1. Burden of Guilt by Rosalie
“This is your fault, you know that…”
Tears stung her vision as she remembered the last words he’d spoken to her, those haunting words he’d left with her, the accusations that tormented her nightmares, but were so very, very true.
“No! No! NO!” He slammed his balled fist against the brick, making her flinch back, her lower lip trembling in fear as he raged before her. He screamed out in frustration and a horrible sense of loss as he rounded on her, his silver eyes glittering with sudden madness. “This isn’t on me! Do you understand?” he raged, seizing her slender shoulders beneath his bone white hands, shaking her so violently that soon tears were spilling down her cheeks. “This is all your bloody fault. What these hands do is on you. It’s all on you; the murder, the stench of their blood, all of it, it’s on your hands now, Gin!”
“Draco,” she croaked out in a small voice, but he shoved her back against the brick wall, making her cry out in pain. The injured gasp that escaped her lips halted his movements, and his body tensed as he realized what he was doing. With a shock, his murderous hands released her, and her back slid down against the wall she had been pinned against only seconds earlier.
When she glanced hesitantly back up to him, it was to see his face hidden in shadow, the Dark Mark standing out glaringly against his white forearm like a searing brand in the moonlight.
She swallowed painfully, her wet eyes unable to tear themselves from the terrible mark on his arm. “I—” Whatever she was going to say died on her lips, nothing more now than a nonexistent whisper.
He chuckled hollowly and she felt the tears rise up, her small frame cowering away from the malice in his mocking laughter, her skin prickling in fear.
She dropped her head in her hands, her shoulders shaking with quiet anguish as the full weight of her actions crashed down on her.
What had she done?
Their names stared accusingly back at her every time she read the paper, the names of innocent victims, fallen prey to the Death Eaters. Her stomach would churn guiltily as her eyes traveled over each name, silently wondering how many of the fallen had perished at his hand. Some names were more familiar than others, school mates and friends, even one of her brothers. She could still see their faces, staring accusingly back at her from the depths of her tortured mind: professors of hers who had been slain in the war, seeing right through her with their severe expressions and merciless eyes, and friends whose sad eyes betrayed their hurt despite their seemingly quiet acceptance. Of course, she could never really know whether he had been the one to fire the final curse or not but that hardly assuaged the nausea she felt.
To Ginny, though, the guilt of their countless deaths was nothing in comparison to the horror she’d felt when they’d found Charlie. Her family had been devastated at the loss of her brother though none of them knew the awful truth except her. She was responsible. She knew it was true, because this time it didn’t matter whether it was Draco or not; the mind-numbing guilt was too painful, ripping a hole in her chest that would never heal. Her brother was dead, murdered on Lord Voldemort’s orders. The thought that she could have turned Draco in and somehow prevented Charlie’s death tormented her every thought but the idea of ever turning on Draco, even after everything he had done, was enough to make her sick. It was her fault that he had fallen back into darkness, he had said so himself.
Everyday since her brother’s murder, Ginny continued with her self-induced torture, reading through the list of obituaries until her withering heart could stand no more and she had to force herself to continue, the task incomplete until she’d memorized the final name, tacking their deaths onto her slight shoulders. Still, she could not escape their lifeless stares or the pain that was tearing her apart from the inside out.
Her red eyes were constantly rimmed with hollow circles, a testament to the sleepless nights she spent dreaming of flashing green lights, petrified screams, and one pair of silver eyes, forever-staring back at her.
Her fingers trembled, itching to close the paper, to burn it and release her from this self-induced torture, but she drew in a sharp breath, steadying herself to continue down the list of names, endless names that she would never forget, for how could she forget when any number of them could have still been alive if not for her?
She was racing down the chill corridor, her scarlet hair flying behind her in her haste to find him; she had to see him, to know what had happened, if he had taken the mark. She hadn’t spoken to him since the day she’d left for the Christmas holidays, which she’d spent with her family, of course, but in the quiet hours of the night, her thoughts had always turned to him, praying he’d been smart enough to stay at Hogwarts, where it was safe. Ginny had worried about him all that time, terrified of what had happened to him, if he would return to her, scarred, marked by the raging war like so many she knew, but unlike any of them at the same time.
She had been tense the entire train ride home, worried sick with the knowledge that he wasn’t on board, but that was nothing compared to the fear that consumed her when she caught his stormy eyes staring back at her from across the Great Hall. She had drawn in a sharp gasp, her fork slipping from between her trembling fingers at the sight of him.
“Ginny? Ginny, are you all right?” Hermione asked concernedly, lightly shaking the younger girl’s shoulder, but Ginny didn’t answer, she couldn’t. He was watching her now, glaring at her with open hatred.
“Ginny?” Hermione pressed again, but Draco chose that exact moment to break eye contact.
She watched him stand up, refusing to look at her as he stormed out of the Great Hall without a backward glance. Before the twin oak doors had swung shut behind him, Ginny had already thrown her fork down and mumbled a half-formed excuse as she stumbled out of her seat, hastily making her way to the exit.
No, no, no, this couldn’t be happening, her thoughts screamed shrilly. Ginny felt a sob forming at the base of her throat and threw herself down the dark corridors, racing after him and all but screaming his name as she ran.
She found him at last, crying out in relief as she saw his familiar shadow step out into the chill night air. Her footsteps slowed as she reached the door he had left through, her fingers hesitating over the lock in sudden trepidation. Just who was going to greet her on the other side of that door? Would he be the same Draco, with his teasing smirk and dancing silver eyes, or would he have that same mask of hatred when he saw that she had followed him? Was it na´ve of her to hope the hatred he had directed at her in the Great Hall was about something completely different, something inconsequential in comparison? She suddenly felt very aware of the fact that everyone else was still at dinner, that she was very far from them and at that moment, very alone.
She hurriedly shook these thoughts away, unwilling to linger on them. Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and pushed the side door open to follow him outside. Her eyes found him immediately, seeing his tall frame leaning back against the brick wall, his arms crossed defiantly over his chest and his sharp face turned away from her. She could see his chest rising and falling in short breaths and knew he’d ran from her, just as she’d ran after him. He still made no effort to face her. She swallowed apprehensively.
“Draco,” she called timidly.
His shoulders stiffened, but he forced them back down, his posture as rigid and uninviting as ever.
Ginny took a step closer, reaching up to lightly touch his cheek. He hissed and pulled away from her; her hand dropped to her side, his rejection tearing through her like knives. She bit her lip, trying not to cry though her red-rimmed eyes betrayed her.
“Won’t you say anything to me?” she asked quietly.
“I have nothing to say to you,” he answered back coldly.
He suddenly rounded on her, cutting her off with a vicious snarl. “You what?” he demanded, his dark eyes narrowed in absolute hatred, smothering her with their icy glare. “You’re sorry? You promised me everything and you ripped it all out from under me!”
“No, Draco, listen to me, you can still—”
“Can still what, Ginny?” She didn’t answer and he whipped his head around, a low growl of frustration rising in the back of his throat. He suddenly ripped at his shirt sleeve, tearing it up over his ghostly pale skin and brandishing his arm out towards her. “Tell me, Ginny. Tell me what I can still do with this thing branded into my skin?”
She forced herself to look at the tattoo of the leering skull with its empty eye sockets and serpentine tongue. She felt her heart stop as her entire world evaporated around her in an instant, leaving her standing numbly in the presence of the Dark Lord’s newest recruit.
Ginny squeezed her eyes shut, turning away from him as she felt the tears forming. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered hoarsely. “Draco, I’m so sorry.”
He slipped his hand beneath her chin, lifting her face to his. The suddenly hurt expression in his silver eyes was enough to make her claw her own heart out just so it would stop hurting so much. “So this is it,” he whispered numbly, though he knew it had been coming all along. “This is the final wedge between us.”
“Draco,” she began, but he didn’t allow her to finish, his voice becoming raw and his expression hardening.
“I knew it would come to this, that there would be a point where it became too much for you, when you’d pull back… and this is it,” he answered bitterly.
“No!” she cried, her sobs echoing in the stillness of the night.
“Shhh…” he soothed, his fingertips swiping away the build up of her tears. The simple touch was very tender and sweet, but the bitter reason for their meeting threw it all into the raw cuts of a dying romance. He softly pressed his lips to hers in a chaste kiss before resting his chin on his favorite perch, just over her shoulder, his face buried by her curtain of long hair. “I loved you, you know,” he whispered. “I never thought I’d admit it, that somehow what we had wasn’t… this…” he broke off, gesturing helplessly.
Ginny took a shuddering breath, struggling to hold back the tears as he confessed the only words she’d ever wanted to hear him say. She felt his humorless chuckle against her neck, making her breath hitch in her chest. “You were thinking the same thing, weren’t you?” he asked. “That I’ve finally said it, but I was too late. Here I am, ripping my bleeding heart out for you, and you’re still too frightened to move.” Two fat teardrops slid down her cheek, falling onto the bare skin of his neck. He finally pulled up, his smoldering eyes holding her captive. “I’m not going to hurt you, Gin, I promise you that.”
“You promised me you’d never bow to him,” she answered back hollowly. Ginny suddenly clamped her hand to her mouth in horror, realizing what she’d said, but it was too late; the words had left her mouth before she could stop them, shattering any hope she had of piecing her crumpled life back together. “No, Draco, I didn’t mean—”
But he had already pulled back from her, any chance she had of reaching him hidden beneath his closed expression, more frightening to her than any Death Eater’s mask. “You did this, remember?” he whispered roughly. “You’re the one who left, not me, Gin.”
“What are you talking about? You got on that damn train and went straight to him!” she cried shrilly, her face now flushed in anger.
“You got on board first, Weasley, or don’t you remember? You left and after all that trash about how you’d protect me from them!” he sneered, his voice turning mocking. “Promised to take me with you, but then you got scared of what your damn family would think and couldn’t pluck up the courage to do anything!” he roared. “This,” he breathed raggedly, “this is what you get for dangling a drop of hope in front of a dying man.”
“How is this my fault? You could have stayed here; you could have gone to Dumbledore…”
“And done what, live in this godforsaken castle until I rot? Or would you have me come home with you and finally tell you’re mother exactly what her little innocent girl has been up to all year?”
“How dare you!” She made to slap him, but he caught her wrist instantly, no doubt from his quick seeker’s reflexes, but Ginny knew that his quick movements could just as easily have come from learning to avoid his father’s unforgivable curses as from Quidditch. Ginny stilled despite the hand that still held her, her mind running back over what she knew his life to be. He rarely spoke about his past, but she didn’t miss the defensive stance he took whenever his father was mentioned, the wary look he greeted every letter from home with, the way his hollow eyes would stare at the withering fireplace for hours afterward. She suddenly felt very small next to him. Had she always been this blind to the kind of life he lived? How must she have looked to him, harping on about choosing between what was right and what was easy; how had any of this been easy for him? Remorse welled up inside her and she lowered her gaze; she could only imagine the fear he felt at the idea of refusing his father, the necessity of taking the mark, of joining Voldemort even though he was more afraid of the Dark Lord than anyone she’d ever known.
“You’re right,” she cried. “You’re absolutely right.” She raised her tear-filled eyes to his and realized with a pang that she didn’t even recognize him anymore, and it was all her fault.
Ginny stared numbly down at her barely touched food, unaware of the boisterous laughter around her. Her entire family was celebrating Harry, Hermione, and her brother’s return, and the normally dismal kitchen was suddenly light and full to bursting with laughter and love.
She wondered if such a thing existed anymore. She knew he had never believed in it, and hadn’t he always told her so? That love was just a word people used to give their needs an excuse, but a word that held no more power than any other.
“You could always refuse, you know.”
“Refuse the Dark Lord,” he echoed back with a hollow chuckle. “I don’t think so.”
“God, Malfoy, are you even trying to think of a way out of this? Don’t you have anything to fight for?!”
He turned on her then, one eyebrow raised sardonically. “And what do you fight for, Weasley? World peace?” he sneered.
She stiffened at his barb, her cheeks heated as she looked down at her secondhand shoes; they had been Ron’s once, she mused. She remembered how mortified she’d been to learn she would be wearing a pair of boys’ shoes to school and how she had thrown an absolute tantrum, locking herself in her room, certain she’d die a shriveled up old maid. She had spent hours in there when there was a soft knock at her door and said brother let himself in. She had hastily wiped away the traces of her tears, feeling guilty that she’d cried over a lousy pair of shoes. She hadn’t wanted to make him feel any worse than he looked already; it wasn’t as if it were his fault they couldn’t afford new shoes.
He’d sat down beside her, not saying anything for a minute, staring down at his wand, twirling it absently. “Give me those ruddy shoes, Gin.” He said dully.
“What?” she asked, evidently confused. “Oh, Ron, look, I’m sorry. I was being stupid; I can wear the damn shoes, just—”
“Hand me the bloody shoes, Ginny.”
She had done as he asked; crossing the room to where she’d thrown the pair against the wall and bringing them back to deposit in his hands. His brows knitted together in sudden concentration as he stared at the two shoes and giving his wand a complicated flick, he transfigured them before her eyes, drawing a soft gasp from her lips.
“Oh, Ron.” Her eyes brimmed over with tears, looking down at the now distinctly feminine pair of shoes; they were still a bit scuffed and certainly not designer by any means, but they were just as unlikely to be labeled as wizard’s shoes in any case.
He gave her a small smile and a one armed hug, muttering gruffly into her ear, “Bloody girls, throwing tantrums over a blasted pair of shoes.”
She laughed quietly, pushing back against him and grinning. “They really were too big, Ron. I would have tripped down the stairs and broken my neck before the first day of class and you know it.”
“Yeah, yeah, tell someone who cares,” he grumbled, though his lips had lifted in an embarrassed smile nonetheless. He’d wrapped her in another hug and in a moment of uncharacteristic brotherliness muttered, “Love you, Gin.”
Still looking down at her transfigured shoes, Ginny felt the corner of her lips twitch, having found an answer for Draco’s taunting question. Looking up, she stared him directly in the eyes and replied, “Love.”
His eyebrows suddenly rose in shock. “Love?” he repeated scathingly.
“What’s so horrible about love being a reason to fight?” she demanded.
“Love,” he spat the word out, contempt in every rigid line of his face, “is only real in fairytales. Only a Weasley would hold by such ridiculous notions.”
She made a face at the slur on her family and placed her hands on her hips in sudden irritation. “Geez, Malfoy, feeling a little bitter?”
He didn’t answer her at first, turning away to stare numbly out the window at the grounds below. “Love didn’t save my parents,” he stated quietly.
“What do you mean?”
His jaw tightened as he continued to stare out the window unseeingly. Finally, he opened his mouth to answer her question, his gruff voice raw in a way that made her understand this was not something he talked about often.
“My parents loved each other once, a very long time ago,” he began, “but then the Dark Lord came back and father was afraid, afraid he would be punished for not seeking him out, or keeping up the old ways.” His mouth curved into a mocking smirk. “He threw himself into every mission that came. He was eager to prove his loyalty, but when he failed at the ministry, and then later again, a few months after he’d escaped Azkaban, the Dark Lord decided he’d finally had enough of him. He was tried before all the Dark Lord’s followers, a kind of example to the rest of them. My mother was there as they read off my father’s list of crimes and sentenced him to death. She was supposed to just sit there and watch, but she just couldn’t bear to let him be killed.” He paused, taking a ragged breath before continuing. “She used a very old spell, old magic, the kind that doesn’t need a wand, and ran to my father, putting herself between him and the Dark Lord just as he was about to kill him. She took his blame on herself, all of it, along with all its consequences. My father couldn’t be touched. For his crimes though, he’d already been sentenced to death, and she had taken those crimes on her shoulders, taking the full blame. The Dark Lord couldn’t ignore it, and he killed her.”
For how long Ginny had held her breath, she didn’t know. All she knew was that she’s never heard Malfoy, no, Draco, say anything more than a few snide insults, and here he was actually giving her a window into his very dark life. He had her completely engrossed, and it was with some shock that she realized he was finished. “She died?” she asked hoarsely.
“She was murdered,” he corrected automatically, his lip curling back into a sneer, “and all in the precious name of love. So, go on ahead and fight your war, but at least have the brains to decide on something really worth dying for, because you’re going to lose, Weasley, and you might as well go down for a damned good reason; love is just as pathetic an excuse as any other.”
“And what would you die for?” she asked, suddenly very much wanting to know how the arrogant, cold-hearted young man would answer her.
He smirked at her, “That’s easy, Weasley, I’d die for one thing only, myself.”
She made a face at him, struggling against the urge to roll her eyes, “And how does that work out, Draco? Honestly, only you would be selfish enough to die for yourself. Is that even possible?”
He stilled, staring at her curiously.
“What?” she asked, suddenly very self-conscious with the way he was looking at her.
“You called me Draco,” he stated incredulously.
“Well that’s your name, isn’t it?” she replied easily, though she could feel the heat creeping over her cheeks in embarrassment.
He nodded curtly, still staring at her with those penetrating eyes of his. “Well, take care of yourself, Ginny. You’re too smart to go and kick the bucket over something like love.” And without another word, he turned on his heel, leaving her standing like a fish with its mouth agape.
Ginny tried to share in the light affair, she really did. She tried to laugh at her brothers’ jokes and listen to Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s tales of everything they had gone through while they had been searching for a way to destroy Voldemort, but she couldn’t muster a single true smile. Her eyes fell on the empty chair across from her, her stomach clenching with a sudden terrible pang of loss for her deceased brother. The table may have been full, but no one could deny the ache that hung in the silence from Charlie’s absence.
Overcome with reawakened guilt, Ginny excused herself from the table, retreating to the quiet comfort of her bedroom where she could let her heart die an agonizing death for the thousandth time, only to resurrect itself in the morning and eat away at her once more.
Wouldn’t it just be fitting, she thought, tears streaking down her cheeks, if the one time she went against her family’s wishes it had cost one of her brothers his life? She buried her face in her pillow to muffle the sound of her crying as she thought back to Draco and everything she had lost when he was wrenched out of her life.
She had tried so hard to reach him. It had taken months to coax him out of his own darkness, and more than once she had cried herself to sleep, afraid he was right, that he really was beyond redemption, but she had refused to believe it. She had refused to give up on him. After all, how could she when traces of her own year of darkness still clung to her? If she could be forgiven for what she had done her first year, then surely he could be forgiven too.
But, she reminded herself sadly, he’d gone back to the darkness, so far into the black that she could no longer reach him, and there he stayed. The lives he took and the blood he spilled was on her hands because had she only put aside her fear and confessed to her family, he would have never been on that train home in the first place. He would still be by her side, smirking playfully and tugging on her hair, kissing her until her very limbs were on fire with passion and need.
Shaking herself out of her reverie, Ginny bent over the small bed to find the crumpled letter Ron had sent her only a few days earlier, before he’d come back with Harry and Hermione at his side. She reread it, though she certainly had it memorized by now. They would attack in three days. Harry was ready and all that was left was to face Voldemort and his Death Eaters head on. Her eyes no longer focused on the untidy scrawl. Ginny felt her fingers trembling, though not from fear of the fast approaching battle.
In three days, she would see him again for the first time in two and a half years, and there was no way to trick herself into thinking that they were still on the same side; they hadn’t been in a very long time.
Fear’s icy grip constricted over her heart at the very idea of seeing him again, of having to raise a wand against him. In spite of all the pain and guilt that had slowly torn her life to shreds over the past few years, Ginny knew that she could never fight him. She could never hold him responsible for the lives he’d taken. Draco had never failed her, she had failed him and she would never be able to take his life. After everything she had cost him, she owed him that at the very least.
Each day before the upcoming battle passed more slowly than the last, stretching her nerves to the breaking point until she couldn’t sleep at night. Everything was riding on this battle and no matter which side won, she would lose. In her fragmented mind, Draco’s life and the lives of the collective wizarding world were in equal balance and her fragile spirit would not survive the loss of either.
The three days passed by before her bloodshot eyes and all too soon, Ginny found herself on the battlefield, fighting for her life but only out of the purest base instinct. The battle was raging around her, the horror of it keeping pace with her own devastating pain. The wizarding world was at war as was Ginny’s very soul and everything was about to break.
She saw nothing but the flash of lethal curses and the splatters of blood, the emerald bolts and streaks of crimson dizzying her until the world itself seemed to turn upside down and she was lost. A curse shot by her head, missing her only by inches and Ginny sank to her knees, drawing them to her chest and crying weakly.
Death. So much death.
Her fault… her fault… it was all her fault…
She was going to pieces. Ginny held her head in her hands, shaking with racking sobs, oblivious to the fighting around her.
Make it stop! Make it stop!
His face swam before her eyes, a ghost of a long lost smile on his face. His expression hardened, becoming sharp and rigid against the blackness, his silver eyes boring through her very heart.
“This is your fault…”
No, no, no!
“… you know that…”
“STOP IT!” she screamed, an unearthly scream ripping itself from her lungs, desperate to push back the madness that threatened to overwhelm her. “STOP! STOP IT!”
But the tortured screams of the dying continued, an unending stream of death; the smell of blood had filled the air, choking her. Sobbing incoherently, Ginny collapsed into herself, trying to block everything from her mind, to spare her sanity before madness consumed her, before his silver eyes froze the blood in her veins and killed her.
Suddenly, everything went black.
She didn’t know how long she lay there, curled in a ball in the midst of the crossfire, refusing to acknowledge Death’s presence, her eyes closed against it all. There was no sound, no light, nothing, nothing but unending blackness stretching in every direction. After what seemed like an eternity, Ginny finally opened her eyes and promptly squeezed them shut, all of her senses returning in such a rush that it had nearly stopped her heart. She finally got her breathing under control and reopened her eyes.
The smoke was clearing, the final battle at an end. Ginny slowly raised her bloodshot eyes upwards, mechanically pushing herself to her unsteady feet and staring at the endless battlefield in numb disbelief. They had won. She blinked, slowly taking it in. The Order had won. Voldemort was gone and nothing was left of the Dark Lord’s reign of terror but a handful of the last of his followers.
Tears slid down Ginny’s cheeks; it was over, it was over… But no sigh of relief escaped her trembling lips; no smile of victory crossed her haunted expression. Yes, the war was over but Death still surrounded her on every side, trapping her with the awful truth, the knowledge that she had had some part in this and she was drowning in that knowledge, drowning in the memory of his penetrating stare.
Ginny stumbled blindly around, numb to the echoes of murderers screaming for mercy, for their very lives, only to be cut short by the unforgivable curse that was now a part of every Auror’s arsenal. The days of Azkaban were over and the Aurors weren’t taking any chances, dealing out death sentences to every Death Eater they came across. The second war had hardened the Ministry, and fair trial was a term that no longer existed.
Her vacant eyes searched the bodies around her, never really taking them in, far too overcome by what this war had cost her. She felt the bile rising up in her throat; how many had he killed? How many had died from curses he’d uttered? Just how much blood was on her hands?
A flash of red caught her attention, though how it managed to do so amongst all the blood she had no idea. Her eyes snapped across the field to find her favorite brother, stumbling beside his dark-haired best friend, both their faces contorted in absolute rage as they advanced on the man who had attacked the bushy haired girl lying in the dirt behind them.
Ginny’s panicked eyes flew back to Hermione’s still form. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that the girl was beginning to push herself up. Though disoriented and a bit bruised, Hermione was alive, and Ginny didn’t have to have her best friend’s death on her shoulders in addition to all the others.
She didn’t know how she could still stand under the weight of so much guilt and pain; it was a wonder Death hadn’t claimed her already in the state she was in. Looking back to her brother’s furious face, Ginny wondered if any of them would heal from the scars this war had left them with; she knew she wouldn’t.
It was then that her eyes focused on the man her brother was steadily advancing toward, her heart stopping in sudden recognition and horror.
Draco Malfoy pushed himself up from the ground, wiping the back of his hand over his bleeding lip as the two wizards he had forever hated made their way towards him, furious over the curse he had sent flying towards Granger. One look at their vengeful expressions and he knew without a doubt what was coming next.
“Draco Malfoy,” Ron spat with more venom that should have been able to be put into mere words, “You are hereby guilty for crimes against humanity and your support of the Dark Lord. Your sentence is death.” He raised his wand to point directly at Draco’s chest, his best friend raising his wand beside him and continuing on where Ron had left off.
“You will be cursed by the unforgivable and your body will not be cared for afterward. You’re going straight to hell, so it makes little difference to us anyway.”
Draco would have told Potter to sod it, but was cut short when a pair of arms threw themselves around him, screaming out shrill words he’d heard only once before, the night his mother had died in the place of his father. Ginny Weasley was clinging to him now with every fiber of her being, uttering the words he had taught her, though he never would have done so if he had known she would be using them now.
He stiffened in her arms, trying desperately to throw her off himself, but she clung tighter, sobbing uncontrollably as she cried out the final words of the oath.
“…and I take his sins as my own, the blood he’s spilled on my hands!”
At those final words, Draco Malfoy’s heart stopped completely. He held her numbly, staring unseeingly over the top of her crimson head and realizing the full extent of what he had done. “No,” he whispered hoarsely, resting his head on top of hers, his calloused hands tightening around her small frame. “No, no, Ginny, no…”
Her brother and his friend looked on, frozen in shock, unable to move as they witnessed the scene unfolding before them, realizing with mind-numbing shock, that Ginny Weasley had just sworn herself in place of Draco Malfoy to take his punishment, a punishment they had already sentenced him to, their words magically binding.
“Ginny, no!” Ron cried out in distress, reaching forward to pull his sister away but her body was already trembling, the life leaving her even without the aid of the killing curse. She didn’t spare her brother a second glance though, only aware of the fact that she was touching Draco again, holding him, and he was holding on to her tighter than ever before, his body shaking with sudden tears.
“Damn it, Ginny, why’d you…? Oh God, no, please, Ginny, don’t, no, no, NO!”
She squeezed her eyes shut against the searing pain that was suddenly burning through her body, ripping through her veins and setting her skin on fire. She buried her face in his chest, unconsciously smearing the stains of blood from his robes over her fair skin. Her fingers twisted up in the fabric of his shirt, refusing to let go of him as she cried against him, her body convulsing in pain, but the real pain she felt was coming from the shattered fragments of her heart.
“I’m sorry,” she sobbed. “I’m s-sorry, Draco! It’s on me! You were right; it’s all on me…”
He buried his face into the hollow of her neck, just over her shoulder, crying in anguish as the girl he loved slowly died in his arms, sobbing incoherently because she still blamed herself. He had meant to hurt her all those years ago, that night that he’d raged at her, but never like this. He had never meant for her to suffer because of him, to die because of what he had done.
“I love you, you know that?” he croaked weakly.
She breathed out a small sigh, her body sinking through his arms, though they tightened around her, refusing to let her go despite how the magic tore through her. “I know…” she sighed, her small voice no more than a dying whisper. With the last of her strength, her fingers gripped his branded arm, touching the very mark that had forced them apart. “I love you, Draco,” she murmured, her fingers slipping from his arm to hang limply at her side.
Draco clutched her body to his chest, falling slowly to his knees, sobbing against her cold skin and damning himself to hell for ever making her think she was anything less than the innocent angel she’d been to him, offering him solace and a way out. “You idiot girl, you were supposed to die for something good, something noble!” he cried, holding her still body to his and knowing that he’d never been any of those things. And even if he had been, his life would never have been worth hers.
She had been right; she had always been right. There had been so many different paths he could have taken, and only one of them had led to this. She would never know what she had meant to him. How he had thought of her every night, wanting nothing more than to hold her in his arms and here he was, clutching her to him as if he’d never let go. Only now he knew she would never again touch him back. She was gone. She had given him everything, and he had gone and thrown it all away in a moment of fear, and now she would never open her eyes again.
“Just kill me, please…” he croaked, begging her brother to end his misery and let him join her in death.
“I can’t,” Ron echoed hollowly, staring unseeingly at his younger sister’s body, grasped by the man she had died to protect. “Believe me, I want to end your life, more than anything, but I can’t touch you. She ensured that.”
An anguished sob ripped itself from Draco’s throat as he held her lifeless body, tormented by what he had done.
Of all the screams echoing across the battlefield, the screams of the dying, the wounded… one man’s cries were more full of loss and unbelievable pain than any other, his hoarse guilt-ridden sobs haunting the night.
She was gone.
She was gone.
She was gone.
And it was all his fault…