The Broken Road, Chapter 16 :: Revivifying, Part II
Ginny was shocked speechless.
She stared at him for a full minute, trying to force her brain out of its pleasured state and resume coherent thought. What seemed like an eternity later, she blurted, “How did you know about that?”
“I’m not completely without eyes and ears,” he said nonchalantly, crawling up her body and stopping when his face was above hers.
“Did you have me followed?” she demanded.
“I don’t have to have you followed,” he said, frowning. “I have sources everywhere.”
“So someone watched me and Harry fighting, and then reported it back to you?” she asked, panic filling her stomach and making it churn uncomfortably.
“More like someone was passing by and caught the action,” he corrected, gazing intently at her.
“And they told you… everything?”
“Oh,” she sighed, sounding relieved.
“They let me have the memory for my pensieve.”
Ginny felt her face flush as her jaw dropped. “So you saw the entire thing yourself? Why didn’t you say something earlier?”
“What was there to say?” he asked, shrugging. “He attacked, you defended – quite stunningly, I might add – I don’t think I could have done better myself.” He thought for a moment. “Much, anyway.”
“So you enjoyed seeing us fight?” she asked, humiliated.
“I wouldn’t say ‘enjoyed’ so much as ‘relished.’”
“What’s the difference? They mean the same thing!”
“Actually, kitten, ‘relished’ means I more than ‘enjoyed’ it.”
She let out the breath she’d been holding and glared at him.
“Why the look of such venom?” he asked, tilting his head slightly as he watched her. “Did you say things that I wasn’t meant to hear?”
“No,” she said, pausing to think. “I don’t think so.”
“Not even the part about us having a – what did you call it? Ah, yes – a relationship?”
“We do have a relationship, of sorts. Not a normal one, by any conventional means or definitions, but we do, like it or not.”
“What about the part where you said you didn’t care if I defended you or not?”
“What about it? I’ve no problem with you hearing that, or knowing that I said it,” she said defiantly. “I said nothing wrong today. I didn’t violate our agreement. I didn’t allude to relationships with other men, only you. I’ve kept to your terms. Hell, I think I even helped you irritate him today.”
Draco was silent as he eyed her for a moment. She shifted uneasily beneath his gaze.
“So when are we having dinner with your parents?” Her eyes widened.
“You heard me.”
“You can’t actually mean to go – I mean, you can’t really want to-“
“I was invited by your Mother, was I not?”
“Well, yes, but-“
“She asked, and I have accepted. When are we going?”
“You’re really going to have dinner at the Burrow?” she blurted disbelievingly.
“Why shouldn’t I?”
“Well…” she caught at her bottom lip with her teeth, worrying it for a moment before answering. “The Burrow isn’t exactly what you’re used to, you know. It’s a lot different from the Manor that you live in – and you’ve always kind of hated my family, since we’re not exactly the richest people in the world.”
“I hope you’re not implying that I would be a rude houseguest,” he said, his eyes turning frosty.
“I can’t say I didn’t worry about that,” she admitted, averting her eyes. “But on the other hand, I didn’t even think you’d accept to begin with. I told my Mum that, and she insisted I ask you anyway.”
“I like her already.”
“Why do you even want to meet my parents?” she asked, confused. “Are you just going to tolerate their presence as another way to hurt Harry?”
“Concerned about your precious ex-husband now, are you?” he asked icily.
“It’s not that,” she sighed. “Never mind. I’ll ask her when she wants us to come over. What time is convenient for you?”
“Whenever is convenient for her. The sooner the better, as I have to leave town on a business trip this weekend.”
“I’ll let her know that.”
“Good. Now that that’s settled,” he breathed, sliding into her, “on to more interesting things.”
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Sorry about sending you the owl, but I’m rather busy at the moment, and can’t find the time to get over there. Draco has said he’d love to join us for dinner one night, so let me know when you want us there. It can’t be this weekend, because he’s going out of town on business, but anytime before or after that would be fine. Let me know!
“That sounds fine,” Draco said, handing the parchment back to Ginny. She rolled her eyes and snatched it away.
“So now you’re monitoring my correspondence?”
“I’m not monitoring anything,” he said, frowning slightly.
“You’re having me watched when I go out, and you’re proofreading my letter to my Mum,” she pointed out, rolling the parchment up and sealing it. “I’m starting to feel like a little bit more than a tool for revenge.”
“Is that so?” he asked disinterestedly.
“Yes, that’s so, Master Malfoy,” she taunted, straightening her back and batting her eyelashes at him. To her surprise, he laughed.
“And pray tell, just what are you starting to feel like, in regards to me?”
“I don’t know,” she said, deflating. “Almost friends, maybe?”
“Well, we have our moments where we get along,” she said reasonably, moving to hand the parchment to the small caramel-colored owl that sat perched on her windowsill. When she had given the creature the address and turned around, Draco was leaning against the wall with his arms folded across his chest. “Is it wrong to enjoy your company sometimes?”
“Not entirely. I’m just surprised that you’d admit it so freely.”
“Why should that surprise you?” she asked curiously. “I’m not one to deny it, when it’s the truth. I even told my Mum that we get along sometimes.”
“You told her that we get along sometimes?” he asked incredulously.
“Well, yes. Why?”
“Now she’s going to have a bad impression of me before I even get there.”
“Oh, I don’t think you need to worry about that,” she said, smiling.
“She’s always had a rather low opinion of you – especially since she loved Harry so well, and Harry hated you.”
“Oh. I’ve got my work cut out for me then, haven’t I?”
“What do you mean?”
“If I’m to get into her good graces, I’ve got a lot of history to overcome.”
“Again, why does it matter if she likes you? I’d almost rather she didn’t.”
“Why is that?” he asked, frowning.
“Because I don’t want her to be upset when you leave.”
“I’m only going away for the weekend,” he began.
“I meant, when this thing,” she gestured between the two of them. “Is over.”
He stared silently at her for a moment. “So you’re already planning the end of our arrangement? Am I that bad, that you want to be rid of me so quickly?”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” she said softly. “I just meant that I don’t want her to start liking you and get attached to you, because if she does, it will just hurt her when you tire of me and leave.”
He pushed himself off of the wall and closed the distance between them. “Her – or you?”
Her face flushed and she turned away from him. “Her. I said her, didn’t I?” she asked uncertainly.
“Your mouth said her,” he returned, reaching out to wrap his arms around her waist and draw her close. She shivered when his warm breath tickled the hairs beside her ear. “But your eyes said you.”
“I already told you that I like you,” she whispered, closing her eyes. “But that doesn’t mean that I want to get attached to you.”
“Would it be such a bad thing?”
“Yes, it would.”
“It would make your end of our bargain easier to tolerate, if you were attached to me, wouldn’t it?”
“No, it would only make things worse.”
“How so?” Gently she broke free of his grasp and took a few shaky steps away before she turned to face him.
“Because then I would care about you on more than a physical or friendly level, and I’d know that you were still only using me. I’d take it for as long as I could possibly stand before it would start breaking me down. It would hurt too much, and I think I’ve put myself through enough already.”
“Can you honestly say that you can sleep with me and feel nothing at all for me?”
“I never said that,” she said, shaking her head slowly. “I told you that I like you, and I told you that I enjoy our physical activities. So yes, I do feel something for you – just not more than that, and I’d like to keep it that way.”
“What exactly does the word ‘like’ entail?” he asked, folding his arms over his chest again. Ginny realized with a start that it was a defensive gesture, and she frowned.
“I don’t know – I suppose it means that when we’re getting along, it’s nice to spend time with you.”
“And when we’re not getting along?”
“Then I pretty much want to choke you to death.”
He laughed for the second time that night, catching her off guard.
“Draco, may I ask you something personal?”
“I think I can field one personal question every few millennia,” he said snarkily, arching an eyebrow.
“Do you like me?”
“You haven’t defined the word precisely enough for me to judge by your standards.”
“How do you define like?”
“I’ll get back to you on that one.”
“You’re only putting off the inevitable,” she said, pursing her lips. “You know that I’m going to pester the living hell out of you until you answer me.”
“Then the answer is no, I don’t like you at all.”
“And you’re not going to get away with just saying anything so you can get out of answering the question truthfully, either.”
“I am being truthful. The more you ask, the more I dislike you.” She smiled at him, and was rendered utterly breathless when he smiled back.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
“Do I look all right?” Ginny asked, turning in front of the mirror to inspect the back of her outfit for wrinkles.
“You’re just going to eat dinner with your parents – what does it matter what you look like?”
“As if you would be anything less than impeccably dressed for dinner with your mother,” she retorted, turning in the opposite direction, and scrutinizing herself from a different angle. “Do I look all right? Honestly.”
“So help me, if you’re asking me if you look fat –“
She laughed. “I wasn’t going to. Why? Do you think I do?” He growled at her, and she smiled at him. “I was joking. But I would like an honest opinion of how I look. Is the shirt too flashy?”
He eyed her royal blue silk shirt and form-fitting black slacks, and shook his head. “You look shaggable enough.”
“I don’t want to look shaggable for my parents!” she wailed, dropping her arms to her sides. Draco put his hands on her arms and turned her to face him.
“You look fine,” he said slowly, enunciating each word.
“Thank you,” she breathed, her pulse quickening as she realized that his thumbs were stroking her arms. When he made no move to let her go, she looked up at him. “Draco?”
“You’re going to have to let go of me sometime so I can find my shoes.” He blinked, and something flickered across his face. Before Ginny could tell what it was, though, it was gone. He dropped his hands and watched her scurry around the room, turning chairs over and peeking beneath the bed in search of her shoes.
He glanced around and his eyes fell on a pair of black slip-on shoes. He bent down and picked them up, and then cleared his throat.
“Kinda busy here,” came her muffled voice. She was searching under the bed.
“I have something I think you’ll be interested in,” he said, smirking. Her head popped up from the side of the bed, and she sighed gratefully. She stood and moved towards him, holding her hand out.
“Thanks,” she said. “I would have been looking for them all night, and we’d have been late.” When he didn’t hand over the shoes and simply smirked at her, she frowned. “Give them to me.”
“What will you give me for them?”
“A good wallop, that’s what – now give them to me!”
“You’re going to have to do better than that.”
“What could I possibly have that you’d want?” she asked, exasperated. “Tell me what it is, and I’ll give it to you.”
“No matter what it is?” he asked, interested.
“No matter what it is,” she promised, reaching for the shoes. He pulled them out of her reach, and gave her a serious look.
“I have your word on that?”
“I haven’t gone back on my word yet,” she snapped, jumping up to grab at the shoes. He held them just beyond the range of her arms.
“I’m extracting a promise from you now, on the condition that I can collect on it at a later date.”
“No!” she protested, her struggle temporarily forgotten. “That’s not fair! You could come back when I’m fifty years old and ask me for a favor!”
“Then no shoes.”
“Let’s compromise,” she said quickly, eyeing her shoes. “You give me the shoes, and I’ll let you collect on my promise anytime you want – within the next thirty days.”
“Hmm,” he said, thinking it over. “What is the possibility that I’ll need something from you in the next thirty days?”
“Going once,” she said, holding up her index finger.
“I suppose I could always think of something, though it seems an awful shame to waste such a good promise on something I haven’t given much thought to.”
“Going twice,” she said, adding her middle finger. He shrugged.
“Ah, well. It’ll be fun to try and think of something, anyway.” He handed her the shoes, and she pushed him gently.
“Prat.” She slipped her shoes on and sighed. “You’d get along famously with my brothers. It’s a shame that they all want to kill you.”
“Shame, indeed,” he huffed, checking his hair in the mirror. “It’s an utter travesty.”
“At any rate, we’d better get going. Oh, your hair looks fine, you poncy git!” She grabbed his arm and led him to the fireplace. She pulled him inside and called out “The Burrow!”
When they stepped out of the fireplace, Ginny was overcome by a case of the nerves. Suddenly she was trembling – would her parents like Draco? Would they approve of him? She busied herself with brushing the soot off of his shoulders and back, not noticing that he had gone completely still.
“Ginny, darling!” Her Mother cooed, stepping forward to wrap her in a tight embrace. “I was starting to worry that you weren’t going to show up! Why don’t you introduce us?” she asked, smiling at Draco.
Ginny was gobsmacked when Draco gave her Mother his most charming smile and lifted the back of her hand to his lips. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Weasley.”
“Oh,” Molly said, her cheeks turning a shade of pink that Ginny had never seen before. “Well. You don’t have to be so formal with us. Just make yourself at home. Mr. Malfoy, this is my husband, Arthur.”
“Please, call me Draco,” he said, before turning to Ginny’s father. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Mr. Weasley. Ginny’s told me so much about you.”
“She has?” Arthur asked, sounding surprised and suspicious at the same time. He glanced over Draco’s shoulder at Ginny, who was still standing in front of the fireplace, looking helplessly lost. “Nothing bad, I hope.”
“Not terribly,” Draco agreed, flashing his most winning smile. “She did mention something about you having a collection of radios, though.”
“Muggle devices,” Arthur agreed, nodding. “But I doubt that they’d be of much interest to you.”
“Of course they would,” Draco protested. “I own stock in a Muggle company that manufactures radio components.”
“Really?” Arthur asked, his eyes lighting up. Molly shook her head and motioned to Ginny.
“Come, dear. If they’re going to start talking about such things, we’ll never get a word in edgewise, and we’ll be bored to death to boot.”
Ginny’s eyes flew from Draco to her Mum, and then back again. It was the first time she’d heard Draco mention what he did for a living, and she was terribly curious. On the other hand, if he was getting along with her father, she didn’t want to do anything that would interfere with that. She followed her mother into the kitchen.
“Well, he didn’t seem nearly as bad as you’ve made him out to be,” Molly said, raising her eyebrows. Ginny gaped at her mother. “What?”
“I can’t believe it,” she said, dropping into a chair. “He’s been here less than five minutes, and he’s already got the both of you completely snowed.”
“The boy has a certain charm,” Molly admitted, patting Ginny’s shoulder gently. “I can see why you’re attracted to him.”
“I hope you’re not suggesting that I’m attracted to his personality,” Ginny said, snorting.
“And why not? He seemed perfectly fine to me. Nice boy like that, it’s a wonder he isn’t married yet.”
“Mum,” Ginny said warningly. “I really don’t think this is a good topic for us to start on.”
“And why is that? Is it a crime for me to want to know why such a nice young man is unattached?”
“No, it’s not, but it’s his life you’d be prying into if you asked. I’m begging you, Mum, don’t pull another Harry with me.”
“What on earth are you talking about?”
“The first time Harry came to dinner after we started dating, you grilled him on every subject imaginable, and you knew him! I can’t imagine what you’d do to Draco!”
“I’d like to get to know him,” Molly huffed indignantly. “And how am I supposed to do that without asking questions?”
“Why don’t you wait and just take whatever information he offers you?”
“And let him think I’m not interested in the man who’s seeing my only daughter? Absolutely not. Don’t worry about a thing, dear – I promise to behave myself.”
Ginny eyed her warily. “I’m not sure that that’s cause to relax.”
“Pish tush,” Molly said, shaking her head. “Now help me carry the food into the dining room.”
When Ginny entered the dining room, she was surprised to see her father and Draco deep in quiet conversation.
“All right, boys, it’s time to stop talking and eat,” Molly announced, smiling. Arthur looked up and nodded.
“Excellent.” Then, to Draco he said quietly, “I’d be interested in finishing this conversation later.”
Ginny sat the basket of freshly baked rolls on the table before she lifted her eyes to glance at Draco. He was reclining in his chair, his eyes focused on her, and wearing an unreadable expression.
Her heart gave a crazy leap when he rose from the chair and started towards her, only to plummet into her stomach when he took a seat at the table. Ginny started to sit opposite of him and put the safety of a table between them, but before she could, her mother pointed her to the chair beside Draco.
“Have a seat so we can start the meal, Ginny.” Silently cursing her meddling mother, Ginny sank into the chair beside Draco and refused to give him so much as a sidelong glance. Whatever torture her mother had devised for the evening, she would suffer it in silence, and pray for the night to end early and deliver her from mortification.
“Thank you for having me over for dinner,” Draco began politely. “I’ve been asking Ginny when I would be able to meet her parents.” Ginny turned and gave him a look of complete surprise, despite her resolution just moments before not to look at him.
“I’ve been wondering myself when she would introduce me to her young man,” Molly replied, smiling broadly. “She’s been talking about you for ages, so naturally I was very curious to meet you.”
“Oh? I hope she hasn’t said anything too unflattering about me,” he said, ignoring Ginny’s glare. She focused her eyes on the table, thinking that if looks could kill, Draco would have been long gone by now.
“Quite the opposite, actually,” Molly said, passing the basket of bread down to her husband. “She seemed quite taken with you.”
“Mother!” Ginny groaned, her head sinking into her hands. Her mother was making things worse – now when she and Draco were alone, all he was going to want to do was revisit this night and gloat about it.
“I’m only telling the truth,” Molly said defensively. “Besides, it was nice to see you moving on, after what Harry did to you.”
“Bit of nasty business, that,” Arthur agreed, a frown creasing his forehead. “I never figured Harry for the cheating kind – he always seemed so -” When Arthur’s voice faltered, Ginny held her breath, waiting for Draco to add his two cents. When the expected barb never came, she glanced at him. He returned the look with raised eyebrows, and she finally exhaled.
“But that’s over now, and she’s happy again.”
“How can you tell?” Draco asked, smiling. Ginny suddenly wished she could somehow sink into the floor. The next thing she knew, her mother would be hauling out her baby pictures to show him.
“A mother can always tell,” Molly said, shooting a smile at her daughter.
“At any rate, it’s very nice to have her smiling again,” Arthur said, giving his daughter a soft look. Ginny couldn’t help herself and smiled back at him.
“Thanks, Dad.” She reached for her glass of water and brought it to her lips only to slosh a bit over the side when a hand squeezed her knee beneath the table. She looked down at the dark stain on her blue shirt before shooting a sidelong glare at Draco, who was seemingly oblivious to her plight.
“So, what have the two of you got planned for this weekend?” Arthur asked pleasantly.
“Draco’s going out of town,” Ginny said automatically.
“Oh. Business trip, I’d wager?”
“Precisely,” Draco affirmed, nodding. “Terribly boring stuff, too. Nothing fun at all.”
“What do you have planned, dear?” Molly asked, turning to Ginny. Draco appeared interested as well, and Ginny squirmed slightly with three pairs of eyes focused on her.
“I don’t really plan ahead,” she admitted, shaking her head. “If Neville’s free, we might go out to dinner or have drinks together, but that’s about it. I’m afraid I’m not very exciting.”
“You don’t have any plans?” Molly asked, frowning. “So you’re just going to stay in that little flat, alone all weekend?”
“Mum, it’s not that bad, really. I did take some vacation time from work in order to rest, remember? This is the perfect opportunity for that. I might stop by the bookshop and buy a new book to read – will that make you feel better, knowing I have something to do?”
“Not really,” Molly sniffled. “I’d feel better if you had a man there with you.”
“I’m quite capable of taking care of myself, Mum. You know that. I’ve been there alone plenty of times since Harry moved out, and you’ve never said anything about it before,” she pointed out.
“Yes, but that was before you had Draco to look after you.” Ginny’s cheeks flushed, and out of the corner of her eye, she could plainly see Draco’s amusement etched across his angled features.
“Draco does not need to look after me as though I’m a toddler,” Ginny snapped. “He has better things to do than spend every waking moment making sure that I’m all right.”
“Do I, now?” Draco drawled lazily, drawing Ginny’s glare. “You know, you’re more than welcome to accompany me on my business trip. It might be nice to have some … company.” Ginny’s pulse sped up as she realized the implications of his statement. Of course it was nothing more than a lecherous offer, and she wondered if her parents realized that.
“Absolutely not, darling,” Ginny purred, forcing a smile. “I wouldn’t hear of it – me, disturbing your work?”
“I rather think you’d be more of a distraction than anything else if you went, anyway,” he said coolly, shrugging. Her temper spiked again, but after glimpsing the confused look on her Mother’s face, she held her tongue.
“Well,” Molly began, rising to clear some of the dishes away. Ginny was surprised when Draco stood as well.
“Let me help you with that, Mrs. Weasley,” he offered, scooping up both his empty plate and Ginny’s.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Molly said, her cheeks pinking. Ginny leaned back in her chair and folded her arms defiantly over her chest as Draco followed her Mum into the kitchen.
“Are you all right?” Arthur asked gently. Ginny pursed her lips together and gave him a curt nod. “I’m only asking because right now, you look fit to burst.”
“Do you like him?” she hissed, her eyes darting towards the kitchen door, just to make sure that no one was entering the room.
“He seems pleasant enough,” Arthur said, nodding.
“After all the years of hating his father and everything he stood for, you like him this quickly?”
“Ginevra,” Arthur said sternly. “I’m surprised at you. The son is not the father, by any means. If you need proof of that, look at Percy and I.”
Shame flooded through her, and her head dropped. “I’m sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Besides, you’re the one dating him, not me,” Arthur added, taking a long drink of his water. “I don’t know why, but it seems that you don’t want your mother and I to like him. Is that the case?”
“No, it’s really not,” Ginny admitted. “I just – I guess I just didn’t think it would happen so quickly.”
“We liked Harry immediately.”
“But that was Harry. This is Draco – they’re two completely different men.”
“Harry was shy and Draco’s outgoing, for one.”
“Just like you.” Ginny ignored him.
“Harry was clumsy, and Draco’s got a sort of grace about him, no matter what he does.”
“Again, just like you.” Ginny took a deep breath.
“Harry was slow to anger, and Draco has a very quick temper.”
“Sounds like someone I know and love. I’d say the two of you are well matched – much more so than you and Harry ever were.” Ginny gaped at him in disbelief.
“Dad, how can you say that?”
“How can you not see it?” Arthur challenged. “Your love for Harry was hardly more than hero worship, you said so yourself on many occasions. I think the two of you got married because everyone expected you to, and look how miserably it turned out.”
“Dad,” she said softly, tears springing unbidden to her eyes. “Please, don’t.”
“Don’t what? Don’t tell you that this time, you’ve got a chance at real happiness? The young man may not be what we’d initially hoped for in your husband, but it’s obvious to me that the two of you are completely smitten with one another.”
“Dad,” she begged, shaking her head. Tears were rolling down her cheeks and splashing unnoticed onto her shirt.
“What’s so wrong with seizing the happiness that’s been offered to you?”
“Because he doesn’t care about me – at least, not the way you seem to think he does.”
“What about you? Do you care about him?”
“That’s irrelevant.” She brushed the tears from her cheek, angry with herself for having cried over nothing.
“Why doesn’t it matter?” he persisted.
“Because when he’s through getting what he wants from me, he’ll leave. I won’t allow myself to care about him when I know that that’s the inevitable outcome.”
“You’re only fooling yourself,” Arthur said sternly, leaning back in his chair. “You care about him already, whether you want to admit it or not. It’s there, obvious in every mannerism, every stolen look. You think that your Dad is too old to notice these things, but you’re wrong. I see them clearer than you do.”
“It isn’t just a question of me caring about him and him caring about me. It isn’t that simple, Dad.”
“Nothing is ever simple. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth investigating – or fighting for, if it comes to that.” Ginny was silent as she stared down at her hands.
“I wonder what’s taking your mother so long,” Arthur murmured, frowning in the direction of the kitchen door.
“Oh, no,” Ginny wailed. “Mum’s probably in there interrogating him!” She started to get up, but as soon as she did, Draco and her mother reappeared. Her mother carried a large, chocolate frosted cake, and Draco was carrying plates.
“Where are you going, darling?” Molly asked, flashing a brilliant smile at her daughter.
“To drown myself in the lake,” Ginny muttered, not looking at Draco. She sat back down and glanced at her father, who was shaking his head.
“The cake smells delicious, Molly,” Arthur said, smiling at his wife. She sat the cake down on the table and picked up a knife.
“Thank you, dear – do you want a small piece or a large one?”
“You know if given the choice, I always like a larger piece,” he admonished gently. Molly giggled. Ginny was mortified. Her mother had just giggled like a schoolgirl in front of Draco. How much worse was the evening going to get? She wondered.
When she heard the back door opening and then closing, she knew she shouldn’t have even dared to think the question. The door from the kitchen opened, and Ron stood in front of them, with eyes only for the cake.
“Ron,” Molly said, surprised. She glanced at Draco, who didn’t seem bothered in the slightest by the appearance of her youngest son. “What are you doing here, dear?”
“You made your chocolate cake,” Ron said, sniffing gingerly.
“What, do you have some kind of radar for chocolate cake?” Ginny snapped.
Ron looked up and frowned at her. “Bloody hell, Gin, I was stopping by here to give Dad something, and I smelled it, so I-“ his voice died as he finally seemed to notice the blonde man standing by his mother. His back stiffened. “What’s going on here?”
“Ginny and Draco were just having dinner with us,” Arthur explained, his voice gentle. “We were just about to have a slice of cake. Can you stay and share some with us?”
Ron’s eyes darted from Ginny, to Draco, and then back to his scarlet-faced sister. “You brought Draco Malfoy into this house?”
“Yes, I did,” Ginny said, thrusting her chin out defiantly.
“Why?” Ron’s anger seemed to be melting into confusion, and Ginny didn’t know whether or not she should be grateful for that. There had been many times in the past when the same thing had happened and she thought their fight to be over, when he had only come back hours later, madder than ever and hell bent on revenge.
“Because,” she stopped and took a deep breath. “Because he and I have been seeing each other, and Mum wanted to meet him.”
The color drained from Ron’s face, and Ginny watched nervously as he turned to Draco, his eyes hard and cold. Draco didn’t say a word, and simply stood there, letting Ron scrutinize him. After several very tense moments had passed, Ron slowly held out his hand. Draco accepted the offer and shook it.
“If you hurt her, you’re a dead man.”
Draco didn’t say anything, and Ron let go of his hand quickly. He sat down at the table across from his sister, who was staring at him with raised eyebrows.
“What? I want some cake.”
“Oh, mercy!” Molly said, snapping back into reality. “Right, the cake.” She began slicing it and placing it on plates, which Draco passed around the table. When everyone had a piece and was seated, Molly smiled at Ron.
“It’s good to see you, dear. You don’t visit often enough.”
“You know that my job keeps me on the road,” Ron said, before stuffing a huge bite of chocolate into his mouth.
“Ugh, Ron, that’s disgusting,” Ginny said, grimacing. “You’re supposed to chew your food before you swallow it, you know.”
Ron replied by opening his mouth and showing her exactly how much he’d chewed. She snorted with laughter.
“Now, you two, there’s a guest present, and you’re behaving like you’re eleven years old again.”
“What can I say? Ron brings out the best in me,” Ginny remarked, crossing her eyes at her brother. He laughed so hard that he nearly choked on his mouthful of cake.
“Really!” Molly said, exasperated. She turned to apologize to Draco, but his attention was completely focused on Ginny.
“So, Ron,” Ginny began, picking up her glass of water. “How goes the life of a Quidditch star?”
“It goes. Sometimes I think it would keep on going, regardless of whether I’m present to live it or not.”
“Yes, I know it must be hard for you,” Ginny said, wearing a false pout. “Women practically clawing each other’s eyes out to get to you, a salary that affords a wealthy lifestyle, and getting to beat the living hell out of other people in the air. You poor, poor thing, you.”
Ron’s response was to fling a bit of cake at her with his fork. To the siblings’ surprise, Draco laughed.
“I’m terribly sorry, Draco,” Molly began, shaking her head. “You must be used to better table manners than my children are exhibiting this evening, and-“
“It’s fine,” Draco reassured her, grinning. “I’m not bothered in the slightest, I promise you.” He turned to Ron, who was eyeing him suspiciously. Ginny felt a surge of affection. Here was Ron - her brother, her closest sibling. Surely he would afford her some solidarity – he’d not be taken in by Draco’s act. “You play for the Tornadoes, right?”
“Yeah.” Ron’s answer was clipped. Ginny smiled.
“But aren’t you a Cannons fan?”
“Yeah,” Ron’s answer was more cautious this time. He’d been teased and tormented by various people since he’d declared his love for the Cannons at a young age.
“So why don’t you play for them?”
“My hair clashes with the uniform.” Ginny snorted with laughter, and Molly rolled her eyes. Draco frowned slightly, as though unsure whether or not Ron was being serious. After a moment, he smiled slightly, and Ron shrugged. “I got drafted – I didn’t get to choose who I play for.”
“Why haven’t you tried to trade?”
“I did, my first year in the league. The Cannons just couldn’t afford me, I suppose.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Draco said, his eyes narrowing thoughtfully. “Don’t the Tornadoes have the best paid team in the league?”
“Well – yeah,” Ron said, nodding. He seemed a bit surprised that Draco would know such a thing. “It used to be Puddlemere, but then our team was bought out by someone new, and they raised our salaries.”
“You know, you didn’t do too badly against the Magpies last weekend.”
“We still lost,” Ron said, shrugging. “Doesn’t matter how well we played, our Captain works us to the bone after a loss.”
“Well, the Magpies are the best team in the league right now. They were undefeated the last time I looked. Your Captain should take that into consideration,” Draco said reasonably. Ginny watched with a sinking heart as Ron’s face lit up. No, no, no! It seemed that she had overestimated Ron’s loathing for Draco, and had underestimated his love of Quidditch talk. Ron was succumbing to Draco’s charms, too. “It seems to me that he’d hold you all in high regard, being able to hold your own against them for a twelve hour game.”
“I know,” Ron agreed, nodding enthusiastically. “Maybe you ought to go and talk to him. He might listen to you.”
“I’m afraid that all this Quidditch talk is over my head,” Molly said. She rose from her seat and began clearing the table. This time, Ginny stood so quickly that she nearly knocked her chair over.
“I’ll help.” She couldn’t stand it another minute – watching Draco reel her family in; making them like him the way he was doing. It made her stomach turn. She gathered up the dirty dishes in front of her, and then reached for Draco’s, not feeling his eyes watching her every move. Ron exchanged a look with his father, then proceeded to help himself to a second piece of cake.
When she had reached the safety of the kitchen, Ginny dropped the dishes in the sink and slumped against the counter.
“What in the world has gotten into you?” Molly asked, perplexed. “You’ve practically ignored the boy all evening, and then when your brother comes in, you light up like a candle.”
“I don’t really want to go through this with you right now, Mum,” Ginny said quietly, taking several deep, calming breaths.
“Well,” Molly said, her lips thinning into a tight line, “that’s just too bad, now, isn’t it?”
“What did you talk about when he was in here with you earlier?” Ginny asked, lifting her head just enough so that she could see her mother’s face.
“Nothing much,” Molly replied, averting her eyes. Ginny narrowed her eyes.
“Mum, you’re a terrible liar.”
“It’s none of your business, young lady.”
“Please, just tell me that you didn’t bring up marriage or children to him, please,” Ginny begged. When her mother remained silent, Ginny’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “You have no idea what you’ve done.”
“Well then, that makes two of us, doesn’t it?” Molly snapped. Ginny looked up, surprised.
“You have no idea what you’re doing, Ginevra. He’s a nice young man, and he wants to have a family someday. He’s so much like you that it nearly hurt me to talk to him – and you’ve behaved all evening as though he were a leper, or something equally as bad.”
“I have not!” Ginny protested, knowing before the words left her mouth that her mother was telling the truth. She’d never even given him a chance, had she? But then, she thought vehemently, he’d only been nice to her family in order to curry their favor over Harry, hadn’t he?
“You know better than that,” Molly admonished. Then her expression softened, and she patted Ginny’s shoulder. “Why are you fighting it so hard?”
“Your attraction to him.”
“I’m not fighting it, that’s why we’re even together in any capacity right now,” Ginny said miserably. “I couldn’t fight it. I’m weak when I’m around him. I spend all my time away from him trying to build up these walls to keep him out, and then when he’s near me, it’s like the walls just poof! They up and disappear.”
“I meant emotionally, not physically,” Molly clarified, clearing her throat.
“It applies both ways. I don’t want to get attached to him because I know he’s going to leave, and I don’t think I could handle it if I really cared about him.”
“Oh, Poppet,” Molly said sympathetically. “You already care about him. I see it, and I know your father sees it. What makes you think that he can’t see it, too?”
“If he saw anything of the sort – and that’s not an admission, by the way – then he would exploit it to the fullest. He would use my love against me, and that’s not something I’m willing to chance.”
“Oh,” Molly gasped, her hand fluttering to her mouth.
“What?” Ginny asked, her forehead creasing as she frowned.
“You just said love,” Molly whispered.
“No!” Ginny held up her hands. “No! Mum, that’s not what I meant, I swear! I didn’t mean-“
“Didn’t mean what?”
“That I love Draco!”
In the heat of their conversation, neither woman had noticed that the door that led to the dining room had been opened. In the doorway stood a very red-faced Ron, and behind him, a very shocked Draco. Molly was the first to notice the men, and she pasted on a smile.
“Can I get you boys something?”
Ginny froze, her back to the door, and squeezed her eyes shut. She prayed fervently that Draco wasn’t actually behind her – perhaps this was all just a bad dream, and she’d wake up at any moment.
“We were just – worried,” Ron stammered in explanation. “Things were quiet in here, and Dad asked us to check on you.”
“We’re fine, as you can see,” Molly chirped, smiling.
“Er – right,” Ron said. “Well, I’ve got to be going anyway.” He pushed his way into the kitchen and gave his mother a quick hug. “I’ll stop by again sometime this week, I promise.”
“I’ll remember that, young man.”
“Bye, Gin.” He hugged his sister, who barely lifted her arms to hug him back. He moved past her and nodded curtly at Draco. “Malfoy.”
“Weasley.” Until Ginny had heard his voice, she could pretend that he wasn’t really there. At the sound of his familiar drawl, she nearly burst into tears. Really, could this night get any worse?
“Well, I think it’s time for me to go in and check on my husband,” Molly said, shooting a worried glance at her stiff daughter. “If the two of you decide to leave before I see you again, it was a pleasure having you over. I hope you come back soon.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Weasley.”
With one final, fleeting glance at Ginny, Molly practically fled the room.
“It wasn’t what you think,” Ginny said immediately, her voice barely audible. “I swear to you, it wasn’t.”
“And what do I think it was?” Draco asked, arching an eyebrow.
“I know what it must have sounded like, and I’m telling you, that isn’t what it was.”
“You mean to tell me that you didn’t just stand there and say that you love me?”
“No – I mean, I did say that, but you don’t understand-“
“If you’re going to argue with me, at least have the courtesy to do it to my face,” he said calmly. Slowly she turned around and lifted her eyes to meet his. She could feel the walls she’d been building all evening come crashing down around her as he stared at her, waiting for her to speak.
“I- I didn’t-“ She spread her hands in a helpless gesture, hating the heat that she felt rising in her cheeks. Her heart was beating irregularly, and butterflies had erupted in her stomach. How was she going to explain this?
“Why don’t we leave?” he suggested, taking a step towards her. “Go somewhere more private, to continue this conversation?”
She let her shoulder sag in defeat, and nodded. She watched with apprehension as he stepped forward and grabbed her arm before apparating them both away. When her head had stopped reeling, she was surprised to see that they were standing in his bedroom at the Manor. He released her arm and moved away from her.
She watched as he removed his watch and placed it atop his dresser, and then kicked off his shoes and placed them against the wall. When he started to unbutton his shirt, Ginny shook her head to clear it of the cobwebs that had been forming.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m undressing,” he said calmly. “I should think you could see that.”
“Yes, I do see that, but I didn’t mean it in the literal sense of the word. I meant, why aren’t we arguing about what just happened?”
He finished unbuttoning his shirt and let it just hang open as he looked over at her. “What’s there to argue about?”
“You heard me say – what I said,” she finished quickly, looking down at the floor as he eyed her. “And I told you it wasn’t what you thought, and you’re just going to let it go at that?”
“I have much more interesting things in mind than fighting with you over a slip of the tongue,” he murmured, moving closer to her. Her heart jumped into her throat, and it seemed that the air in the room had just gotten heavier. It must have, since she seemed to have difficulty breathing all of a sudden.
“It doesn’t bother you, then?” she whispered, her eyes focused on his lips. He stopped moving when their noses were nearly touching.
“Should it bother me that you’re madly in love with me?”
“It doesn’t bother me in the slightest.”
“But I’m not-“
“It’s not as repellent as I’d thought it might be, if it happened. As a matter of fact, it’s actually rather appealing to me.” She glanced up, her knees weakening at the look on his face. “What man can resist a woman who’s in love with him?”
“I didn’t say-“
“You said it.” His words had an air of finality about them that left no room for further argument. Instead, she simply stared at him until his lips descended on hers.
Her arms automatically encircled his neck, as though she had no control over them, and she kissed him back wildly. He groaned into the kiss as his hands found purchase on her hips, and she pressed herself against him.
When his hands moved around to squeeze her bum, she shivered. Wanting to be closer to him, she pushed his shirt off of his shoulders and began exploring the planes of his chest with her fingertips.
Clothing became an impediment to their shared goal and was hurriedly discarded. Mouths moved together as they tumbled onto the bed, and fingers entwined as they joined. They climaxed simultaneously and, neither one trusting words at the moment, silently drifted into sleep, their hands still joined.
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