Not able to go back to sleep after the horrid near-kiss dream about Malfoy, Ginny decided to get up and go for a walk before breakfast. She walked aimlessly up the hill, no plan in her head besides a desire to move. Her holiday so far had been relaxed – almost too relaxed – and she made a mental note to find a Quidditch pitch at the earliest convenience. After all, if Malfoy had fallen playing Quidditch, there had to be a possibility for her to find someone to play with. If not, at least she could just get some flying done.
Walking along a path lined with short bushes and fragrant heather, she admired the vividly red colour of the earth where the first rays of morning sun reached it. Looking ahead again, she barely had time to make out a figure before it walked right into her.
‘Ouch!’ a man’s voice said arrogantly, and she immediately recognised him. With that pale blond hair, it was hard not to. Malfoy, again. How did he manage to sound arrogant with that innocuous four-letter word?
‘Watch it!’ she snapped. Normally, she would just have let it go. The path was partially obscured by bushes and the mistake of bumping into someone was easy enough to make. But, given the fact that this was Malfoy, she was sure it had been intentional.
‘Calm down!’ he sneered back. His surprised look told her he really had not seen her. He looked preoccupied and troubled.
‘What are you up to?’ Ginny asked, intrigued.
‘Is that your concern, Weasley?’ Malfoy drawled, raising one arrogant eyebrow. He seemed to have collected his thoughts again, if his attitude was any indication.
‘No. But then, when a Death Eater ambles around in the hills, deep in thought, I get worried,’ Ginny replied. The term had slipped off her tongue before she had considered it, and she gripped her wand in her pocket. Okay, so Malfoy was supposed to be reformed. But she still didn’t want to be caught unawares if he did decide to hex her.
‘I’m not pondering evil deeds,’ he said mockingly. ‘Hate to disappoint you,’ he added, sounding very insincere. ‘What are you doing here, anyway? Are you stalking me?’
She rolled her eyes. ‘You sure are full of yourself,’ she retorted.
‘This is the path leading to my chateau,’ he said, pointing back up the path. ‘See that big structure with a roof and windows? It’s called a house. Unlike the tent you probably live in.’
She ignored the taunt. It was getting old, anyway. It hardly bothered her that she was not a spoilt brat like Malfoy. But he did seem to be telling the truth; the roof and top floor of a terracotta-coloured stone building were visible through the trees ahead.
‘Great,’ she replied. ‘I’ll remember to stay away from this path, then. Don’t want the misfortune of running into you again.’
‘I’m relieved to hear that,’ he said. ‘But, if you’re still bent on following me, I’ll make it easy on you and tell you I’m going down to the bay for a swim.’ With a smirk, he stepped past her, sauntering down the path.
Ginny muttered a swear word under her breath that would have earned her a severe scolding if her mother had heard her and remained where she was. She could always continue up the path, and most likely end up in the garden of Malfoy’s holiday house, but that idea wasn’t exactly appealing. That left the option of turning back down and she sure didn’t want to do that until Malfoy was well out of sight.
Returning to the chateau for breakfast, Ginny found an almost vindictive pleasure in seeing that Aunt Muriel was not yet seated at the breakfast table.
‘There might be hope for you yet, Ginevra,’ Muriel barked at the sight of her. ‘At least you are up at a decent hour today.’
‘Good morning, Aunt Muriel,’ Ginny replied, in a far more sincere tone than normal.
‘I have made plans for us to see Corsica the next two days,’ Muriel announced. Long warnings never had been her style. ‘We’re leaving after lunch. I do hope they give us a more capable guide than in Rome. That fool talked as if he never had any proper schooling.’
‘Corsica sounds nice,’ Ginny replied, to ward off a more long-winded complaint about the guide.
‘An excellent island,’ Muriel declared. ‘It’s where Paoli Corsare grew up - the wizard who invented the disillusionment spell, or at least so they claim.’
Ginny returned to her room to pack, oddly relieved that she, at least, would not see Malfoy for a few days. It’s not like it matters, she told herself sternly. I’m above letting him bother me. There was no call for him unsettling her the way he did. He might well be a bother, but she should be used to that by now. And he wasn’t very handsome, so that twinge belonged nowhere at all. A Pygmy Puff is more attractive than he is, she thought angrily, ignoring the fact that she for some reason found him more attractive than most men she knew.
After lunch, she and Muriel grabbed the new trans-sea Portkey developed by the Mediterranean wizards to travel between all the islands and landed with an unfamiliar rocking movement on a walled-in patio with moss-covered grey tiles. Looking up, Ginny saw that the patio belonged to a small sand-coloured house positioned at the very brink of limestone cliffs. It seemed about to topple down into the sea below at any moment and she hoped it was supported by magic.
‘Where is that lummox of a guide who was meant to meet us here?’ Aunt Muriel said disapprovingly, looking around her. At the same moment, the man walked onto the patio.
‘You’re late!’ Muriel barked as greeting, making Ginny struggle to hold back a wide grin. It always pleased her to hear her aunt bark at someone else for a change.
They spent the next two days touring the island. Ginny loved the house on the cliff where they were staying, and would wake up at dawn just to stare out at the sea below the towering cliffs. The natural harbour hidden in a fold in the landscape was very picturesque, too, but Aunt Muriel turned her nose up at all the Muggle tourists, though she did cackle gleefully and comment on their clothes in an embarrassingly loud voice.
The second day, they joined a guided tour to Paoli Corsare’s birth-place; a small village in the mountains consisting of a huddled group of stern-looking houses in dark stone, surrounded by forested slopes. The guide excitedly explained how Corsare had lived and worked in a house set slightly apart from the rest, although his speech was slightly dented by Aunt Muriel’s remark. (’I’ve heard that he stole the idea for that spell from an Irish wizard down on holiday.’)
Back on Capro again, Ginny was glad she could finally find time to play Quidditch. She grabbed her broomstick and walked up the hill early in the afternoon. Everything on this island appeared to be on the other side of some hilltop or another, but Ginny preferred walking to Apparition. At least then she got some exercise – plus she could enjoy the beauty of the island.
She hurried up a steep slope and stopped indecisively at a fork in the path. There was no indication as to which was the one she wanted, so she pulled out her wand to get directions.
‘Point me, Quidditch field,’ she muttered, and saw it spin around. The modification of the Four Pointer spell was very useful.
The wand stopped while pointing up the left-hand path so she deposited it back into her pocket and was about to continue when she suddenly heard voices from the other path. Turning, she saw Malfoy walking beside a boy of seven or eight; the boy was obviously in the middle of explaining something. He talked rapidly to an attentive, if bored-looking Draco, who was carrying two broomsticks over his shoulder.
‘Ginny,’ Malfoy acknowledged when they came up to her.
‘Malfoy,’ she replied. Should I have said Draco? He keeps calling me Ginny, she mused. ‘And who’s this?’ she added, collecting her thoughts and trying to appear more friendly, while she smiled at the boy.
‘Distant cousin,’ Malfoy dismissed, apparently not bothered enough to give the child’s name.
The boy himself was absorbed in watching a large beetle crawling across the path and seemed unconcerned.
‘I keep running into you,’ Ginny said, trying to be civil now that Malfoy actually had stopped to chat. She could hardly offend him in front of the child.
‘That’s because we’re probably the only two on this island not too lazy to actually walk instead of just Apparating,’ Malfoy replied, his voice unusually neutral.
‘But it’s so beautiful here!’ Ginny exclaimed. ‘I wouldn’t possibly miss out on walking, even if the island seems to consist solely of steep hills.’ Her enthusiasm surprised her. This was Malfoy, after all.
‘It has a stern beauty,’ he allowed reluctantly. ‘But still, you will risk being frowned upon for walking.’
Ginny shrugged, unconcerned. ‘And they will not frown at you?’
Malfoy laughed shortly. ‘I’m a Malfoy,’ he said arrogantly. ‘They would not dream of doing any such thing.’
‘Aren’t we going to play Quidditch, Draco?’ the boy asked impatiently, having lost interest in the beetle. Ginny could hear the family resemblance; he had that assured arrogance down already.
‘That is where we’re heading,’ Malfoy replied, rather condescendingly. Apparently, he was rude to children, too, but the boy seemed undaunted.
‘Then stop flirting, and let’s go!’ he demanded.
Malfoy raised an arrogant eyebrow. ‘Come along, then,’ he said, ignoring the accusation. ‘Coming, Ginny?’ he asked. ‘I assume you’re going in the same direction, or do you carry around a broomstick for fun?’
‘Great!’ she muttered under her breath, following the two up the path.
‘You’re not very good at it, you know.’ She could hear the boy talking to Malfoy in a grown-up voice.
‘What am I not good at?’ Malfoy enquired.
‘Flirting, obviously,’ the child informed him. ‘You’re supposed to be nice to her.’
‘Says my brother,’ the boy announced, as if this would end all discussion.
‘Well, I’m not taking his advice,’ Malfoy replied. ‘Vito is engaged to a…’ He seemed to remember who he was talking to. ‘Nice girl,’ he ended rather insincerely. ‘And I was not flirting.’
‘Was too!’ the boy stubbornly maintained.
‘Do you want to play Quidditch or not?’ Malfoy snapped. ‘Give it a rest with the girl.’
The boy only laughed at Malfoy’s bad mood.
Ginny tried not to grin too widely at the conversation as they reached the end of the path and faced a state-of-the-art Quidditch field. To her irritation, it was better kept than the one she trained at with the Harpies.
She watched as the boy, now jumping up and down in excitement, grabbed the broomstick from Malfoy and soared into the air. Malfoy seemed unconcerned as the child tried moves that had Ginny cringing in a second and wanting to run after him, yelling at him to be careful.
‘Are you not worried about your cousin?’ she asked Malfoy a little sharply, as the boy narrowly avoided colliding with one of the hoops.
‘Why?’ he asked, turning to her. ‘Lamberto can’t get better without training, and I can hardly run after him to hold his hand. If he falls, I assure you I know enough healing spells to get him back on his feet.’ He was leaning casually on his broom, and it made him look... strong, and oddly appealing.
It’s the broomstick, she told herself. I’ve always been weak for Quidditch players, that’s all. Somehow, she feared her explanation wasn’t entirely true.
‘Fine,’ she allowed, trying not to stare. Having six brothers had taught her that running after a boy to tell him to be careful was pointless, anyway. She could not count the times her mother had scolded her brothers while healing their cuts and bruises after falling off a broomstick. Ginny had received a fair share of those scoldings herself, for that matter.
Malfoy got out a Quaffle, and he and Ginny switched playing Keeper for a while, in a surprisingly relaxed and rather friendly game. Not until Lamberto, as Malfoy called him, complained of being hungry did they break off for lunch. As they walked away from the pitch, Ginny was stunned to notice that she had spent hours in Malfoy’s near proximity without wanting to hex him.
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