The telephone rang several times before it clicked to the message.
“Hi, you’ve reached the phone of Ginny Weasley. Please leave a message.”
A warm and pleasant male voice came on the phone.
“Ginny, I’m calling to say I got your messages, all eight of them. I’m running a little late, so I’m sending my owl to pick up my ticket. And Ginny, please relax; no one will suspect a thing. Your family will think we’re in love, and your fiancée will wish he’d never left you. See you soon.”
This rather cryptic message was understood all too clearly by the highly nervous witch brushing her teeth in the apartment’s bathroom. She had to work very hard to keep herself from spitting the toothpaste already in her mouth all over the mirror. What the hell had she been thinking?
Ron and Hermione were finally getting married. That was great. Really great. However, it also meant that Ginny, who had been living sans man in America since her disastrous relationship with the Boy Who Lived, had to show up and appear happy. She very strongly did not want Harry Bloody Potter to think she hadn’t yet gotten over him. And she didn’t want to make her family think she was weak. In fact, what she really wanted was for Harry to want her back, and to do that, she needed him to be jealous. Really jealous.
So when she read the Quibbler article by an anonymous male escort, this perfect plan had presented itself. She’d hire someone to be her date. It was simple. A business transaction, really. And one that made her extremely queasy, now she thought of it.
But despite her reaction to what she was doing, she’d dropped a line to Luna Lovegood, and called on old friendly ties to find the name and number of the wizard escort. Then she’d called him up, arranged to pay him 5,000 galleons, and set up their tickets. Members of the wizarding community now had to take enchanted airplanes for international travel, as international apparition, flooing, and portkeying were all illegal. Voldemort might be dead, but the rest of the wizarding world still lived in fear of the remaining Death Eaters, each of whom was trying to set themselves up as the new Dark Lord. Since most of them had retreated to areas outside of England, all governments much more carefully watched international transportation, and wizarding security, unlike Muggle airport security, was much more accurate about who was actually a threat. Ginny had gotten a job as a public relations witch with the new company Pegasus Air when she left England three years ago after her break-up fiasco. It was a good job, paid the bills on her flat. However, today, she had other things to worry about.
Like introducing herself to her date.
A tap on the window made her start. It must be the owl. She glanced at the clock on her way out with the ticket. Crap! It was already 10, and the plane left at noon!
She sprinted to the window with the ticket, and opened it just enough for the eagle owl outside to come in onto her counter. The owl grabbed the ticket, but suddenly Ginny’s fingers froze around it, and the owl hooted softly in a disgruntled manner.
“This ticket is for my date, you know,” she calmly explained to the owl, which gazed back at her with confusion. “For my brother’s wedding. In England. It’s a plane ticket.”
The owl continued to stare at her, as though saying, “You’re gonna have to let go.”
Though obviously the owl had said nothing, Ginny responded. “I can’t. You’re going to have to help me.”
The owl looked at her with consideration, then let go with its beak and pecked her fingers. She dropped the ticket with a yelp of pain; the owl swooped down and grabbed it, then flew off, as she yelled after it, “Thank you!”
The clock now said 10:15. Ginny ran for the shower.
* * *
An hour later, Ginny rushed out the door into the taxi with her handbag and a small suitcase. A few moments later, the taxi driver came out, stumbling under the weight of an entire set of matched luggage, which he somehow managed to fit into the trunk before driving her to the airport.
Thankfully, it was only a ten-minute drive. Ginny piled her luggage onto a cart and rushed up to the baggage check. However, close on her heels was none other than Seamus Finnigan, who was to stand in for her for the duration of her stay in England. However, Seamus was a complete incompetent, and had several last minute questions for Ginny, further delaying her boarding.
Finally, at 11:55 am, a thoroughly frazzled and anxious Ginny collapsed into her seat in row 6 and began the difficult process of not hyperventilating. As it wasn’t succeeding too well, she jumped up and found a steward, grabbing and downing a glass of champagne.
“I assure you, I’m not a lush,” she said, trying desperately to slow down her speech so she sounded less like a chipmunk. “I fly quite often. But in a few minutes, my date is going to sit down in 7B and I need him to look really, really good today.”
The steward looked at her with amusement, mixed with concern. But then, he looked up, and said with some respect, “Hello, 7B.”
Ginny turned around slowly. A tall man with platinum blond hair and a pale, handsome face was placing his suitcase in the overhead compartment. When he had finished, he turned slightly her way, and snagged her gaze with his silver-gray eyes.
Feeling she had been caught, Ginny slowly began her walk back to her seat. The man smiled at her, a handsome, smirking smile, held out his hand and said, “Miss Weasley? I’m Draco Malfoy.”
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