Chapter 4 :: Playing the Field
Hermione and Harry were sitting at the dining room table enjoying a breakfast of tea and toast. Hermione was flipping through the Daily Prophet, as was her habit to do each morning, when she began to choke on her toast. Harry frowned and put his teacup down.
“All right there, love?”
She nodded and pressed a napkin to her mouth. “Fine,” she choked out, her eyes watering.
“What happened?” he asked, peering over the table at the newspaper. Hermione flipped it shut, but it was too late. Harry stood and moved behind her, reaching for the paper, which she held out of his reach. “What was that?”
“What was what?” she asked innocently, holding the paper behind her back. Harry’s frown deepened.
“Was that a picture of Ginny in there?” he asked, his eyes boring into hers. She averted her eyes so he wouldn’t use his Legilimency on her, but it was too late. “Give me the paper, Hermione.”
“Harry, I really think you should-“
“Give me the paper,” he said, his words clipped. She sighed and held out the paper, which he yanked from her grasp. He opened the paper to the page Hermione had been looking at, and his jaw dropped.
He sank down heavily into one of the high-backed wooden chairs, and stared at the photo that accompanied the biggest story on the Society page.
Courting Season Has Begun!
In what marks the first of several weekly parties given by Draco Malfoy each year, Ginny Potter began reacclimating herself to the dating scene.
Harry stopped reading and focused his attention on the photo. Ginny was wearing a scandalous red dress that he’d never seen before, and she was spinning around the dance floor with a very tall, dark-haired man. The man, identified in the caption beneath the picture as David Bole, was holding Ginny in a way that made Harry’s blood boil.
Hermione was careful to hold her feelings in check as she saw the raw emotions painted across Harry’s face. After all, he and Ginny had been together for a long time, she reasoned, and it was only natural to be jealous when someone chose another’s company over your own – even if it had been something that you’d done that had acted as the catalyst for the entire situation.
Still, it hurt. It hurt to have Harry in her bed every night, whispering words of love and promise to her, and then watching him become jealous over what his ex-wife was doing. It meant that on some level, he still loved her.
And as much as she tried to stomp it down as deep as it could go, Hermione was feeling the green monster, too.
“Why?” he whispered, his eyes fixed on the picture as Ginny threw her head back and laughed. “Why would she be at Malfoy’s house to begin with?”
Hermione sighed. “Don’t you see him back there, in the corner of the photo?”
Harry squinted and peered at it. When he saw what she was talking about, he closed his eyes and gave a heavy sigh. “Damn it, Neville!” he swore. “I knew that Parkinson bint was going to be trouble.”
“Harry,” she chastised gently, taking the paper away. “It isn’t as though you can help who you fall in love with.”
“Would to God that it could be helped,” he muttered. “Would to God that it could.”
Hermione didn’t know whether she should be worried about that statement or not.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Three days had passed before Ginny received an invitation to Malfoy’s next party, due to be held that same evening. She grimaced; perhaps she would meet someone else there. Bole had been nice, but he’d been all hands. They’d gone out the night after the party, and she had quickly realized that he was not at all what she was looking for.
She smiled to herself as she put the invitation down on the countertop and went into her bedroom to look for an outfit to wear. The dress that she chose this time was a black one with spaghetti straps, floor-length with a slit from ankle to mid-thigh. Her black heels weren’t as tall this time as they had been before; aching feet the morning after had taught her a lesson.
She decided to leave her hair down this time, letting it brush her bared back. With minimal makeup, she was ready.
This time when she stepped out of the floo at the Manor, she was prepared for the throng of people and managed to sidestep them. She wandered down the hall searching for familiar sights, until she found her way back to the cloak room, and deposited her robe.
After chatting politely with several of the guests who recognized her from the first party, she found one who led her back into the parlour, where the drinks were being served. She helped herself to a snifter full of a liquid that smelled distinctly alcoholic, and sipped at it.
“Didn’t expect to see you hitting the brandy this early in the evening,” a voice drawled from behind her. She turned in surprise to see the host himself smirking at her.
“Yes, well. I imagine that a great many people do not expect much from me at all,” she replied, taking a longer drink. “Where are Neville and Pansy?”
“Not here yet. Having a shag at home before they come, if I’m not mistaken.”
Ginny choked on the mouthful of alcohol, and he grinned.
“Didn’t you know about that? She always shags him good and proper before they come to these things, so that the last thing he’ll think about is another woman.”
“That’s a mental image I did not need,” she said, closing her eyes.
“Indeed. Well, have a pleasant evening, Weasley.”
It was only after he’d walked away that she realized that he’d called her by her maiden name.
“Excuse me,” a rich baritone voice beside her said. She turned and found herself face-to-face with Blaise Zabini, and she smiled.
“Blaise! How on earth have you been? I haven’t seen you since you and Lavender called it quits last year.”
“Well,” he said, shrugging. “She’d decided that having a career left no room for a man just now. We parted on good terms – we’re still friends, unlike you and your estranged husband.”
“People change as they get older, I expect,” she said offhandedly, ignoring how much the remark hit home.
“Care to have a spin around the dance floor with me?” he asked, offering her his hand. She accepted with a gracious smile.
“I’d love to.”
Draco watched the pair step onto the dance floor and begin to move, admiring the flash of creamy thigh that her dress afforded him with every turn they made. Truly the youngest Weasley had grown up while she’d been married to Potter, and the changes were noticeable.
Where once she’d moved with the awkwardness of adolescence and one who hadn’t grown into her body yet, now she moved with a sort of effortless grace. She seemed oblivious to the effect that she was having on the men present at the party, so intent was she on enjoying the dance she was involved in.
“Not you, too,” a voice chided him. He turned to see Pansy giving him a knowing look, and he arched an eyebrow.
“Not me what?”
“I saw you,” she said, glancing towards Ginny, and then looking back. “You’re just as taken with her as the rest of the men here, and you’re not hiding it very well.”
“There’s no point in denying it; you’re practically salivating.”
“Let it go, Parkinson. I have no more interest in her than I have in you.”
“And that’s why you invited her tonight?” she asked, her voice thick with amusement. He shrugged nonchalantly.
“I did it as a preventative measure against Longbottom’s whinging. Where is he, by the way?”
“At home, sick. Why don’t you ask her to dance?”
“Because I’m not interested in dancing with her.”
“No,” she mused aloud as he walked away. “You’re interested in much more than that, aren’t you, my friend?”
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