*** fifth wish ***
Feathery notes of the flute flittered around the ballroom, dutifully following the minstrel’s clear voice in their intonation and melody. Couples twirled around the chamber, following the patterns of an ancient dance, leaving the people breathless and exhilarated. The room - a clash of colorful fabric and rainbow shades – was filled with the atmosphere of festivity. Wine and mead flown freely into glasses and goblets, and the sparkling fountain of champagne in the front of the room underlaid the general atmosphere of the evening – excitement and frivolity.
Ginny found it all excruciatingly boring.
It wasn’t like she had anything particularly against the annual Ministry Ball, it was simply the fact that she found it utterly hypocritical to be having it in honor of Harry Potter when throughout the duration of the silently raging war, the Ministry always been ready to play mudslinging games in his and the Order’s direction. And now, watching the officials make blundering fools of themselves in incessant attempts to praise and glorify the name of the ‘Boy-Who-Lived-And-Lived-Again-Only-To-Die-While-Crossing-The-Street’ ,made her cynicism flourish and her eyes to roll. Alright, so perhaps she did have something specifically against this event.
“Having the time of your life, I assume.”
The sound of that sleek voice didn’t surprise her in the least. Malfoy had developed the strange ability of appearing out of nowhere, trying to give her a fright or surprise her, just to see her face grow warmer and her eyes flash with recognition and irritation. She didn’t plan on giving him such satisfaction anymore and had learned to anticipate his arrival by the slight shift of scents in the air, the soft sound of swishing silk robes, or the subtle tautening bracing her stomach whenever he came in close proximities.
“As you can see,” she replied jadedly, finishing what was left of her champagne and placing the flute on the table beside her. “I don’t think they could have managed to make this any more dull or tiresome if they tried their best.”
“You underestimate our mighty Ministry, Ginny,” Draco Malfoy stated with a smile, sliding in before her with a fresh flute of champagne. “They could’ve prohibited alcohol.”
Ginny caught sight of him for the first time the entire evening and found herself almost speechless. She never was the one to appreciate a man’s beauty. Yes, she found some bloke handsome on occasion, but it was never something to fuss or ponder about. Some men were handsome, some were less, and it really made no difference to her one way or another. But she had never encountered before a man who was not just handsome in a masculine way that simply made you smile, but beautiful in a way that made you stare.
Of course she couldn’t allow herself to be caught staring at a Malfoy at a public event, so she took the proffered drink, slightly nodding her gratitude and turned away to scan the chamber for the tenth time. The sight of him was however deeply engraved into her memory and though she tried to push it aside, she still saw the expensive fabric of his robe that did nothing to hide the well sculpted figure beneath it, the crisply white dress shirt standing out against the black of his robes, the freshly shaven face and that smiling invitation for a discreetly amusing discussion of the things wrong the Ministry could and would undertake.
The quickening pace of her heart, however, suggested that she was not in the mood for a lighthearted banter. This thought only made her slightly more aggravated and she couldn’t stop the urge to scowl into her drink at her own silliness. That was just Malfoy, this was the champagne talking and she was greatly overreacting.
“Are you all right?” his voice broke through her self-berating and she glanced to see him watching her with mild concern. “You seem somewhat… flustered.”
Her blush deepened. “Nonsense,” she dismissed nonetheless and turned away. “Oh, look. There’s Oliver Wood. He was at Hogwarts with us way back when.”
Draco followed her gesture, oozing blunt disinterest. “Yes, it appears to be so. I see he gained some weight. What a shame.”
“What are you talking about, Malfoy?” Ginny frowned at him, slightly surprised, slightly amused. “The man looks better than ever. His time with the Geneva Gargoyles did him wonders.”
Draco sniffed subtly and turned to look away, not bothering to reply. His eyes skimmed the ballroom without any interest while he took small sips from his drink. Finally, when she didn’t speak again and he realized that propriety would frown upon such a long pause between two conversants, he plucked a topic at random, a topic that was always a safe ground to return to in the company of Ginny Weasley. “Thought of anything wish-worthy yet? I am not getting any younger, you know, and neither are my unicorns.”
Ginny had to stifle the desire to admonish the fact that he had multiple “unicorns” with her own drink. Making sure she was composed again and gave him a long look and shook her head sadly. “Not quite yet.”
“No?” Draco echoed surprised. “Not even some cousin of yours you would like me to impregnate or your cleaning lady who is in need of her own personal Prince Charming? Are you sure?”
“No, but I will make sure to pass it on to Magda that you’re interested.”
“Who is Magda?” Draco frowned, suddenly lost.
“My cleaning lady. She’s sixty three and still has all her teeth, which apparently is quite an accomplishment in her country. I will tell her you were interested in her love life. Maybe could even set you up for a coffee, hmm? What do you think?”
Curling his lips into a pleasant smile, Draco tutted dryly. “As happy as I am for your cleaning lady and her teeth, I do not think that would be necessary.”
“That’s a shame. Magda is a really nice person,” Ginny replied solemnly, absently twirling the champagne flute in her hand. “And reportedly quite feisty in the bedroom,” she added with a saucy wink to which Draco blanched and sputtered slightly.
“Reported by whom?” he demanded incredulously.
“By Magda herself. She’s quite chatty.” Ginny pulled a face and took a sip from her drink.
Draco seemed like he was about to say something, but instantly thought better of it and preferred the silence. After a moment he spoke again, slightly diverting the conversation. “And what about your own personal Prince Charming, Miss Weasley?”
“Buried six feet under and currently is being blasphemed by those ministry officials,” Ginny responded offhandedly, gesturing at a group of politicians who gathered about them a hefty flock of reporters and all boasted for being Harry Potter’s most avid supporters during the war.
Draco’s expression instantaneously hardened and he scoffed. “Please, Weasley, don’t tell me you’re still not over your stupid crush for the bespectacled wonder. I thought better of you.”
Ginny glanced back at Draco and noticed the subtle change, her brow line furrowing in the most delicate way to express her confusion regarding the sudden hostile voice. He wished not to explain himself and simply rolled his eyes and looked away. Dismissing it as the infamous Malfoy bipolarity, Ginny shrugged. “Oh no, don’t be ridiculous. I loved Harry, but the boy was as dense as the padding on Pansy Parkinson’s push-up bra.”
Draco followed her inclination towards the sight of the Parkinson girl sporting more cleavage than she could ever carry naturally with her willowy figure. He almost cringed at the phantom back pains.
“No, I just meant that in a nauseatingly perfect version of my life, he would’ve fitted flawlessly,” she spoke again, her brows still holding the slight furrow of musing. “But seeing as I am not some badly written two-dimensional character in an overly-exerted novel, if I tried shoving him in as the last piece of the puzzle, I most likely would’ve ended breaking his kneecaps.”
Draco took it in silently, his lips pursed in concentration while he listened. When she paused, he nodded absentmindedly and asked, “Can I gloat? I know he is dead and all, so I was wondering if it would seem entirely too inappropriate of me if I gloated openly at your words.”
His words were inappropriate and Ginny felt a momentary sting somewhere in her stomach, but he cocked his eyebrows expectantly and the image of Draco Malfoy asking permission to gloat suddenly appeared so comical to her that she had to break into a smile. “Yes, you can. Just don’t do it too loudly.”
That was all Draco needed. He smirked into his champagne, took a sip and cast an overly smug glance around the room. Then glanced back at Ginny and smirked again.
“You are enjoying yourself, aren’t you?”
“I know that he is dead and this is overly childish, but yes. Yes, I am.”
Ginny laughed shortly and shook her head.
After another smug look around the room and some more self-satisfied smirking, Draco continued the conversation. “So if it is not a nauseatingly perfect version of your life and no sugarcoated Prince Charming, who would it be then?”
Ginny evened him with a long gaze and at some point felt her stomach go thump when Draco smirked at her again, this time for completely different reasons. Clearing her throat and chasing away silly thoughts, she shrugged. “No one, I am afraid. I have never met a single prototype of such a creature.”
Draco tutted, regarding her somewhat pityingly. “Ginny, all work and no play makes Healer Weasley a very dry spinster.”
“Yes, I know. But I’m sure I’m not the first woman ever to reach the highly desired status of Spinster at the ripe age of twenty six.”
“Of course not,” he assured her immediately. “You’ve reached that status when you were merely seventeen and have been holding the title since.”
Ginny glared at him witheringly. “You are a horrible person.”
“Thank you, I do try,” he shot her his most charming smile and, shaking his head, beckoned her to take a look around herself. “But look, Ginny. We are at a ministry ball, where the elite of British wizarding society is present—“
“—and I am talking to you, what is wrong with me?—“
“—the crème de la crème, if you may,” he continued, ignoring her pointedly. “Look how they fawn over each other, praise, compliment, blush, the fire in their eyes blazing when they ensnare another mindless victim with their charms. Look how they dance around each other in these social circumstances. See how they conquer and reign with a swish of a fan or a bat of an eyelash. Do you not see the magic of it all?”
She did, in fact. It was hard not to see it, especially for a fairy-tale loving girl such as herself, the way the dresses floated in perfect circles when the ladies danced, the way the gentlemen bowed and moved as graceful as the swans, the way an entire conversation could pass between two with such subtle hints that they could converse openly, almost obscenely in the presence of friends with them having no ideas. She saw it all and after years of actually belonging to this circle, moving just as gracefully and wearing just as beautiful robes, she still at times felt like a little girl in ragged cloths staring through a window at a fairy tale.
She pushed the silly thoughts out and glanced up at Draco once again, her expression wry. “Do you have a point? If not, than I would need another drink if you plan on continuing in the same fashion.”
“My point is,” Draco stressed the last word, slightly annoyed at her lack of wanted glazed-eye reaction. “You can have them all at your feet. Woman wishing to be you, men wishing to be with you… you can have all the men in the entire wizarding society frolic around you and stumble over their own feet in their attempt to please you.”
Ginny paused, staring at him with her eyes widened. “Wait, now, Draco. Manipulating a few chosen personas to do your bidding for my wishes is one thing. But having the entire society dance to your flute? Forgive me if I remain skeptic.”
“Not at all. But it is possible nonetheless.”
Ginny looked at the ballroom again. She shook her head. “Nice try, Malfoy. But I’m not that vain.”
“Oh, come off it, we’re all that vain, you just convince yourself otherwise,” Draco jeered, eyeing her carefully with a subtly tilted head. “You can make a temporary wish – for a month or a day, I don’t care. But do this, Ginny. Not because it would save anyone’s life or accomplish someone else’s dream, but because you deserve to have some fun. You remember ‘fun’, don’t you?”
Ginny rolled her eyes at him, a small amused smile gracing her lips. “Why are you so adamant on getting me a date? What if something happens and I’d lose that precious chaste blood that you need so badly for your experiment?”
Draco paused at her words, thinking. He seem to have momentarily forgotten what the entire deal was about and let his inner bred instincts to seduce and allure to cloud his judgment. But after a moment thought, he shook his head. “Not a chance. You are uptight about everything else in your life. You will be anal retentive regarding this.”
Ginny scrunched up her nose in distaste. “Ew, Malfoy. True, but ew.”
He only smiled in return. “So? Are you doing this? Are you ready to prove me wrong in my claims that you have a perpetual stick up your—“ He bent over and swiftly glanced at her behind before continuing. “—lovely derriere?”
Ginny shot him a brief glare as she discreet tried to cover her rear with a hand, but after a moment of lips-pursing and sulking, she sighed. “Temporary, you say?”
“And completely reversible, yes,” Draco assured her with suaveness of an evil mastermind.
Ginny took another sip of her drink, eyeing the ballroom one last time. Her eyes landed on previously discussed Oliver Wood and she nervously rolled her shoulders, still looking at him as she spoke her wish, “I wish for the five most eligible bachelors in this ballroom to become completely besotted with me and vehemently woo me for the duration of the upcoming week.” She glanced up at Draco once again and wondered where had gone all his blabbering about not being able to control human emotions he had spewed on her the previous week.
But he was smiling half a smile at her and her stomach made a dull thump sound again and Ginny realized that she really didn’t care.
Dashing into her office, Ginny slammed the door behind herself and leaned heavily on it, panting and cussing under her breath. A moment later the frosted glass darkened, outlining the silhouette of a humongous beast. The beast banged on the door, sending it rattling wildly as he tried to open it and get inside. Ginny’s heart throbbed, her eyes wide with raw panic as she scanned the office. The door rattled again and she found herself growling.
“Sod off, Smith! I have no interest whatsoever in your or your bloody giant teddy bear! Get out of here before I summon security!”
She maneuvered herself with some difficulty and successfully managed to lock the door without allowing Zacharias Smith a foot in. Exhaling a puff of air, she glared at the outline of the giant teddy bear and when Smith moved to bang on the door again, she hammered right back.
“But, Ginny!” Came the voice of the former Hufflepuff, laced with traces of slight whining. “Think about our children!”
“There are no children!” Ginny all but shrieked hysterically. “And there never will be! No children, no white picket fences and no bloody Volkswagen minivans! How demented are you supposed to be to suggest all that within first five minutes of meeting me?”
“I’m just a man who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid of going after it,” was the stoic, somewhat sniffling reply from the other side.
“And I a woman of similar disposition and if you do not remove yourself and your bear from behind my door, I will set a restraining order as something that I want! GET OUT!”
“But… Mr. Muffkins!” Zachariah protested meekly.
Ginny groaned and screamed loudly, her fingers curling into dangerous claws. “If you do not leave immediately, I will shove that six foot bear up your scrawny arse!”
That seemed to have done the trick and after a moment of silence and woeful sighs, the enormous silhouette disappeared.
Heaving a sigh of relief, Ginny patted down her hair, which managed to get awfully disheveled during her eager flight from Smith up the stairs, and moved to the window. Tossing her purse onto the table, she adjusted the blinds slightly and pulled on the string to reveal the bustling view of the Diagon Alley. Today, however, instead of colorful pedestrians and eccentric shopkeepers below, this time her window revealed the dangerously swinging figure of one Cormac McLaggen.
Ginny yelped in surprise and swung her window open. Her mind screamed once more at the improbability of all the recent wooing techniques and she had half a heart to pull her wand out and cast a severing charm on the chord that was holding McLaggen midair, but she reined herself just in time.
“What do you think you’re doing, McLaggen?” Ginny demanded in a voice that usually unnerved even Malfoy.
Shooting her a roguish grin, McLaggen hoisted himself closer to the window and sat precariously on the window seal. “Thought I would drop by for a visit with my favorite Weasley. How are you doing, little one?”
“I was doing just fine before some baboon decided to swing in front of my window,” she lied briskly, wildly gesturing at his mountain climbing equipment. “Isn’t this illegal?”
“I know people who know people,” he dismissed offhandedly and leaned in uncomfortably close. “How about dinner with me tonight?”
Ginny stared at him with a pained expression and contemplated shoving him. She blinked and shook her head. “I don’t think that would be such a good idea, McLaggen. Your choice of a meal is really not my style.” She was referring as inoffensively as possible to the last escapade McLaggen dragged her to – hiking through the Brazilian rainforests during a rainstorm and the lovely dinner of cooked snakes and giant dung beetles they’ve had in the cave they found refuge in. Ginny always known Cormac to be a swashbuckler, however she had no idea how utterly insane the man was.
“Well, if you didn’t like Brazil, we could try Africa this time,” he suggested lightly. “There’s a white tiger there that I’ve wanted to hunt down for years. I heard that tiger meat is really tender if you cook it right.”
Ginny only blinked once, twice, three times, sighed and closed the window. At the sight of Cormac’s confused expression, she mouthed an expressing ‘No’ at him and closed the blinds, leaving him to fend for himself fifteen feet above land.
She walked over and slumped into her chair, burying her hands in her hair and making small circular motions, trying to massage the stress away. These have been awfully exciting few days, to say the least, during which a handful of highly eligible bachelors all found themselves deeply interested in one Ginny Weasley.
It started out with Theodore Nott, who appeared on the threshold of her office, nonchalant as the cat’s whiskers and declared that she would be accompanying him to the French Ministry ball that evening and that he had taken the liberty of picking her dress and sending it, along with a personal assistant to her flat. Ginny was too stunned to reply before he vanished and when she made it home that evening, she indeed discovered a young tetchy girl there, adamant on washing, scrubbing, dressing and charming her face and hair into epitomes of sophistication and design. The evening would’ve been quite pleasant if her companion wasn’t of that variety of people who were the butt of her personal jokes with Malfoy on other similar functions. He was so tedious, uninteresting and completely full of himself, that Ginny had to fake a family emergency just to get out of there.
That was followed by Randolph Burrow who accidentally bumped into her at a bookshop and was so fascinated by her literary choice – Jerome K. Jerome and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – that he just had to take her out for lunch to discuss the men’s undying view of the world and stupendous literary talents. It has been pleasant up until the point when he started ridiculing the likes of Austen, Bronte and Agatha Christi who were just really small minds imitating grandness. He seemed to not notice Ginny’s sudden change of expression and continued on, shifting his criticism to any and every female writer, going as far as stating that the menu was so badly constructed that it must have been written by a woman. Ginny couldn’t get out of there quickly enough and had to take refuse in Draco’s flat so as to avoid being detected.
Then there was Zacharias Smith, whom had taken her to an amusement park and by the time they’ve gotten their tickets was already naming their unborn children, and Cormac McLaggen, who was solely responsible for the rash that broke out on her back and chest from the poison ivy bush he thought would be a grand place to accidentally on purpose tackle her into. Those four were all eligible bachelors from hell and Ginny was just about to give up and demand Malfoy to reverse whatever is it he did that made her so alluring to idiots, when one Oliver Wood came knocking on her door.
His smile was wide, his build strong and his eyes more brilliant than she had remembered. He came around for the monthly check up on his knee that has been injured during his last game, sending him to the bench until the end of the season and, inadvertently, back home to Britain. He was just as charming as ever, so when he tentatively asked her out for a dinner after the check, she agreed with a smile.
They had a lovely time and Ginny was sorry to part with him that evening, but he did not ask to come up and simply kissed her cheek good night and left. Slightly disappointed, Ginny come up to her flat to find a basket of demurely colored flowers waiting for her on the coffee table, with a card signed, ‘Truly Yours’. She grinned and giggled like a school girl and that night had dreams of strong arms and dark eyes.
They met up again and again afterwards, and though she found herself having bouts of discomfort and she tried to discover what was it that made her not entirely easy about him, she enjoyed herself immensely. Baskets of flowers continued to appear randomly in her office and her flat and even Malfoy noticed her growing giddiness, smirking knowingly at her.
But just as Oliver’s interest in her didn’t seem to dwindle, neither did the other bachelors’. They Flooed in uninvited, owled her constantly, badgered with invitations for dinner, foreign movies, mountain climbing and gala balls, and showered her with gifts such as rare manuscripts, ridiculously expensive jewelry, bottled specimens of Amazonian deadly insects, and giant teddy bears knocking down her doors. Ginny was slowly but surely going insane with all this unwanted attention, but she was afraid to reverse the wish and lose Oliver’s company.
The latest incident, however, when Zacharias took the liberty upon himself to send her mother an invitation to their wedding, showed Ginny that there was really no choice. She would have to get rid of them all and just hope that Oliver would decide to stay nonetheless.
Sighing ruefully, Ginny turned around in her chair and dragged herself up to her feet, walking over to the fireplace. Tossing a handful of silver powder in, she stuck her head in and declared Draco’s address, telling the terrified house elf on the other side that his master had five minutes to present himself or lose a limb. Leaving the connection open, she returned to her chair and slumped down again, waiting for the arrival of her guest.
Five minutes and two seconds later, Draco jumped out of her blazing fireplace and dusted himself off before taking the seat opposite from her. “I would appreciate it if you didn’t terrorize my elves, Ginny.”
Still frowning, Ginny sighed. “I was feeling belligerent. Tell Cilli I apologize.”
“Will do,” he acquiesced, nodding. When she didn’t start talking again, he took a long look at her staring in midair and waved his hand in front of her to gain her attention. “Is everything all right, Ginny? You seem a bit… horrible.”
Ginny sniffed, rolling her eyes. “Yes, I suppose. Your bachelors are driving me crazy. I want them off my back.”
A small triumphant smile graced his face. “Don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy being the center of so much attention.”
In return she shot him a venomous glare. “I have half a heart to accuse you of picking out complete morons just to spite me.”
He chose to not reply at this and simply smiled. “So you’ve figured out that the wizarding elite of Britain is not exactly to your tastes. I told you, the process is reversible, there is no need to seem so morose.”
“Well, I didn’t dislike all of them,” she said quietly, looking out the window.
Draco’s subtle smile widened. “Oh? Do tell.”
Ginny glanced at him, very discomforted by the continuous thumping of her stomach. “I like one of them, and though the others make it absolutely impossible to go through with this wish, I don’t want that particular one to stop liking me when you reverse this.”
Silent for a while, Draco finally drew a careful breath and looked at her evenly. “Maybe he won’t be affected by the reversal? Maybe he wasn’t affected by the wish in the first place? Maybe he truly enjoys your company?”
She looked at him miserably. “But what if he’s not.”
“I’m quite sure he is,” Draco insisted, his expression plain and eyes deeply dark.
Her frown melted away and a small smile graced her lips. It was so easy being comforted by him when he was so sure in himself. “Good, then,” she said with a final nod. “Though how you would know about Oliver Wood’s personal preferences I’ve no idea, but if you’re positive.”
Silence stretched between the two for a moment of confusion when Draco echoed, “Wood?”
Uncertain, Ginny blinked. “Well, yes, the fifth bachelor from the ball. Theodore Nott, Rudolph Burrow, Zachariah Smith, Cormac McLaggen and Oliver Wood. You chose them yourself, how could you have forgotten already?”
Draco only stared at her for a moment before nodding slowly, restrainedly. “Right, yes,” he murmured. “Oliver Wood.”
Satisfied that the point was cleared out, Ginny looked at the blazing fireplace again and sunk deep into thoughts, completely unaware of her conversant’s rising bile and rigidly set jaw line.
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