The Broken Road, Chapter 17 :: Euphoria
She’d been easy enough to ignore when their tryst began.
Oh, sure - on some level he’d recognized that he’d had an unhealthy fascination with her from the moment they’d met. He wasn’t denying that at all, he thought, staring up into the darkness. His unhealthy fascination with her had somehow morphed into something else now, though; something entirely too difficult for words.
The problem was, he realized belatedly, that he liked her. Not in the usual ‘you can get me what I want’ sense of the word, and not in the sometimes-used ‘I can justify taking what I want from you because I am that damned good, or you’re just too stupid to resist me’ sense of the word, either.
He actually, truly, honestly liked her. And that scared him to death.
She’d been right earlier, when she’d said that bit about almost being friends, but he thought there was more to it than that. When he caught her watching him on occasion with that silly smile on her face, perhaps it was more than the embarrassment he’d originally chalked it up to. Maybe when she paid for things, it was more than her not wanting to be a ‘kept woman.’ Possibly when she kissed him and he felt that electricity thrumming through his body, it was something more than just a kiss.
He growled under his breath and rolled onto his side, facing away from her. Why was it that he’d woken up in the middle of the bloody night, and all he could think about was the woman lying beside him? And why wasn’t she awake, thinking about him?
He frowned. She’d said that she loved him, and then denied it. He hadn’t cared at the time if she’d meant it or not; he’d just been surprised to hear the words ‘love’ and ‘Draco’ falling from her lips in the same sentence. He’d felt at that moment that somehow, even if she meant it just the tiniest little bit, he could see himself spending his time only with her – and that had been a startling epiphany for him. No woman had ever satisfied him so completely that he’d wanted to spend time outside of the bedroom with her, as well as inside.
Not that he had any complaints about the activities that took place inside the bedroom - their sex life was incredible. He’d never had such good sex before – she gave as well as she took, and that was rare in the women that he’d encountered in the bedroom. Most of them wanted nothing more than to please him, with no thoughts to their own pleasure. While sometimes it was exactly what he wanted, more often than not, it pissed him off. Giving pleasure was nearly as much fun as receiving it, and he felt cheated when deprived of the privilege.
With Ginny, nearly everything seemed to be give and take. Paying for their outings, arguing, sex – even day to day, basic conversation. It made for a nice change, and made Draco feel like a normal person rather than a pariah of the Wizarding world. If he’d realized how his last name would affect him after his father’s death, he probably would have left the country to start over somewhere else, where no one had ever heard of him.
And yet Ginny had not treated him that way. At least, not because of his last name or his father, he realized. She had treated him the same way he’d treated her, and when he’d changed, so had she. And there it was again - that sense of balance that she seemed to create.
Potter was a damned fool, he thought vehemently. Ginny had brought stability and order to his personal life, the likes of which Draco had never experienced before her. She balanced the anger with the affection. She tempered the unhappiness with joy. Potter had given all of that up, and for what? A roll in the sheets with a bushy-haired bookworm who would do nothing more than gaze adoringly at him? Who would want a woman that would just stand by your side and hang on every word you said, without letting you know when you were making a mistake, or telling you if your hair looked bad, for fear of fighting with you or upsetting you?
Well, Draco thought wryly. At one time, that’s what I thought I wanted.
He half-turned on the bed when he heard her whimper in her sleep, and tried to focus his eyes on her. In the darkness, it was useless. He grabbed his wand from the side table and whispered “Lumos.” Dim light filled the room, not so bright that it would disturb her slumber, but just bright enough for him to be able to get a good look at her.
Was it possible for her to love him, in any capacity? He wondered. Was she attached to him at all? If he left her that very moment, would she long for her lost lover, or would she move on with her life as though he had been nothing but a temporary distraction? He shook his head, trying to shake the thoughts away, but they clung to him.
He’d gone to her parents’ home earlier that night prepared to win them over by any means possible, both as another jab at the Boy Who Lived To Be the Man Who Annoyed the Hell Out Of Everyone, and as a way to find out what made her the way she was; what made her tick. He hadn’t expected to actually enjoy himself. Her mother had turned out to be a splendid cook, and her father was an interesting man. Even her brother, whom he had tormented and teased for years, had turned out to be a pretty decent fellow.
What was the world coming to, when you couldn’t even hate your enemies anymore?
The realization of what was happening came to him accompanied by a rush of sheer and total amazement. He was falling in love with Ginny Weasley Potter – and there wasn’t a damned thing he could do to stop himself, short of performing an Unforgivable.
He looked at her sleeping form with a new sort of wonder. As though sensing his gaze, she sighed and turned her head towards him. Her eyes fluttered open, and she blinked several times before she was able to focus them on him.
“Is something wrong?” she asked, her voice scratchy from sleep.
“I didn’t kick you, did I?” she asked, looking a bit more alert and a bit alarmed at the same time. He shook his head.
“No, you didn’t.” She relaxed a bit, and her eyes became hooded again.
“Then why are you awake? Did you have a nightmare?”
“No. Sometimes I just wake up in the middle of the night for no particular reason.”
“Oh.” She seemed to turn this over in her mind for a minute, and then: “Do you want to be alone? Because I can leave if you want me to.”
“Do you want to leave?”
“No,” she said, exhaling slowly. Sometimes the truth hurt. “Not really.”
“Then why did you even ask?”
“I just thought that you might want some time away from me. We have been spending a lot of time around each other lately, and I don’t want you to get annoyed with me – well,” she said, noticing his arched eyebrow, “at least no more than you usually are.”
“You’re free to go if you like,” he said, shrugging. “I’m not going to force you to stay with me.”
His heart did a crazy leap when she started to push the coverlet back, and he cleared his throat.
“But I’d like it if you did stay.” She nodded and without hesitation snuggled back underneath the coverlet. He had to bite back a laugh at the satisfied little half-smile that caused her lips to curl up.
“Do you need something to help you get back to sleep?” she asked, turning her face towards him again.
“Warm milk, a cup of tea, or some chocolate?”
“Is that what helps you get back to sleep?”
“Not really,” she said, laughing softly. “None of those ever worked for me.”
“So what helps you?”
“You’ll just think it’s stupid,” she accused, looking away.
“Fine. But I’m only telling you this so we can both get back to sleep, because I know that if I don’t, you’ll keep me awake all night trying to find out.”
“Get on with it then, woman.”
“When I close my eyes,” she said, closing them for emphasis, “I picture myself in a location that I want to visit. I imagine myself there with someone I care about, and I try to picture what things we’d do together.”
“Does it work?” he asked curiously. She nodded.
“Most of the time, yeah.”
“But not all the time?”
“Fantasy is a nice escape from real life, but I can’t lose myself in it,” she said reasonably. “Besides, I don’t always need it to fall asleep. There are other methods.”
“Oh?” he asked, moving closer. She laughed and shook her head.
“I didn’t mean what you’re thinking, although physical activity certainly helps one get tired quickly.”
“When these scenarios play out in your mind, do you see the face of the person you’re with, or do you imagine a nameless, faceless person?”
“It helps if I give him a face,” she said, smiling. She closed her eyes and snuggled deeper beneath the coverlet. “It just makes it easier to picture.”
“Do you picture people you know?”
“Do you picture people I know?” Her eyes snapped open and she looked at him, searching for any signs that he was taking the mickey out of her.
“Sometimes,” she answered neutrally. “Do you not want to go back to sleep?”
“Suddenly I find that I’m not very tired anymore.” He moved closer still, and her breathing became uneven.
“Oh? Is there anything I can do to help?”
“There might be,” he whispered, his mouth nearly touching hers. “But we’ll talk about it after I’ve kissed you.”
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
When Ginny awoke, it was to the soft strains of a melody being coaxed from a violin. It was sad and beautiful at the same time, and it made her skin tingle. She opened her eyes fully and glanced around, remembering where she was at the same time her eyes landed on him. He was standing in front of a device that she recognized to be a Muggle radio, and he was listening intently to the music pouring forth from it.
She sat up slowly and clutched the sheet to her breast, and watched him become absorbed in the music. His eyes were closed as he listened, the look on his face was nothing short of serene, and it took her breath away.
When the music began to fade, he startled her by asking, “Does music soothe you?”
“Yes,” she said. Then, “How did you know I was awake?” He opened his eyes and turned to her. Something was different, she thought. Something in his demeanor had changed since last night – he was acting differently, and he was speaking to her differently. He was even looking at her in a way he hadn’t done before.
“Your breathing changed,” he said simply. She stared at him as he selected a shirt from his closet. “I have found that music will soothe me, even on the worst of days.”
“Just classical music?”
“It varies. For the most part, yes - a piano will do the trick, but if I want to relax completely, I need a violin.”
“Are you having a bad day today?” she asked cautiously. He turned and gave her a thoughtful look as he pulled the shirt over his head.
“No, not especially.” He turned his back to her again and began rummaging through one of his dresser drawers. She took the opportunity to slide out of the bed and pull her black slacks on, and had just pulled her shirt up over her arms when he spoke again. “Do you have plans for today?”
“I don’t know. Do I?” she asked distractedly, fumbling with the top button of her shirt. She was so busy with her task that she missed his fleeting smile. “What did you have in mind?”
“First of all, I think we should drop by your flat, so you can change. Then I think we’ll take brunch at this quaint little restaurant I happened to find a few years ago –“ he stopped speaking when he saw her look of surprise. “Is something the matter?”
“N-no,” she stammered, focusing her attention back on the difficult button. “It sounds nice.”
After an hour of his company, she was able to finally put her finger on exactly what the something different about him was. He was being nice to her – treating her almost like a friend. It warmed her heart and worried her at the same time. She just wasn’t sure if it was possible for Draco Malfoy to be nice to someone without wanting something from them in return.
Once she’d showered and changed her clothes, Draco approached her with his elbow extended, and she put her hand through it. “Shall we go, then?”
“Where are we-“ Before she could finish her question, he had apparated them both. When the dizziness subsided and she was able to take in her surroundings, she gasped. “Are we in-“
“Italy, yes,” he said nonchalantly. He escorted her down the street and into the small restaurant on the corner. The host guided them to the table, and spoke to Draco in Italian. When Draco answered back in the native tongue, Ginny was dumbfounded. The host nodded and smiled before walking away, and Draco slid into the booth across from her.
“You can speak Italian?”
“Of course I can,” he said, taking a sip of water. “Can’t you?”
“No,” she said, feeling strangely inadequate all of a sudden. “I can barely manage English.” He grinned. “How many other languages do you know?” she asked suspiciously.
“French, Spanish, and Latin,” he said, ticking them off on his long fingers. “Three.”
“So you know five languages.”
“It would appear that way, wouldn’t it?”
“How many are you actually fluent in?”
“Latin give you much of a problem?”
“It’s just that it’s not spoken very much anymore, and – wait,” he said, glancing up. “How did you know it was Latin?”
“I just guessed,” she said, shrugging her shoulders gently. “So tell me how you found this place – it’s very… er… cozy.” She’d been about to say romantic, but thought better of it.
“My mother and I actually stumbled across it last summer during one of her infamous shopping excursions,” he explained, his eyes locked on hers. “She’d probably enjoy it if you accompanied her sometime.”
“Oh,” Ginny said, surprised.
“What? Don’t you like my Mother?” he asked, amusement in his voice.
“Well, yes, I did like her. Why? Didn’t you like my parents?”
“They weren’t exactly what I thought they’d be,” he said. “But they weren’t entirely unpleasant to be around.”
Ginny thought it would be asking too much if she wanted to hear more than that from him on the subject, so she changed gears. “I hope my being there last night didn’t bother you too much.”
“Being where? At your own parents’ house?”
“No, I meant being in your room with you,” she said, fingering the edge of the napkin that was in her lap. “I know that you’re a private person, and I didn’t mean to intrude on that by staying.”
“Oh, that,” he said, waving his hand dismissively. “Trust me, if you had been bothering me, I would have let you know.”
“You know, I don’t remember you ever being sensitive enough to like music,” she commented, giving him a small smile. He arched an eyebrow.
“Just because a man doesn’t go around saving everyone needlessly doesn’t mean that he isn’t sensitive to certain things.” Ginny laughed softly at his barb, surprised that she wasn’t bothered by it in the least. “Besides, if you lived in Slytherin and showed sensitivity of any kind, it was an invitation for trouble.”
“Well, then let’s not say you were sensitive. Let’s just say you had an affinity for music,” she suggested. He grinned.
“I do believe you’re catching on,” he teased. She smiled back at him. A tall man dressed in a white shirt and black vest approached their table and placed several platefuls of food on it before saying something to Draco. Draco nodded back silently, and the man left. “Brunch is served.”
Ginny stared at all of the food spread out before her. Plates were filled with eggs, bacon, steaming hotcakes, and several dishes she didn’t recognize. She helped herself to the bowl of fruit that was closest to her, and after taking several bites of some sort of melon, she realized that Draco hadn’t eaten a morsel. Her fork froze halfway to her mouth.
“Why aren’t you eating?”
“I’ll eat in a moment.”
She eyed him suspiciously as she put her fork down. “What’s going on?”
“What do you mean? Is the food not to your liking?”
“The food is fine – I was talking about you.”
“What about me?”
“Why are you being so nice to me?”
“Am I not allowed to be nice?”
“You are, but it’s just so out of character for you to be nice all of the time.”
“So you suspect that I have an ulterior motive, then?”
“Yes, I do.”
“In the interest of saving time, you’re quite right.”
“Well? What is it then?”
“I’d rather not reveal that just yet,” he said enigmatically, reaching for a plate of the food that she didn’t recognize. “All things in due time – let’s not rush. We have the whole day to ourselves, and we’re in Italy. Aren’t there things you’d like to do here?”
“I won’t be able to enjoy a bit of it knowing that you’ve got something planned that you won’t tell me about,” she pouted.
“Just try to put it out of your mind, then.”
“It won’t work,” she grumbled.
“I’ll bet I can show you things that will distract you,” he said nonchalantly. She smothered a laugh, and he looked up at the sound. “How was that funny?”
“I’m sorry,” she said, her shoulders shaking with silent laughter. “I need to get my mind out of the gutter, I think.” Realization dawned on him, and he gave her a wicked look that made her shudder with anticipation.
“Yes, well. That will come later.”
“So you have the day planned out, then?” she asked, sipping her coffee.
“Not entirely, though I have a rough itinerary outlined in my head. How do you like the coffee?”
“It’s richer than anything I’ve had before,” she said appreciatively. “It’s wonderful. Do you come here often?”
“But they all seem to know you,” she said, gesturing towards the staff. He shrugged.
“My father used to bring my mother here quite often – it’s possible that they’ve mistaken me for him.”
“But you said that you just stumbled across it a few years ago with your Mother,” she protested.
“My father hadn’t brought her here in a while, so Mum had forgotten all about it,” he explained, taking a sip of his own coffee. “When we walked past it, she recalled it, and told me about it.”
“Oh,” she said, finally forsaking her half-eaten food for the coffee. He smiled.
“You seem to like the coffee more than anything else present.”
“Is that bad?”
“No, I just find it rather amusing.”
“Why is that?”
“It’s very nearly the same reaction I had the first time I came here. As a matter of fact, I like the coffee so well that it’s the only kind served at the Manor.”
“If you enjoy it so much, why aren’t you drinking more of it?” she asked curiously.
“Too much caffeine makes me edgy,” he said, shaking his head. “If I could, I’d drink it all day long.”
“Hm.” She took another sip.
“What was that ‘hm’ for?”
“You’re a very interesting person, Draco Malfoy.” She cocked her head at him. “It seems like I’ve learned more about you in the last twenty four hours than I have in the last several years.”
“The same could be said about you in that regard,” he said, his voice low. “I think we have more in common than we’d originally thought.”
“You know, I think you might be right. Does that upset you?”
“Why would it upset me?”
“You’ve always thought that you were above me, not like me,” she said reasonably. “Do you still think that?”
“Only when we’re in bed.” Ginny’s cheeks flushed scarlet, and he chuckled. “Are you finished eating?”
“I think so, yes.”
“Well, then. On to bigger and better things, right?” He rose from the booth and waited for her to rise, and then led her out of the restaurant. For a while, they were content just to stroll amicably down the street, taking in the sights.
“Oh, isn’t it beautiful?” Ginny exclaimed, spotting a flowing fountain in front of them. Draco smiled.
“Can we get closer to it?”
“I believe we are headed in that direction,” he said, nodding.
When they reached the fountain, Ginny was breathless. “Oh, the water’s so clear!”
“This is the Fontana di Trevi. Italian legend says that if you throw a coin into the water, you will return to Rome someday.”
Ginny fished in the pocket of her jeans for a coin, and Draco laughed. He handed her one of his own, and she smiled her thanks.
“Should I make a wish on it? Or would that be bad luck, since it’s already got a sort of wish attached to it?”
“I don’t think it would hurt,” Draco said, still grinning. He watched as she closed her eyes and then pressed a kiss to the silver before throwing it into the fountain. “What was the kiss for?”
“To seal in the wish,” she said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Haven’t you ever done that?”
“Never heard of that,” he admitted. She sat down on the side of the fountain and dipped her fingers in the cool water as she stared up at the architecture of the building that the fountain was in front of. After a moment, she turned to give him a mischievous grin.
“What?” he asked, caught off guard by the question.
“Nothing, I was just teasing,” she said, shaking her head. She looked away, but the smile stayed plastered on her face.
“Jealous of what?”
“No, jealous of what?”
“The coin.” She laughed softly as she glanced up and caught his startled expression. “I was just kidding, Draco.”
“Why would I be jealous of the coin getting a kiss, when I get so much more?” he drawled. She laughed and shook her head.
“Ah, but the coin got a kiss in broad daylight, in view of anyone who cared to see, didn’t it?”
“Then I’d wager that any man watching would have been envious of it.” She bit her bottom lip.
“This is nice.”
“Talking to you like this. Laughing. Joking. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so relaxed before.”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself.”
“I am,” she said honestly, aiming another warm smile at him. “I wish it could be like this between us all the time.”
“But then you’d never want to leave me, and I’d never get any privacy,” he said, shaking his head. She arched an eyebrow.
“Well someone’s full of themselves, aren’t they?”
“Are you trying to say that I’m conceited?”
“I suppose you wouldn’t call it that,” she giggled. “You’d call it being self-assured.”
“You’re really getting too good at that,” he said, grinning. “You took the words right out of my mouth.” Ginny stood and smoothed her jeans out before she looked at him again.
“I suppose I’ve kept you here long enough, haven’t I?”
“I don’t mind.”
She smiled at him again, and suddenly the air between them felt charged with electricity. Here no one knew them – they were just a man and a woman, standing in front of one of the most romantic places in the world. He closed the distance between them with two slow steps, and raised a hand to cup her cheek. When his thumb moved gently over her cheekbone, her lips parted and her breathing became uneven.
As soon as he began to move forward, her eyes fluttered closed. Their lips met in what Ginny had always imagined a kiss should be like; it was sweet and soft and slow. Her heart was pounding, her knees were weak, and her stomach was doing somersaults. This was how she’d always imagined kissing Harry would be like when she was younger. After kissing him so many times and not feeling the spark she’d hoped for, she’d started to believe that they kiss of her dreams was nothing more than a figment of her overactive imagination.
She understood now that she had simply been kissing the wrong man.
When the kiss ended, she was reluctant to open her eyes, lest he be a dream and disappear. When she finally opened them, he was standing in front of her still, with his hand lingering on her cheek. She reached up and hesitantly covered his hand with hers and gave it a gentle squeeze.
She kept her hand there until he shifted, and then she let her hand drop to her side. She was surprised when he reached down and took her hand in his, threading his fingers through hers. The fluttering in her stomach erupted into full-fledged butterflies, and she struggled not to cry. She didn’t know why the simple gesture moved her so – perhaps she was affected because it was Draco and therefore unexpected, or maybe she was simply enchanted by the romantic atmosphere. Whatever the case, she couldn’t remember ever having such a good day.
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