After shaking his hand, Ginny collapsed back into her seat. She spent the rest of the day stealing glances back at her date. She didn’t say much, and most of what she said didn’t make much sense.

Thankfully, she had already filled Draco in on her situation through multiple long, nervous, and complicated messages. However, it also meant she knew practically nothing about this man that she had just paid to act like he loved her. This was not going to go well.

Eventually, Ginny fell asleep, worn out from worrying. The next morning, she awoke with a start, unsure of where she was. The moment she saw the plane seat in front of her, she recalled the presence of her “date”. Cautiously she peeked up over the seat back.

“Good morning,” smirked a perfectly coifed Draco.

Damn! It hadn’t been a dream! As her head turned back to face in front of her, she caught a glimpse of herself in the window. CRAP! she thought. Her face was even paler than normal; her hair was a mass of snarled knots all over her head. And due to forgetting to remove her makeup before falling asleep, her face could best be described as a bad impression of Picasso.

Great, Ginny thought. My date looks like he just stepped out of a magazine, and I look like the gnome the cat dragged in. I’m making a great impression.

* * *

Thankfully the bathroom had been clear enough for her to refresh herself before landing, so Ginny walked out of the airport with Draco beside her (and an airport house-elf levitating all her luggage behind her) feeling almost human and wearing a nice, understated aqua dress. Perfect for the pre-wedding cocktail party this afternoon, here in London, at Grimmauld Place, which had been cleaned up quite a bit in the years following the war. Perfect, at least, until she saw Draco’s tie.

“Please tell me you’re not wearing that today,” she groaned.

“Why not?” Draco asked.

“Because it’s the exact same color as my dress,” Ginny snapped. “It makes it look like we’re trying too hard. I mean, matching is good, but this is matchy-matchy, and matchy-matchy is bad.”

“You worry too much,” Draco said as they climbed into their waiting cab. “Anyway, this is the only tie I’ve got that isn’t wrinkled, so I’m not changing it.”

“Well if you’re going to wear that tie, then I need to change my dress,” Ginny sighed. “Driver, please pull over here.”

* * *

Twenty minutes later, for about the tenth time, Ginny stepped out of the ladies room in the Leaky Cauldron and asked Draco, “What about this one?”

With a sigh of resignation, Draco looked her over. The black lace empire-waisted overdress was embroidered with tiny white flowers with a black silky underdress, both calf-length and modestly cut, which made it attractively provocative without being revealing. “Stunning,” he said.

Ginny frowned. “Well, don’t get too attached,” she said, as she again disappeared into the ladies room.

Tom the bartender looked over at Draco and winked. “I liked the red one, myself,” he ventured with a little toothless leer.

Draco shuddered just as Ginny reappeared in something that looked like a netting sack. “Definitely not,” he said.

“The red one!” Tom called out. “Wear the red one.”

With a disconcerted glance over at the bar, Ginny went back into the bathroom. Draco sat back in resignation. Some witches just couldn’t make up their minds.

* * *

Finally, Ginny and Draco walked into Grimmauld Place. The portrait of Mrs. Black had finally been removed, as had the mounted house-elf heads, and the entire place had been redecorated in whites and polished woods. Harry, Ginny recalled, didn’t live here anymore; he merely kept it for entertaining.

But the thought of Harry just made her sad. Then, as if on cue, in came Aunt Muriel, who bustled over to her, all her wrinkles a-wriggle in her plump old face.

“Ginny my girl! So glad to see you! Of course, this should have been your wedding; dreadful really how Harry treated you…”

Ginny wanted to sink into the floor. Instead, she grabbed Draco’s arm and thrust it forward. “Aunt, this is my date, Draco.”

“Your date! But how wonderful! Now what is it that you do?”

Panicking, Ginny grabbed Draco’s elbow again and dragged him off, saying, “Oh, sorry, but you must excuse us.” And with that, Ginny ducked into the expanded closet that now served as a cloakroom.

“What was that about?” Draco asked her mildly.

Hardly listening to him, Ginny muttered, “We need a story. Right. We’ve only just started dating, you’re a therapist, we met through mutual friends. Got it?”

Draco nodded with an amused smirk. However, his smirk faded as she pulled out an envelope.

“Five thousand, as requested,” Ginny said, holding it out. “Count it.”

“I trust you,” Draco said, starting to tuck it into his jacket.

“No!” Ginny snapped. “Count it!”

Draco complied, raising an eyebrow as he did so. Ginny just watched as most of her savings slipped between his fingers. So much of her future for a lie…

When he had finished, Draco tucked the envelope into his jacket pocket, as Ginny scrambled out of her coat. He held out his arm to her, and with a sigh, Ginny took it. It was now or never.

* * *

The main room was bustling with revelers of all ages. From Bill and Fleur’s children at ages 10 months and 3 years to Great-Aunt Muriel at age 95, the entire Weasley clan was there. This meant not only Bill and Fleur with Lancelot and Genevieve, their two children, but Charlie with his wife, Andrea, the now (mostly) reconciled Percy with his wife Penelope, and Fred and George with their respective wives, Angelina and Katie. Even the long-lost accountant uncle, Andrew Weasley, had been invited. Then there was the old crowd from the Order of the Phoenix, those who had survived the war. Kingsley was still around, and so was the ever-vigilant Mad-Eye Moody, who was in a corner with Aunt Muriel, sipping from his flask. Professor McGonagall was still limping from war injuries, but looked to be enjoying a quiet conversation with Professors Sprout and Flitwick. And across the room at the bar, there stood Molly and Arthur Weasley chatting with the Grangers and the bride and groom-to-be.

With a last deep breath, and an involuntary squeeze of Draco’s hand, Ginny stepped into the room. Immediately, as though with some extra sense, Molly Weasley looked up and bustled across the room.

“Ginny! Darling, it’s so good to see you again!” Molly gushed. “And who is this charming young man?”

“Mum,” Ginny smiled, “this is my new boyfriend. Draco Malfoy. Draco, this is my mother.”

“I’m so happy to finally meet you,” Draco said smoothly. “It’s easy to see now where Ginny got her beauty.” Molly blushed and stammered. Much to Ginny’s relief, Ron and Arthur arrived at the conversation at about that time. Ron’s notorious temper over Ginny’s relationships had thankfully cooled once he’d settled down with Hermione. Otherwise, Ginny thought, he’d have hexed Draco immediately upon noting Ginny’s red strapless satin dress and their entwined hands. As it was, he still gave Draco a good look over before shaking his hand and asking Draco his opinions on Quidditch. Ginny rolled her eyes. Ron never changed.

At that point Hermione had made her way across the room, martini glass in hand. She engulfed Ginny in a hug and squealed, “Ginny! Oh it’s so good to see you! Come and sit with me. Have a drink.” Ginny mentally raised an eyebrow. This was not Hermione-like behavior. Then again, Hermione was probably stressed about the wedding. Nerves did strange things to brides.

As Ginny glanced back at Draco to make sure he could hold his own with the very enthusiastic Canon-obsessed Ron, she caught a certain green gaze, fixed on her from only a few steps away. She stopped breathing.

There, looking just slightly disheveled as he always did, stood Harry Potter.

He cleared his throat. “Hey Gin. Can I talk to you?”

Ginny noticed that Hermione had melted into the crowd very quickly and suppressed an internal groan. Nothing like an awkward breakup to make friends disappear.

Her route of escape having vanished, she sighed. “Hi Harry."

Draco moved over just at that moment, lending her the extra support she needed. “Ginny, darling, who is this?”

Harry looked a little startled as Draco’s arm snaked around her waist, though that was nearly nothing to Ginny’s surprise. Thankfully, she had learned to cover up such things. I should have been a Slytherin, she thought with an internal smirk.

“Oh, Draco, this is Harry Potter, one of my old friends. Harry, this is my new boyfriend, Draco Malfoy.”

Was it just her imagination, or did Harry look vaguely ill? “Nice to meet you, now if you’ll excuse me…” And suddenly he became the Boy-Who-Vanished.

I wonder what all that was about?

But then someone across the room cleared her throat.

Molly Weasley stood, champagne flute in hand, ready to make a toast.

“Family and friends, we’d like to thank you all for being here today. We had thought of course, that Ginny would be married first,” Ginny felt her face turn red, “But then, we’re here to celebrate the present, not what might have been. Hermione, we’re so glad you fell in love with our son. You grew up partially in our home, and so it is so fitting that you will now finally be family. As for Ron, we’re glad you managed to find out that arguing is just another way to show you care, and finally proposed to Hermione. Best wishes.”

* * *

As the party progressed, Ginny found herself dragged aside by her old friend, Alicia Spinnet. The older girl was dressed to kill in a little black dress that showed off her curvy, athletic form, and her hair, which was now dyed black, demonstrated the zany, blunt streak that Ginny had grown to love.

“Hey toots. Who’s the hunk over there with the nice ass?”

Subtle as ever, Ginny sighed. Shaking her head, she looked over to where Alicia was looking and saw Draco, speaking with several older ladies of the party, all of whom looked thrilled.

“Actually, that’s my date. His name’s Draco.”

As though feeling her stare, he looked up and smiled.

“Oh God,” Alicia moaned, “I think I’ve just come.”

* * *

Draco, seeing his “date” was otherwise occupied speaking with a woman who kept sneaking seductive looks at him, wandered out onto the back porch, only to find Harry Potter already occupying it, drink firmly in hand.

“So, you’re Ginny’s new boyfriend, eh?” Harry’s voice was a little slurred.

“Yeah, I am,” Draco answered. At that moment, peals of laughter floated out from the main room. Both men turned to look. Hermione had apparently had enough to drink for one day, and Ginny and Alicia were laughing with her as they guided her haphazardly across the room. Draco noticed Harry’s face freeze, his eyes haunted with longing.

“If you don’t mind me asking, are you doing okay? You see, I’m a therapist, and it looks like you’re really holding onto something,” Draco said. Hey, she had paid him to make the other guy jealous- digging into it would do no harm.

“I don’t believe in therapists,” Harry said, staring into the bottom of his glass. “I think you Americans are a bunch of wimps, really.” He trailed off. “But you know how it is when you’re in love with someone, only you really screw it up and only find out too late?”

Draco opened his mouth to respond, only to be cut off as Ginny tackled him from nowhere with her embrace. “Hi honey! I hope I’m not interrupting anything. Am I, Harry?” She tucked her head onto Draco’s shoulder.

“No, I’m fine,” Harry said, and he beat a quick escape.

* * *

The party was finally over, and Mr. Weasley, Mrs. Weasley, Draco and Ginny were carting Ginny’s luggage up the steps to her old room at Grimmauld Place. It took a lot of work, even with lightening charms, and as her parents stood panting on the landing, Ginny said, “So Mum, aren’t you going to show Draco to his room?”

Turning to Draco, she explained, “My mum’s a little old-fashioned about men and women sleeping in the same room when no ring is involved.”

“Nonsense!” Molly Weasley chirped. Ginny’s eyes grew wide. “I assure you, Draco, that I’m not nearly so provincial as she makes me out to be. And anyway, the house is full, and I’m sure Draco doesn’t mind sharing with you.” Molly added a sly wink, which kind Mr. Weasley chose to ignore. “Anyhow, good night. I’ll see you two in the morning.”

And with that, they left Ginny to contemplate sharing a bed with her hired date.
To Be Continued.
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