron, and Ginny knew she and Seamus were nothing like that. She'd just needed someone. Assumed it had been the same for him. He wasn't her first, and she hadn't been at all nervous, but he'd kept cracking jokes, the first time. Twining locks of their hair together, his washed out against her vibrant red, but still with that coppery Irish tinge. "Imagine the kids," he'd said, and she'd almost given the whole thing up.
A month before exams began, Seamus didn't come home one night, and Ginny gave up on school and moved into his now-vacant room permanently. What her self-expulsion lacked in flair next to that of her older brothers, she made up for in quiet determination, steadfastly refusing to be talked around.
"When did she get so bloody-minded?" Ron demanded of the twins.
"She can look after herself," Fred told him. George didn't say anything, just looked steadily at Ginny. She met his gaze without flinching.
It ended at Midsummer.
Ginny had just returned from the Broads and a filthy, slogging skirmish trying to protect Muggle tourists and ambush Death Eaters at the same time. She was exhausted, annoyed and spattered with mud like a second layer of freckles. She collapsed at one of the tables in the empty Great Hall, wondering where everyone else was and drinking pumpkin juice while wishing for Firewhiskey, until Oliver Wood came running in. He'd been in the Broads as well, and didn't look much better than she, but something had him animated.
"Have you heard?" he demanded, sitting down opposite her and not waiting for her response. "We were just running a diversion."
She glared. "Fawcett's going to walk with a limp for the rest of her life and you're telling me --"
"The spy's been pulled out."
Ginny didn't realise until they were sprinting up the stairs that she was still holding her glass; she left it on a windowsill at the top of the staircase. The third floor was chaos, the old classrooms that had been turned into Order planning rooms overflowing with people. Ginny lost Oliver, but saw Madam Pomfrey almost running down the corridor, trailing bandages, and followed her, joining a jam in a doorway down the back corridor.
The room was chaos, the tightest knot around a table in the centre, a clamour of voices all speaking at once. Ginny saw Harry and Lupin, arguing vehemently for the same thing and ignoring each other, as always, and Dumbledore silent above everyone, and Hermione turning away to point out something in a book to McGonagall, which cleared enough space for Ginny to see Madam Pomfrey's hands, clutching a bandage, get knocked away from a blond head.
"No, there," Draco Malfoy said, wincing as he bent over the table to stab a finger at the map in front of Harry and Lupin.
His face had changed. He was leaner, the shape of his face somehow stronger and settled, but with a faint trace of something hungry. His eyes were hollow and his hair dirty, and a broad swathe of dried blood ran from his temple along the line of his brow, down between his eye and ear. His bottom lip was split, and an ugly mark running down the back of his right forearm looked like a burn. As he straightened up again, he turned and looked straight at her, and Ginny felt her breath knocked out of her, standing there in the doorway of the old Charms classroom.
Madam Pomfrey and Hermione and three others swarmed in between, and Ginny turned and ran.
She found Hermione later that night, when she'd washed and changed but completely failed to sleep. No one was sleeping tonight. Ginny didn't even bother to knock at the door, just pushed it open and went in.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she demanded.
Hermione had books spread three deep in an arc around her on the table, but she still looked up at Ginny, pushed the tome she was consulting aside. Slightly. "You know that. Secrecy."
Ginny was tired, so tired. She took a step and her leg buckled, and then she was on her knees beside Hermione's chair, hands curled around the chair legs and her forehead knocking against Hermione's hip, bonier than ever since the War got in the way of regular eating. Hermione didn't move, didn't even flinch, just laid a hand on Ginny's hair. The breath Ginny drew into shaking lungs was dusty with Hermione's robes.
She realised Hermione hadn't had to ask what, or who, she was asking about. Ginny looked up, and thanked every god she could think of that there was no pity in Hermione's eyes, just understanding.
"Tell me," she said, from her knees. "Did he... please. Any...?" Had he been responsible for any of those tally marks in her mind under 'Us'. She couldn't say it. How many had he killed? How close had he come to being killed?
Before tonight, she would have done it herself.
Hermione shook her head. "He did what he had to do, Gin. What we've all been doing."
Marking time. Holding on, until the War was over and life could start again.
But what if it never did? What if, like had happened to Seamus, when the night was over the day carried on without them?
Hermione's hand was still on Ginny's head, her eyes careful and watching. "It seems likely the Death Eaters will attack as soon as possible. Probably at dawn. They can't risk us acting on all the information Draco's brought."
It was the first time they'd mentioned his name, and what started as a flinch ended in Ginny standing up, Hermione's hand falling away.
Ginny was almost at the door when Hermione spoke again. "He's in the infirmary. The only one there, I understand." She looked back, but Hermione had pulled the book towards her again, and was once more engrossed.
So Ginny went to the infirmary.
Hermione was right, Draco was the only one there. He was leaning on the window sill, staring out into the night, and barely gave Ginny a glance as she shut the door behind her. He'd been cleaned up, patched up. His face was clean save the shadows the War had painted on. His arm was bandaged. On the other arm, standing out stark against the muscles flexed to brace him against the sill, was the Dark Mark, crawling oily against his pale skin. He was wearing trousers and nothing else, bare feet incongruous, and Ginny thought it somehow entirely wrong that there wasn't a single scar on the whole length of his back.
"Are you sure it's safe to be at the window?" she asked.
"They know where I went." His voice had changed. The perpetual sneer had somehow smoothed out into a tired sureness. Or maybe that was just Ginny's ears. Just tonight.
The infirmary had never seemed so long as it did then, crossing to him. When she grew closer she realised she was wrong; he did have scars. Small ones, shallow ones, one a little starker curling in the shadow of his shoulderblade. He wasn't unmarked.
Before her hand could touch his skin, Draco turned, stepped aside, caught her wrist in a grip no less gentle than it was unyielding. Her pulse beat under his thumb and his grey gaze jumped over her, face and hair and down her body. Ginny saw it because she couldn't look away from his eyes. When he met her gaze, he said, "I didn't do this for you."
The idea was so laughable she couldn't even manage surprise. "You didn't," she echoed. "You did it for you. Like I'm doing this for me."
He let go of her wrist, but she didn't move to touch him again. Simply stood and watched his face as he reached over her shoulder, found the band that tied off the end of her braid. When it was gone, Ginny could feel the plait unravelling, feel it loosening against her scalp. Draco pushed his fingers into her hair, against her scalp, levering the order out of her hair. Ginny felt it slither loose down her back, spilling out of his hands and over her shoulders.
"Moonlight bleaches everything," Draco said. He wrapped her hair around his knuckles, still vibrant.
He was a beautiful vision of monochromicity, every shade of grey between white and black. If Ginny tilted her head, his grip tugged against her scalp, and she couldn't have explained why that made her shiver.
He did it again, hands through her hair, fingers spread and insistent over her scalp, and this time he kissed her.
She eased against him, his lips parting with hers. Their mouths knew each other already, needed no introduction, though the acquaintance had lapsed. Cut the small-talk; straight to his tongue languid and definite, entwined with hers.
Ginny's hands slid around his waist, fingers on bare skin, until her knuckles brushed the wall behind him. She pressed them to the wall, him into her hands, her body against his. Draco let it happen, fell back in front of her, gave way, even as he cradled her skull between his palms. And just kissed her, so deep and hard and sweet that she had trouble being sure whether she was pushing him back or leaning against him to hold her balance.
It left them both gasping, her forehead on his shoulder, his shoulders against the wall. Ginny thought of all the things Draco could say, and wondered if she could be bothered to take offence at any of them, tonight.
Instead, he simply stroked her hair, and said, "Stay with me?"
She stood up straight and smiled at that. Smiled at him. "Why else do you think I'm here?"
He was beautiful above her, naked in the silvering glow of ambient moonlight. She gasped and arched beneath him, not thinking about the dawn. Draco sighed her name against her sweat-damp collarbone - her real name, her given name - and she shuddered anew to think that the giving of that name, done in affront, done in challenge, might have been the first step to this moment.
Afterwards, Ginny lay with her head on his chest, her hair spread over him. It was late. Early. There was no time left in the world.
"Will you fight them, tomorrow?" she asked.
He shifted slightly beneath her, his arm stretched out beside her, not really around her. "Always. To my very last breath."
She stared into the darkness. "We're going to die, aren't we?"
She couldn't see his face. His voice resonated out of his chest, into her ear. "Probably."
Probably. To his very last breath. Draco Malfoy... Malfoy, remember what he is. Ginny knew what it was to not be what people always expected of you. She spread her fingers over the faint corrugation of his ribs, trying to hold as much as she could.
He hadn't asked whether she would fight. Hadn't said he'd keep her safe on the field. Hadn't lied to her about their chances.
He had been the first one to say she could look after herself.
Traitorous by dee
For Katie, inspired by her Dark Wood RPG.