Take a long walk on a cold winter night.
Ginny was pissed drunk. Totally, crazily, unbelievably pissed drunk. It didn’t happen very often, but she definitely was now and the bar at the Three Broomsticks was swimming before her eyes.
Ron and Hermione had refused to do the whole Bachelor/Bachelorette thing the night before their wedding (at Hermione’s insistence, Ginny was sure, because she couldn’t imagine her brother turning down the chance to see half naked women dance around. But then again, he was so bloody in love with Hermione Granger that he would be the one half naked and dancing if she asked. Then it occurred to Ginny that Hermione very well might have asked already, which led to some very disturbing images that Ginny wanted out of her head now. Ow. Damn, those tables were definitely not there a moment ago. Why was the world spinning? Merlin she was drunk) so instead they had decided on a small get-together at the Three Broomsticks the night prior to the ceremony.
It had started off well enough, but an hour into the revelry, Ginny had glanced over at the dance floor and saw something that promptly encouraged her to reach for the bottle of Ogden's Old Firewhiskey sitting at her elbow. And now here she was, too many shots later, still staring at the spectacle that had caused this whole affair.
She blinked once, twice, to clear her vision.
Yep. Still there. Swaying slowly in place with their arms locked around each other were Harry Potter and Cho Chang. The small and petty side of Ginny's brain took a moment to note that Cho was decked out in a lime green skirt so short that even Ron was throwing her skin disapproving glares (well, half-disapproving anyway). She'd seen bigger belts. The side of her brain that wanted Ginny to stand up and be a bigger person noted that despite the garishly-colored fabric- or lack thereof- Cho Chang still looked fabulous.
She wasn’t still hung up on him, really (it was too perfect, she repeated to herself, over and over) but the sight of her once boyfriend of four years dancing cheek to cheek with a stunningly gorgeous witch was enough to drive anyone over the edge.
She threw back the last shot, feeling the liquid burn her throat as it went down, and slammed the glass onto the table. The bottle had been half full (or was it half empty? Haha, bitter laughter all around for her wittiness) when she had pulled it towards her, and she was positive no one had dared challenge her ownership once it was in her possession. That meant that she had just drank an inordinate amount of alcohol, and damn, she was definitely feeling the aftermath.
Ginny stood up unsteadily and wobbled over to Hermione’s table, tearing her gaze off the still dancing Harry and Cho.
“Well, mates, as fascinating as this evening has been,” Ginny declared a little too loudly, "I’m off.” She forced herself to smile, hiding her feelings from the others. Then she hiccupped. “Bloody hiccups, go away, you stupid little…hiccups,” she growled under her breath, feeling an irrational surge of anger towards her muscle contractions.
“Are you okay, Ginny?” Hermione asked worriedly. Damn her and her uncanny perceptiveness.
Ginny blinked owlishly at her friend, unfocused eyes concentrating on Hermione’s right ear lobe. A faint part of her brain registered that even though her own evening had been terrible, it would be unforgivable to ruin Hermione’s night as well. This was, after all, her best friend’s wedding celebration, and Ginny would not be responsible for wrecking it.
“I’m fine,” Ginny lied through her teeth. “Just feeling a little under the weather. I’ll just pop on home and sleep it off.” She gave a shaky smile and leaned across the table for her wand, but somehow the floor tilted and she ended up toppling into George’s lap. He looked up, annoyed with having his conversation with Angelina interrupted.
“Ginny,” Hermione interjected, floating over and pulling her up, “you are way too drunk to Apparate home. Walk.”
“I’m not letting her walk home by herself,” said Ron, eyes scanning the emptying room. “Who knows what perverts are out there waiting to take advantage of some drunk and stumbling female?”
Ginny dimly thought that this would be a perfect time to interrupt with an inappropriate joke. She opened her mouth to say so, but instead, a sort of undistinguishable gurgle erupted. Hermione glanced over at Ginny, eyebrows furrowing. “Well, then find someone to bring her home,” she sputtered irritably at Ron.
He looked around, eyeing the door that George and Angelina had just left through. “Seamus doesn’t know where she lives,” he muttered, half to himself, “Harry, well, that’s obvious, and Dad wants me home in five minutes for some man-to-man talk.” Ron was slightly green with dread.
“Well, I can’t take her back, I need to pay Madame Rosmerta and get this lot home,” Hermione said, slightly frantic, nodding over at several of her Muggle relatives.
There was an audible sigh of exasperation from the corner. “I can bring her home, Granger.”
Draco walked over to the group from where he had been sitting “Er, I mean Hermione,” he amended with a sharp jab in his ribs from Ron, “I’ve been over to your flat loads of times, when Weasley made me accompany him to that dump.”
Ginny pointed a wavering finger at Malfoy’s Adam’s apple. “You’re one of the ushers.” She hiccupped again.
Draco cast a contemptuous eye over the witch who was swaying slightly in front of him. “I always knew your sister was smart, Weasley.”
“Watch it,” Ron intoned. Ginny narrowed her eyes, belatedly recognizing that platinum blonde hair.
“And you’re a Malfoy,” she sneered. “I don’t want you walking with me.”
A brief flash of something flickered in Malfoy’s eyes, but then the corners of his mouth tightened and it vanished. Ginny was pretty sure it was either the lights or her drunken imagination, so she let it go.
“Equally charmed,” he replied in that cold drawl she detested so strongly, “but I’m afraid you don’t have much choice, Weaselette. It’s either my company or getting Splinched. Despite your distinct lack of intellect, I’m pretty sure you’d pick the former.”
Ginny was about to retort that she would take her chances with loss of limbs, thank you very much, but by then he had grabbed her by the elbow and roughly half heaved, half pushed her out the door, and she was too busy protesting to do much else.
Two blocks later, she finally managed to pull away from him, fiercely wrenching her arm from his grasp.
“Let go of me, Ferret,” she hissed, and spun wobbly around to glare at him, face to face. Then her head gave a painful thump, the words caught in her throat, and there was a brief moment, a pause, when they just stood there- gazes locked, breath coming out in little clouds of mist. But then with a disdainful sniff, she broke away and flounced down the sidewalk, her back to him. It was hard to flounce when she was tripping over her own feet, but she did a pretty good job. Minus walking sideways into that brick wall.
The very nerve of him, trying to get in his good Samaritan points by acting like he’s taking care of her. She didn’t need anyone to take care of her. The last time someone tried to do that, she ended up getting dumped on her arse, so it was obvious that Ginny Weasley was not someone to be protected. Screw the cloak, she’d take down Death herself. That was when she stumbled into a parking meter. Damn.
Draco caught up with her and scowled. “The nerve of you,” he snapped, “Any other person would show a little gratitude, seeing as how I am doing you a favor by helping you home, but I guess manners aren’t something you’re accustomed to.”
A silence. She seethed inwardly, not even registering the barb he’d just shot at her, merely replaying the scene over and over and over in her head. She could see still Harry and Cho swaying gently back and forth, eyes closed, utterly absorbed in the moment, oblivious of their surroundings, and more importantly, of her presence. A sharp throb of something shot through her.
“Weasley?” Malfoy prompted, “Why the silence? Don’t take this as a compliment, but you’re usually all snarky and loud around me.”
She huffed in response, efficiently ruptured out of her memories, but still didn’t say anything back to him. Cue the second long, awkward pause.
“Are you alright?” Malfoy asked, his eyebrow rising, and she didn’t know what did it- the slight tinge of uncharacteristic concern in his voice or the large tinges of alcohol throughout her bloodstream- but she decided to answer him honestly.
“No, I am not bloody alright,” she snapped, hating how her voice broke, “You wouldn’t be either, not if you had to watch your stupid ex paw at another girl for the past five and a half hours.”
“Ah,” Malfoy murmured, “Scarhead.”
“Yes, Scarhead,” Ginny sneered, “Harry bloody Potter, the boy I’ve been in love with for forever. Didn’t even bother to say hello tonight, not even after everything we’ve been through, just blew past me to get to her.”
She took a breath before continuing, musing half to herself and half to the world. “Why the hell can’t I just get over him? We were never supposed to work out anyway. It was just too…perfect. Uncomplicated. Boring. So I shouldn’t be surprised, right? Because, honesty, who can stay interested in little Ginny when there are women like Cho Chang around?” She scoffed under her breath. Great- calling Ginny Weasley, pity party of one. She felt her eyes sting.
Malfoy allowed her to rant without comment. She was mildly surprised- even in her current state of bitter drunkenness- at his lack of insults. Then he opened his mouth to talk, and she braced herself for the cutting onslaught, inevitable to her overt show of weakness.
“You must be cold,” he mumbled, avoiding her gaze. “You forgot your cloak back there.”
She glanced downward in surprise and saw that yes indeed, she was in nothing but her little black party dress. Bugger. And now that he mentioned it, it was freezing out here, the late November night drawing out her breath in small puffs of ice. She shivered. Double bugger.
Draco sighed and ran a hand through his pale hair. “Come here,” he said, exasperated, rolling his eyes. She quirked an eyebrow but stepped closer, albeit a tad warily.
He pulled off his own cloak and draped it around her bare shoulders, carefully fastening the silver catch under her chin. His fingers fumbled a bit and she could feel his breath- warm, smelling slightly of wine- on her face. Her eyes lingered on the strong line of his jawbone (it was curved delicately, almost femininely) before she realized that she was appreciating Draco Malfoy’s bloody jawbone and snapped her gaze upwards. She must really be drunk.
Ginny heard the soft click as the fastenings slipped into place and she raised her chin, head tilted slightly to the side, staring up into his dark eyes swimming with unfathomable depths.
“You’re being decent tonight, Malfoy,” she said, her voice low. “It’s frightening me a little bit.” He chuckled. Draco Malfoy, chuckling. This has been an odd night.
“Most people would say just say thank you,” he replied.
She shrugged at him. “But I’m not most people.”
A pause, as he contemplated this. “That is very true.”
They continued walking in comfortable quiet, both looking anywhere- the darkened sky, the expanse of stars, the cobblestones beneath their feet, the flickering lights all around them- but at each other, and in a miniscule corner of Ginny’s mind, she thought that she could get used to this side of Malfoy. He really wasn’t that bad, not when he didn’t want to be.
Wait, obviously that was the alcohol talking. This was Malfoy. He was always that bad.
“So when do the taunts come?” she asked, looking up at him after a few moments pass. “When do you start laughing at the pathetic little Ginny Weasley for pining away and getting hurt over someone who clearly doesn’t care in return?”
“Do you really have such a low opinion of me, Weasley?”
“After the way you’ve treated me for the past twenty one years? Definitely,” she said without hesitation. “But then after tonight?” Ginny dipped her chin, carefully considering the man in front of her. “But then after tonight, I’m starting to think that maybe I’ve had the wrong impression of you throughout all these years.”
She had never seen Draco Malfoy look so serious. He sighed again, looking as if he wanted to say something, but instead only gave her a small smile and stepped away slightly, pulling his face back into shadows. A cold winter breeze swirled across the street, turning up the collar of his shirt. Draco shivered, eyes flashing in the moonlight, and Ginny couldn’t help but think that they were an awfully pretty shade of grey.
“I must be really, really bloody drunk,” she said aloud.
He laughed at this- threw his head back and actually laughed. “You really really bloody are,” he said, mouth still twisted up at the corners, “but what brought you to this brilliant deduction?’
She wrinkled her nose. “The fact that we’re having a semi-decent conversation,” she said, "and the fact that I pretty much just told Malfoy everything I’ve been keeping inside for the past couple months. Honestly, I put up this façade with all the people who have known me since forever, but with you…” She trailed off.
“I think that you forget,” he said quietly, “I have known you since forever.”
Something inside her snapped at these words. She didn’t know what it was- him or this night or Harry with Cho or the alcohol (the smart money was on the alcohol) – but suddenly she found her cheeks wet and her eyes stinging, and so she spun around and buried her head into Malfoy’s chest. And all of this was just so bloody clichéd, but the only thing she could think about as she sobbed against him was that she was getting his stupid shirt wet.
He froze, not even taking in a breath, but somewhere underneath her squashed and running nose she could feel his heartbeat pounding. Hesitantly, Malfoy unraveled himself and placed an awkward arm around her heaving shoulders.
“Ginny,” he whispered, and his voice cracked. Snowflakes began to fall.
Eventually the tears subsided. She sniffed and pulled away hastily, hardly believing that she had just clung onto Draco Malfoy and cried. Her head was throbbing. Merlin, why wasn’t this night over yet?
He shoved a trembling hand (from the cold? Ginny wondered) into his pocket and placed the other one on the small of her back. “Come on, Weaselette,” he said gruffly, nudging her forward, “let’s get you home.”
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