|SIYE Time:23:54 on 19th August 2017|
Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/AB
Characters:Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Fluff, General, Humor, Romance
Story is Complete
Summary: In which Draco looks for a girlfriend and Ginny visits Malfoy Manor.
Hitcount: Story Total: 4330
Awards: View Trophy Room
Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.
Over the years I have been assured by several people that Ginny/Draco romance stories are plausible, I disagreed. One person assured me that they are much more plausible than Hermione/Draco stories. That is a statement I can actually agree with, because no matter how big the “much” is, when you multiply 0% by “much”, you still end up with 0%. Nevertheless, I’ve always wanted to put Ginny and Draco together to see what happens. Now I know.
Ginny yawned, cursed, forced open a reluctant eyelid and slid out of bed. It took a moment for the room to stop spinning.
‘Eight o’clock on a Friday morning,’ she grumbled, struggling to focus on her bedside clock. ‘Who in Merlin’s name could that be?’ There was a worried sounding grunt from the other side of the bed. ‘You’d best get out of here, just in case,’ she said. Standing, she let out a very unladylike belch. ‘Mead, red wine and champagne, not a good combination,’ she mumbled apologetically and she tried to rub the pain from her forehead.
As she pulled on her dressing gown and hurried towards her front door, the black clouds of a storm were rapidly gathering on her face. Fortunately, she checked through the peephole before opening the door. The sight was almost enough to sober her up. Attempting to reset her face into a look of concern, Ginny turned the key in the lock grasped the handle, and prepared herself for the worst.
Molly Weasley finally removed her finger from the bell, bringing much needed relief from the incessant ringing. She glared at her daughter and opened her mouth to launch into a tirade, but Ginny was quicker.
‘Morning, Mum,’ Ginny spoke with a forced cheeriness, and very loudly. Her words reverberated painfully around her head. She lowered her voice before continuing. ‘It’s only eight o’clock, and I had a really late night last night. Is something wrong?’
‘You tell me, Ginevra,’ demanded Molly fiercely. ‘What are you playing at? What is the meaning of this? Has someone managed to slip you a potion of some sort?’ As she spoke, Molly thrust a copy of the Daily Prophet under her daughter’s nose.
Ginny blinked, rubbed the sleep from her eyes, and looked down at the newspaper. She remained standing in the doorway, preventing her mother from entering. Molly’s gaze moved from Ginny’s face to look into the hallway behind her daughter. There was a scuffling noise from within the flat, and Molly tried to move forwards, but Ginny placed her hand on the door jamb, held her ground, and concentrated on the newspaper.
‘I’m fairly certain that I’m not under the influence of any potions, Mum,’ said Ginny. ‘Although, a hangover potion would be very useful.’ Taking the newspaper from her mother, Ginny read the headline, ‘Potter and Weasley, is it over?’ looked at the unflattering photographs of her and Harry, and then started reading the article itself. ‘Yesterday lunchtime, Death Eater Draco Malfoy entertained Harpies star Ginny Weasley at his family’s mansion.’ Ginny raised an eyebrow. ‘Well, they’ve got something one hundred percent right, for once. You’d better come in, Mum. I’ll put the kettle on and we can have a nice cup of tea.’
‘Cup of tea!’ Molly shouted, snatching the paper and waving it threateningly under her daughter’s nose. ‘It says here that Draco Malfoy is looking for a Pureblood girlfriend.’
‘He is,’ Ginny told her, grinning. ‘And I’m a Pureblood, aren’t I? Are you saying that you don’t approve? I’ll make us some tea and tell you all about it. Have you had breakfast?’
‘But mother! It’s… I’ll be a laughing stock… What will people think? You can’t possibly expect me to…’
‘A laughing stock? I don’t see why that should bother you, Draco. Opinion of us cannot sink any lower than it already has. And it’s not as if you ever see anyone who would laugh at you. You hardly ever leave the manor. It isn’t safe, as you discovered in Diagon Alley last year.’
‘That was six months ago, mother. I should not be forced to hide away from the world like this. It’s inexcusable! I was acquitted of all charges. I am a free man, and yet I am forced to live like a recluse. If I am to run our businesses I need my freedom. The Law Office must…’
‘The Law Office must investigate any assault, Draco, which they did. They even caught the perpetrator, arrested her, charged her, and took her to court. And then the jury found her guilty.’
‘And she walked free! She was given a conditional discharge!’
‘Which is the exactly the same verdict you received, Draco. And, as the Justice reminded you when you protested, your offences were much more serious than hers.’
‘But, the Law Office…’
‘The Law Office is not obliged to provide you with personal protection. You have neither friends nor allies. You must learn to fend for yourself. Crabbe is dead, and if Gregory Goyle is, as we suspect, still alive, he almost certainly wants to kill you. Our former allies hate us, and our former enemies despise us. There is no one to protect you, not even your father. We are powerless; the name Malfoy no longer inspires respect, or fear. If you are to run our businesses, if we are to rebuild, we must be patient.’
‘Patient! It has been almost three years!’
‘Try to remember that you and your father are the only Death Eaters to escape imprisonment.’
‘I was found not guilty of most of the charges, Mother, and we paid heavy fines for the others. I should be free.’
‘You are free, Draco. You are not in Azkaban and, unlike your father you are not under house arrest. But you bear the Mark, and your guilt, or innocence in the eyes of the law does not matter. You are a Death Eater, and everyone knows it. It is not something you can deny.’
‘That, in itself, is not a crime.’
‘As our Barrister pointed out, but it marks you as a follower of the Dark Lord. The world knows which side you chose, and they know that you watched as others were tortured and killed.’
‘As did you, Mother.’
‘Had I spoken out, we would all have been fed to the snake.’
‘Exactly, we had no choice! So why should we continue to suffer?’
‘We have always had choices, Draco. You made yours when you, Crabbe and Goyle decided to follow Harry Potter into the Room of Hidden Things. Your final attempt to curry favour with the Dark Lord was ill-advised and futile. It did nothing but confirm whose side you were on.’
‘No, Draco, you did not think. As always, you allowed your childish hatred of Potter and his friends to cloud your judgement. You made a mistake. You should have fled to safety with your fellow Slytherins.’
‘I might have…’
‘You might have, Draco? As you said, it has been three years! I no longer wish to hear what you might have achieved. If I had not lied to Him we would not be here at all. By helping to save Potter, I gave us an escape route. Think, Draco; think about those final days. Look me in the eyes and tell me that, had the Dark Lord won, we would be better off.’
‘I can’t, mother. You know I can’t.’
Narcissa Malfoy stared up into the cold gray eyes of her only child. ‘Do you know, Draco, there are times when I think that this wretched existence is, in fact, the best we could hope for. Had He won, I suspect that we, like so many others who followed Him, would be dead by now.’
Draco sighed. ‘I fear that you are right,’ he admitted.
‘At last! You are finally beginning to see sense. Think of it this way, Draco: there are a large number of people who want to hurt or even kill you, and thanks to Potter and the Auror Office, the majority of them are in Azkaban. You were lucky to escape imprisonment; we must thank Potter for that, too. As we must thank him for persuading the Wizengamot to place your father under house arrest and for providing guards for this place. You know that the only reason your father is not in Azkaban is to protect him from the wrath of the other prisoners.’
‘I’m not stupid, Mother.’
‘Then don’t act as though you are. The Manor is ours, and it remains a safe haven, thanks to the Ministry. But the future of the name Malfoy rests on your shoulders. These lands have been the demesne of the Malfoys since the reign of Good Queen Bess. We cannot, and we will not, sell the manor; not while your father and I still live. And afterwards, when we die? Will you be the Malfoy who brings more than four centuries of proud tradition to an end?’
‘Of course not, but…’
‘So many people hate us; you must get used to that fact. We have fallen low, and must rebuild. We have no friends, so we must make new alliances. Consider this; if people laugh at you, or pity you, then at least they are not hating you. It is as much as we can hope for.’
‘Theodore Nott is no friend of yours, Draco, he never was. Both my family and your father’s knew that. He, and his father, played a much cleverer game than we. All Notts are the same, Theodore, like his father, would throw you to the wolves in an instant if he thought it would further his aims. He may pretend friendship, but he will try to tie you up and bind you with promises and lies. He has ensnared the Parkinson girl. He snatched that foolish girl, and her money, from under your nose, Draco.’
‘She was boring me. And he didn’t take her from me, she chased after him.’
Narcissa laughed scornfully. ‘It wouldn’t surprise me if she actually believes that, but you should know better. We must forget her, and you must look elsewhere, which is why I have sent out the invitations. We need allies, and you need to find a wife, and you need to ensure that the Malfoy line continues.’
‘A wife!’ Draco spluttered. ‘I don’t want a wife.’
‘If your interests lie in the other direction,’ said Narcissa acidly, ‘then find yourself a lover, but be discreet about it. You are our only child, so whatever your tastes, you must find it in yourself to provide a male heir.’
‘Mother!’ exclaimed Draco. ‘I’m not… It isn’t that… I just…’
‘Then why are you so concerned about meeting girls? If, as you insist, it is dangerous for you to leave the manor, then the only alternative is to invite the young ladies here. I wrote to ten of the most ancient Pureblood families. Three failed to reply, they believe that they can ignore us. Five more said no, and three of those who declined my offer did so in terms they would never have dared use a mere three years ago. The two remaining families have accepted the invitation. Your first guest will arrive at noon, Draco, and she will leave at three, unless you manage to drive her away before then. The second will arrive at five. You will have three hours to make their acquaintance and we must hope that what remains of our wealth and status is enough to interest them.’
‘We need allies, Draco. We are beaten. We are trapped within our home. The world your father fought for, the world the Dark Lord promised us has not come to pass. I knew from the moment He made his home here with us that it would not. You and your father foolishly believed the promises of a lying Half-Blood, and I stupidly allowed it. We will be paying the price for years. Our former allies are dead or imprisoned. All we have is our name, and the manor, and even they are almost worthless in the world in which we now live. You must not be afraid to beg.’
But this! It’s…’
‘This is how it will be, Draco. Your father agrees.’
‘Who has accepted the invitations?’
‘You will find out when they arrive, Draco. You need only know this: I know their ancestry; I know that their blood is pure. I will not interfere in any way. You will answer the door, you make them welcome and you will decide how to proceed from there. I will remain in the East Wing with your father for the remainder of the day.’
‘Look on it as a test, Draco. I hope that you pass it.’
Ginny Weasley strode rapidly up the gravel drive towards Malfoy Manor. February was over, but the vernal equinox was still almost three weeks away and the weather gave no indication that winter might be coming to an end. A chill wind blew across the rather unkempt gardens. The sad, mournful-grey sky wept fat tears of despair. The torrential rain ran around the rim of her trench hat and streamed down the back of her waxed cotton jacket. Her expensive black leather boots splashed through puddles which rippled wildly as the sky continued its watery assault on the earth. When she reached the wide and tall black oak doors she reached forward, pressed the bell, and prepared for a long wait.
To Ginny’s surprise, one of the doors was opened almost immediately. The instant he saw her, the insincere smile on Draco Malfoy’s pale face disappeared; it was replaced by a look of contempt. He stared scornfully down on the pretty little redhead.
‘Weasley,’ he snarled. ‘What do you want? I’m expecting someone.’
‘What makes you think that it isn’t me you’re expecting, Mr Malfoy?’ asked Ginny. She used her best little-girl-lost voice, opened her eyes wide and stared hopefully up at the slim, pale young man. ‘It’s raining,’ she added plaintively. ‘Why don’t you ask me in?’
‘You?’ he said disbelievingly.
Ginny nodded earnestly, causing water to tip from the brim of her hat and splash onto the doormat. Draco took a step backwards to avoid the water, and Ginny took the opportunity to step swiftly out from the rain and into the entrance hall. The large room was empty, echoing and cold. Opposite the door a grand staircase led up to a balcony, which overlooked the hall on three sides. There was almost no furniture. A circular carpet some twenty feet in diameter lay in the centre of the polished wooden floor, but it looked almost lost in the vastness of the place.
‘Your father is under house arrest, do you think that the Bailiffs would have let me past the gate if I didn’t have an invitation?’ she asked.
Ginny unfastened her coat, shrugged it off, and then pulled off her hat. As she did so, she shook her head. Her bright hair was freed from confinement, and it cascaded down her back. At the same time a torrent of water poured from her coat and hat onto the floor. After looking around, she handed the hat and coat to Draco, who stared in disbelief at the dripping garments in his arms. Dropping them to the ground, and into the water which had pooled beneath them, he brushed the rainwater from his robes.
‘Have you been forced to sell your cloak stand?’ Ginny asked, looking down at the untidy heap on the floor. ‘We’ll just have to improvise.’ Pulling out her wand, she flicked it and lifted both hat and coat into the air. She levitated the still dripping garments upwards and hooked them onto the tarnished silver chandelier which hung high above the centre of the wall. Still wet, they continued to drip onto the Malfoy crest which was embroidered into the round carpet in the centre of the hall.
The paintings in the hall were muttering to themselves.
‘What’s she wearing?’
‘She’s showing her legs, and her … her abdomen!’
‘Surely she’s not a pureblood?’
‘She is called Ginny. She is a Weasley, a Pureblood, and she is wearing Muggle clothes.’ Ginny did a twirl and then folded her arms in order to address the paintings sternly. ‘Wool tights, because it’s bloody freezing out there; denim skirt and jacket, and I’m keeping the jacket on because it’s cold in here, too; a Holyhead Harpies t-shirt; and this–she pulled at the black leather bag–is called a shoulder bag. Perhaps you should all get out more. I could always start a fire.’
Ignoring the outcry, she turned to Draco, and gestured around the room. ‘Are these your ancestors?’ she asked. ‘Did the painters wait until after they died before painting them, or has every generation of Malfoy always been as pale as a vampire? I bet they have some interesting stories to tell.’ She looked around at the glowering, scowling, complaining, and belligerent faces. ‘You could probably fit The Burrow into this hall,’ she added. ‘But it’s a bit empty. There’s nothing here except a grimacing gallery of glum-faced great-grandparents. Are we going to stand here all day?’
‘Follow me,’ said Draco. There seemed to be a glimmer of amusement in his eye.
He led her through a dark oak door and into a high-ceilinged sitting room. Ginny looked around the place curiously. The diamond-paned windows were high above the floor and the walls were panelled in oak. Two large black leather sofas were angled towards the fire which blazed beneath the carved wood mantelpiece. The room was warm and almost comfortable. Although it was a little too neat and tidy for Ginny’s taste, she decided to be polite.
‘This is cosy,’ Ginny said brightly. ‘I could almost imagine myself living in a room like this.’ She skipped over to the nearest sofa, slipped off her shoulder bag, and sat.
Draco followed her across the room, and sat on the other sofa, opposite her.
‘It’s much warmer in here,’ she said. She slipped off the denim bolero jacket she’d been wearing under her waxed cotton jacket and gave him a sunny smile. He didn’t respond, so she simply turned away from him and stared into the flames. They sat in silence for several minutes. When she looked back at him, she discovered that he was looking at the sliver of bare flesh between her skirt and t-shirt. He immediately averted his gaze, and pretended to stare disinterestedly into the distance. Ginny examined him carefully.
Was that a blush? His face certainly seemed to have a little more colour than usual. Draco was, of course, traditionally dressed. His robes were of very good quality, though not brand new. His angular features made a sharp profile and, with his pale face and white-blond hair, created a striking silhouette against the dark panelled walls.
Ginny stared at the moody and brooding young man, and wondered what he was thinking about. He would be pondering her unexpected arrival, she decided, and trying to decide how to proceed. There was no doubt that he didn’t trust her. One of them would have to speak, but she was certain that it would not be him.
‘How are you, Draco?’ she asked politely.
‘None of your business,’ he snapped. ‘Why are you really here? What do you want?’
‘Perhaps I find you attractive,’ Ginny told him. ‘Perhaps I’m here to see if you’re the witty, suave and sophisticated young man some people believe you to be. Unfortunately, I’ll never find out if you don’t talk to me.’
He said nothing.
‘Alternatively,’ she added impishly, ‘Perhaps I’m bored with Harry and looking for a bit of fun. You will never find out if you don’t talk to me.’
‘Perhaps you’re up to something,’ he snapped. ‘You’re a Weasley, you’re all the same. You don’t change.’
‘Everyone is “up to something”, they always are. Even if the “something” is as simple as making a cup of tea,’ she told him, smiling. ‘And we all change. I’m definitely not the eleven-year-old you teased about being Harry’s girlfriend. I can barely even remember her. I’ve changed, and Harry has changed, and I’m fairly certain that you have changed, too. I’m here because I wanted to see you.’
‘See me? Why?’ Draco asked. ‘Did you come to gloat?’
‘I’m not a gloater,’ Ginny said. She paused, and looked directly into his eyes before continuing. ‘Well, not often,’ she clarified, using her most disarmingly honest smile. It appeared to have absolutely no effect on Draco. ‘I can get a bit carried away when the Harpies win, but I think Ron got most of my share of Weasley-gloat as well as his own.’ Ginny paused again. ‘Even if I did come here to gloat, why should that annoy you? You were always a gloater, Draco. You were always so smug and superior at school. Didn’t you say “Weasleys have too many children and not enough money.” So, even if I was here to gloat, how could you condemn me for doing something you used to do yourself? That would be hypocritical.’
Draco stared at her; she’d obviously startled him with her impersonation of his drawl. And it seemed that her words had stung, too. Although he continued to sit in silence, he looked rather uncomfortable.
‘Conversations should involve at least two people,’ she said. ‘I’m beginning to think that this is simply a monologue.’
Still, Draco said nothing.
‘Perhaps I’ve been secretly in love with you for years. Perhaps you’re the man of my dreams,’ Ginny continued. ‘Love is a funny thing, you know, and it’s not always practical. They say that opposites attract, although I’m not exactly sure who “they” are, for all I know it may be the same stupid “they” that say Muggle-borns are in some way inferior.’ For a moment Ginny thought that she’d got to him. His lips curled into a snarl, but he somehow managed to regain control. ‘I suppose that, even if it is, they might be right about love. Just look at Ron and Hermione. If opposites really do attract, then surely they are the perfect example.’
Draco was, she realised, now watching her with a degree of interest.
‘Some women like the brooding, strong and silent type,’ Ginny continued to press him. She was beginning to enjoy Draco’s discomfort. ‘Some fall for men who insult and abuse them; they believe that all it takes to turn a vicious and vindictive bully into the perfect man is “the love of a good woman”. Others fall for men who play mind games with them, verbally abuse them, or even stalk them. Pansy Parkinson certainly did.’
‘I never really cared for Pansy,’ said Draco dismissively.
‘Have you ever cared for anyone?’ Ginny asked.
Draco shrugged, and gave her an enigmatic smile.
‘Did you ever really care about anyone at school, apart from yourself, of course? I have,’ she admitted, ignoring his scowl. ‘Once, I thought I was in love with Michael Corner. He flattered me, he paid attention, and he was older than me. I thought that he was very sophisticated. But I was thirteen, and naïve. I thought that any older boy who was prepared to acknowledge me was sophisticated. I realised that Michael didn’t really understand Quidditch, and he was very condescending about the game, and that was that: finished. Then there was Dean. Being chased by Dean was nice, but then he caught me, and... Well, Dean was a bit desperate, if you know what I mean.’ Draco was definitely listening to her now, so she pressed on. ‘Harry likes Quidditch, he understands. Are you interested in Quidditch, Draco? Which team do you support?’
‘This year, I’ve decided to support Tutshill,’ he said.
‘We’re ahead of them in the league,’ she said cheerfully. ‘So, you change allegiance do you? I’m a Harpy for life! Do you always try to support the side that you think will win? Remind me never to take your advice if I want to place a bet.’ She laughed.
‘You could make a fortune, provided you always bet against me,’ Draco told her flatly.
Ginny stared at him and tried to decide whether the remark was an attempt at humour, or merely an expression of self-pity. She was usually good with people, but Draco Malfoy was frustratingly difficult to read. There was something enigmatic, or possibly repressed, about him; he was a mystery which she desperately wanted to solve. Nothing else seemed to be working, so she simply asked.
‘When the Snatchers brought Harry, Ron and Hermione here, you didn’t identify them,’ Ginny said. ‘Why?’
‘I was concerned for their safety. I didn’t want to see them hurt,’ Draco said quietly. He avoided her gaze, and she had no idea whether or not he was telling the truth.
‘Compassion, or cowardice?’ Ginny asked.
‘Typical Gryffindor question,’ said Draco contemptuously.
‘Cowardice, I think,’ she said, deliberately goading him. ‘Because you didn’t intervene once they had been identified. You certainly didn’t try to stop your lovely aunt Bella from torturing Hermione.’
It was difficult to be certain, but Ginny though that Draco’s pale face became paler. She decided to press him. She might never again get an opportunity to press him for answers to questions which she’d been asking for years. ‘But later, during the Battle, you were prepared to let Crabbe and Goyle kill Hermione, Ron, and even Harry, weren’t you?’
‘Is that why you’re here?’ Draco drawled dismissively, a glimmer of understanding in his eyes. He looked into her face, and his cold grey eyes seemed to stare into her soul. ‘You didn’t really think that I’d believe that you wanted to get close to me, did you? This is what you’re really after. You want to know why I spared your boyfriend, your brother, and the Mu… ggleborn, but then attacked them afterwards?’ He leaned forwards, lowered his voice, and spoke with apparent sincerity. ‘The truth is simple, Weasley. I’m a reformed character. I tried to save them that Easter because, despite what people think, I’m a caring and compassionate man. I hate to see my fellow witches and wizards get hurt. Unfortunately, later, when Crabbe and Goyle discovered that Potter was in Hogwarts, they forced me to follow Potter and his friends, and to ambush them in the Room of Hidden Things.’
Ginny blinked, and mulled over Malfoy’s earnest-sounding words. She tried do decide whether or not to believe him. He had provided her with an almost-believable answer. However, as she compared his words to Harry’s version of the events in the Room of Requirement, the discrepancies began to emerge. Malfoy was simply telling her what he thought she wanted to hear.
As she thought, Ginny looked into the flickering flames of the fire. She could sense that Malfoy was staring at her, but she continued to ignore him. Draco had only seen the Room of Hidden Things, and he believed that was all it was. He still had no knowledge of the true purpose of the room, she realised. As for Draco’s excuse–forced into it by Crabbe and Goyle–it was ridiculous. The idea of Crabbe or Goyle acting with any degree of subtlety or planning was ridiculous. Following Harry must have been Draco’s idea. She looked at Draco and shook her head dismissively.
‘You’re like everyone else. You believe Potter, not me. Everyone always does. Is that all you wanted; did you merely come here to try to determine whether or not I have reformed?’ his voice was certainly sincere, and it was filled with contempt. Ginny had to restrain herself, the urge to Bat-Bogey Malfoy was almost overwhelming. ‘Well, Miss Weasley, if you are trying to discover whether or not I’m a “reformed man”, I can assure you that I am.’
There was a slight twitch in the corner of Malfoy’s eye as he spoke, and Ginny was suddenly reminded of an incident from her early childhood. The twins had stolen and eaten an entire cake, and had been sent to their room to contemplate their sins. Two days later, Ginny had caught them in the act of stealing another. As she’d faced them, she asked the question her mother had asked when releasing them from their room. ‘Have you learned your lesson?’ Instead of the contrite ‘Yes,’ which Fred and George had told their mother, they grinned at her, and said ‘Yeah, this time we don’t intend to get caught, so don’t tell tales, or else.’
Ginny returned her gaze to Draco, and grinned. It must have been a dangerous grin, because Draco suddenly looked worried. She decided to use the truth.
‘Harry thinks that you’ve changed,’ Ginny told him. ‘He says that you aren’t a killer. He puts a lot of faith in the fact that years ago, in the tower, you didn’t kill Dumbledore, and you haven’t killed anyone else. To be honest, Harry and I argued about it. We argued about you, dear darling Draco. Does that make you feel good?’
‘Potter thinks that I’ve reformed?’ said Draco, a fleeting and faint smile appearing on his face. ‘Thanks for the information, Weasley. That could be very useful.’
‘Yes, Harry thinks that you’ve reformed. I’m sure that you won’t be surprised when I tell you that Ron disagrees. So do I, so I decided that I’d come and ask you. Your big problem is that–unfortunately for you–no matter what Harry thinks, I can persuade him otherwise,’ Ginny said. ‘If you want a truce, if you want my help, you will need to be nice to me.’
‘Just as I thought,’ Draco snapped. ‘You’re looking for something. What do you really want?’
It was Ginny’s turn to smile. She reached into her shoulder bag and pulled out a sparkling red box the size of a bottle. She then lifted two glasses from the bag.
‘If you want my trust, all you need to do is drink a toast to Harry, to Ron, and to Hermione,’ she told him.
She stood, handed him the box, and held out the glasses expectantly. Draco opened the box, and pulled out the bottle.
‘Madam Rosmerta’s Oak Matured Mead,’ he said, looking at the label appreciatively. He then looked at the bottle carefully. ‘It’s been opened,’ he said accusingly. ‘There’s some missing. Can’t you afford a full bottle?’
Ginny stared coolly at him. ‘It’s the real stuff, honest, but three glassfuls had been poured from the bottle before I wrapped it,’ she admitted. She stared into his grey eyes. ‘Only one of those three glasses was actually drunk.’ She watched his eyes widen in fear. It wasn’t a good look. Ginny pretended to misunderstand. ‘Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe. I’m not trying to slip you a love potion. If you would pour us each a glass and we can agree on a truce.’
Draco stared into her face. ‘Where did you get the bottle?’ he asked.
‘From Ron’s place,’ she said. ‘I told him I was coming here, and he was happy to give it to me. Come along, Draco, pour. This is your big chance to impress me.’
Draco glared, and tried to stare into her eyes, but she avoided his gaze. With shaking hands, Draco pulled out the stopper and poured a small measure into each glass.
‘Be generous,’ Ginny said.
Draco reluctantly added more mead to each glass, and placed the bottle on a small table by the sofa. Ginny handed him one of the glasses, lifted the other, and admired the viscous amber liquid.
‘To peace,’ Ginny said, clinking her glass against his. ‘To the future.’ She raised her glass to her lips. Draco watched, but didn’t raise his own glass. ‘And to Ron, because today is his twenty-first birthday.’ A moment before the glass reached her lips, she paused. ‘Aren’t you prepared to drink to my brother’s health with his own mead?’ she asked, lowering the glass.
Draco finally cracked. ‘Blood-traitor bitch,’ he said as he threw the glass into the fire. Ginny watched the glass break and the alcohol flare and spit in the flames.
‘Thought so,’ she said, shaking her head sadly. She drained her own glass and replaced it in her bag.
‘Goodbye, Malfoy. I can’t trust someone who doesn’t trust me,’ she told him. ‘Don’t worry, you won’t see me again.’ She picked up the bottle of mead, re-stoppered it, and placed it, too, in her bag. ‘I’m a Weasley, we don’t let unwanted presents go to waste,’ she explained as she pulled on her jacket.
Draco glared at her.
‘If you’re wondering, your mother invited Luna, whose father declined the offer on her behalf,’ Ginny said. ‘Xenophilus threw the invitation into the fire, which was a pity. However, your mother invited Fenella Grey, too. And her father accepted the invitation without actually consulting his daughter. Fenella, confided in Luna, who confided in me, and because I wanted to see you, I used Fenella’s invitation to get in. It’s been an interesting and educational experience. Don’t get up. I’ll see myself out.’
With that, Ginny strode from the room and levitated her hat and coat from the chandelier. She left Malfoy Manor without a backwards glance, and forgot to close the front door on her way out.
‘So,’ Ginny concluded. ‘He doesn’t trust me, and I don’t trust him.’
Ron’s laughter echoed around the hallway of number twelve Grimmauld Place. When he finally managed to draw a breath, he hugged his sister. ‘Bloody brilliant,’ he told her. ‘Merlin, I wish I could’ve been there to see it.’
‘You should have seen his face when I told him that today is your birthday, Ron. I don’t think Mum can get her sheets that white!’ Ginny pulled open the front door and looked out into the wet street. ‘No sign of the taxi,’ she said.
‘He’ll sound his horn when he gets here,’ Ron told her. He closed the door. ‘Let’s keep the rain outside.’
‘So that’s why you asked me to buy the mead,’ said Hermione as she took her fawn trench coat from the stand and pulled it on over her evening dress. ‘And why, when you arrived to collect the bottle last night, you poured out three glasses, but would only let Ron drink his.’
‘I wanted to be able to tell Draco the truth,’ said Ginny as she checked the line of her black dress in the mirror in the hallway. ‘I’m pretty certain that he was trying Legilimency on me.’ As she looked in the mirror, she registered her boyfriend’s expression. ‘Don’t look so disapproving, Harry. It’s not as if I vamped him, or hexed him, or anything.’
Ginny turned from the mirror and straightened Harry’s dinner jacket. She grinned up at him, and hugged him, but he remained concerned.
‘What if you had goaded him into doing something?’ Harry asked. ‘He might have attacked you.’
Ginny shook her head. ‘He’s still on licence, remember. He got a suspended sentence, and it still has four months left to run, I checked. One false move and he’s in Azkaban, sharing a dining hall with all those Death Eaters. He’s not stupid. He knows that they would like nothing more than to get reacquainted with him. But I don’t trust him, Harry. I don’t trust Narcissa, and I definitely don’t trust that evil git Lucius. If I was clever enough to be able to create one, I’d send Lucius an enchanted diary,’ she concluded mischievously.
Harry shook his head, more amused than annoyed. ‘Remind me never to get on your wrong side,’ he said. ‘But I wish you’d told me what you were planning to do.’
‘I thought that you might worry. Or worse, that you might try to talk me out of it,’ she told him. She kissed his chin. ‘I’d already promised Fenella that I’d take her place, Harry. So I couldn’t take the risk that you’d persuade me to change my mind. Besides, you’re an Auror. If you didn’t know what I was doing, you’d have plausible deniability.’
‘Plausible deniability?’ asked Ron.
‘It’s a Muggle saying,’ Hermione explained.
‘I’ve been reading a book on Muggle quotes and sayings,’ said Ginny. ‘I’ve got one for you, too, Harry: Brevity is…’
‘The soul of wit,’ Hermione interrupted. ‘It’s Shakespeare.’
Is it?’ asked Ginny. ‘It’s a good quote, but the one I was thinking of was “brevity is the soul of lingerie.” I’ll show you what it means later, Harry.’
Harry blushed, and laughed. ‘You know how to get round me, don’t you?’ he said. ‘Can we go back to your place tonight? I promised the birthday boy here that he could have Grimmauld Place to himself.’
‘Fine,’ said Ginny. She winked at Hermione and reached into her leather shoulder bag, which was hanging under the coat she’d worn when she’d visited Draco earlier in the day. Pulling out the bottle of mead she waved it at her friends. ‘Before we go to the restaurant, we could finish this. There’s enough left in the bottle for a small glass each.’ She conjured four glasses, and gave one each to Ron and Hermione, and two to Harry.
‘Happy birthday, Ron,’ said Harry, raising his glass. ‘Are you okay drinking this stuff?’
‘Fine,’ Ron assured his friend. ‘I mean, it’s not like my sister’s going to poison me, is it?’
‘Happy twenty-first, Ron,’ said Hermione.
‘And thanks for not drinking the mead, Malfoy,’ Ginny added.
Outside, a car horn sounded.
‘Time to go,’ said Hermione. ‘Dinner at the Savoy for the birthday boy.’
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