CHAPTER EIGHT – Invitation
Just being there with her was better than breathing. Draco had been so nervous before Flooing over that afternoon that he'd changed his clothes six times before settling back on the first thing he'd chosen.
She was the first thing he saw as he walked through the green flames. She'd looked so beautiful, all flustered and embarrassed. And then, she'd touched him. Wow! He wanted her to do that again, a lot.
But then Potter and the Weasel nearly ruined it. Draco had controlled himself, he thought, quite well, and was startlingly polite to the buggers.
He was so glad when they finally left because that left him alone with the girl he'd been thinking about since he was 12, albeit they were both wearing more clothes than he usually daydreamed about (or night dreamed for that matter), but he wasn't going to complain.
He loved teasing her, and then he couldn't help it. He had to touch her hair; he'd wanted to for so long. He wanted to tell her everything he felt, everything he'd thought about for years, but the silence just loomed before them. Then, she'd spoken first, about his idiotic Christmas holiday. He figured it might be a turn off to tell her he was miserable on the trip because all he'd been able to think about was her. He'd sat in the lodge nearly every night alone, facing the fire, and fingering the cloak pin she'd given him. He'd even nearly killed himself on the mountain twice when he saw a flash of red hair on a skiing Muggle and thought it was her. Those kinds of things weren't the thing to say at a time like this, but he'd decided that it was now or never so he touched her face. She didn't back away or cringe. She held his hand to her face with her own hand.
And then she'd made some inane comment about herself in a bathtub, probably never realizing that he had thought of that image a million times that day alone, and it made him blush. Normally he reserved such naughty thoughts for home when he was alone, or at least shut up in his bed at Hogwarts behind the curtains and a good Silencing Charm. They certainly weren't appropriate thoughts for the Weasley's back yard. He was about to just go ahead and tell her what he'd wanted to from the beginning and then they were interrupted by her mother.
Tea with Potter and the rest of the Weasleys meant he had to turn on the old Malfoy charm, something usually reserved for people his father thought would further his power and influence in Magical society. For Draco it meant wowing the family of the most important person in his life. Not that much different really.
They walked up to the house holding hands. Through the window Draco could see Scarhead watching them. Fighting the urge to shoot him a triumphal smirk, Draco instead looked back at Ginny and whispered into her ear, "Do I look alright, luv?"
She laughed out loud and whispered back, "And to think, I thought you have low self-esteem issues, Mr. Big Head! You look flawless, as usual. Smell good too!" She winked.
"Well... Flawless eh? I do so aim for perfection!"
They both walked through the door with large grins.
Molly Weasley had been worried. She'd known the Malfoy boy was coming over and her anxiety level had risen over the course of the afternoon, but when she saw her confident, self-assured daughter so happy, she knew they'd done the right thing by being supportive of her decision.
As the two entered the kitchen, Molly approached them and said, as she reached Draco into a familiar hug, "Well, hello! You must be Draco. Welcome to the Burrow. It's nice to finally meet you, my dear."
She could tell he was surprised at such a warm welcome, but he covered it well when he smiled sheepishly at Ginny and said, "Thank you, Ma'am. It's nice to be here."
Yes, Molly could see why her daughter liked this boy. He was about as opposite to Harry as you could get. Fair, tall, and well built. Rather than the adorable look Harry had about him, Draco was handsome, in a noble and aristocratic sort of way. Molly only prayed that he wouldn't end up hurting Ginny. Nobility in looks did not always equal them in personality.
To say that Draco was shocked when Ginny's mother hugged him would be an understatement. It threw Harry for a loop too. He had been sure the hot-tempered Weasley parent would rather have him with Ginny and would make that clear to Ferret Boy. Not wanting to cause an argument, he'd promised Ginny after all, Harry kept silent during most of tea. He couldn't help but see how Ginny hadn't given him a second glance. She only had eyes for Malfoy. She looked so happy, like a light was turned on inside of her. His heart hurt that he wasn't the one who had turned it on. He'd been too late to see what was in front of him all along. He sat reflecting on this glumly, while Draco fielded the questions Mr. And Mrs. Weasley shot at him.
"Do you enjoy school, Draco?" Mr. Weasley asked politely before popping another biscuit into his mouth.
"Yes, sir. I prefer Potion and Charms, but I recently became a tutor for History of Magic and I'm looking forward to that quite a bit this next term."
"Oh, really? Our Ginny here hates History, don't you, dear?" Mrs. Weasley smiled at her daughter.
"Yes, Mum. Professor Binns makes me sleepy." She grinned into her cup, suddenly very glad she couldn't keep her eyes open in his class.
"Well, I know Ginny does really well in her other classes. I wager she could almost give Potter here a run for his money in Defense... but then again, I might be biased. I was at the receiving end of her famous Bat Bogey Hex a few years ago." Draco added earnestly, but with a smile.
"Well, you did deserve it. You were being an utter prat that day, Draco," Ginny cut in.
"Yeah, yeah. That 'day'." he scoffed lightheartedly. "Hazard of being me I guess..."
The rest of the afternoon passed in this pleasant way. Both Mr. And Mrs. Weasley were careful not to mention Draco's family and he was careful not to insult any of the Weasleys, Muggle-lovers, or any of their mutual acquaintance. It had been a good day.
"Draco dear, what are your plans for this evening? We're having a light supper, but you're certainly welcome to stay," Mrs. Weasley invited him as she took his tea dishes to the sink.
"Uh, well... Well, thank you, Ma'am, but I can't tonight actually. My mum and I have annual plans for New Years Eve. We've held a banquet and ball at the Malfoy Manor as many years as anyone can remember, and this year is special. We're celebrating two years without my father. Mum's put a lot of effort into preparing. I was actually wondering if Ginny... well, if you," he turned to Ginny, "if you wanted to come tonight?" He smiled hopefully.
Ginny looked at her parents. They looked taken aback, but probably more because he'd mentioned Lucius than the invitation. After a moment, Molly smiled and nodded to her daughter.
Ginny grabbed his hand and dragged him into the lounge for some privacy before answering him.
"I'd love to Draco... if you're sure that your mother won't mind." Ginny beamed and gave him a big hug.
He held her tight, his brain momentarily shut off as she hugged him, but then he realized that she had asked him a question. He pulled away only far enough to hold her chin and whisper, "Oh, she won't mind at all. In fact, I know she bought you a gift before Christmas just in case I turned Gryffindor and asked you to the ball. She just doesn't want me to know about it... so, let's not tell her I know anything, okay?" He winked at her.
"She didn't have to do anything..."
"No one tells my mum when to shop and when not to," he interrupted her. "Besides, she's never had a daughter and I get the impression she bought you girly stuff." His cheeks turned a slight pink as he realized he just referred to Ginny as someone his mother could consider a 'daughter'.
Ginny noticed too, and just smiled at her feet. "So, when should I come over?"
"Well, the banquet starts at half past seven, but we're announced at about seven. Would you have enough time to get ready for half past six? It's only three and half hours from now... Is that enough time?" He ran his hands through his hair nervously, "I know I should have written from Switzerland, or just asked you before I left, but I wasn't sure."
Ginny had never seen him ramble and it made her smile broadly. "Draco, three and a half hours is plenty of time, but I'll need to start soon. Should I just Floo to your house at half past six then?" She put her hand on his arm.
Ignoring the tingles making their way up his arm, Draco answered, "No. I'll come to get you, alright?" He took her hand in his. "You're sure you're okay with being seen in public with the enemy?"
"Draco, I don't see an enemy. I only see you." She reached up and kissed him softly on the cheek. "Now, get out of here... this girl's got to work a lot of magic in the next three hours... wouldn't want to look less than flawless, it might embarrass ickle-Master Malfoy at his own party!"
He looked down at her in stunned silence, not really sure she'd kissed his cheek. Then, his voice two pitches deeper than usual, said, "you could never ever embarrass me. You're beautiful. I'll pick you up in a few hours, okay?" He kissed her hand before exiting the lounge and bidding the rest of her family good-bye and Flooing home.
Ginny was sitting in the lounge, almost in giddy shock, when fifteen minutes later a sweet-looking old house elf popped into the room to join her, carrying a very large box.
"Miss Weezy? I'ms Minnie. Mistress sent these for you. She said to make sure the red-haired girl, Miss Weezy, reads the card first." She handed the box to Ginny and then curtseyed before popping away.
Mrs. Weasley had heard the commotion and walked into the lounge. "What is that dear?"
"Mrs. Malfoy sent it to me." Still flabbergasted, Ginny opened the card as her mother sat down beside her.
My Dear Miss Weasley,
I hope you don't think me presumptuous, but as we were shopping for your beautiful necklace I let myself buy you several Christmas gifts as well. I didn't let Draco know, I didn't want him to think I was being silly. But I knew everything would work out and that he'd eventually ask you to our New Years Ball. I even predicted the he would give you very little time to prepare. So, I took it upon myself to at least help make getting ready easier on you.
The gown is Muggle-made of course, as we were shopping in Muggle London, but I wasn't sure of the size. I know your mother can adjust it and make it to fit you perfectly. I admit, it will go perfectly with Draco's dress robes, and the dark green with be beautiful with your red hair and the green jewels around your neck.
The crystal shoes can be fitted too, and I've already taken the liberty of charming them for comfort, otherwise you'd want to chop off your feet before the end of the ball.
Now, the earrings and circlets for your hair are not new. I wore them at my first Malfoy Ball when I was 16, and since I have no daughter of my own, I'd like you to wear them at yours.
You are, of course, staying the night? The ball will be quite late and several people are staying. I'll send one of the house elves to get your bag from home during the ball.
I can't wait to properly meet you. The fireplace didn't give us a great amount of time to get to know one another. I know we'll be fast friends.
PS. You know I know he must love you so very much. He risked the wrath of his father by having your picture here at home all those years ago...
Ginny just looked at her mother, too stunned to say anything. There was just too much to digest. Ginny was particularly stuck on the last bit about her picture. He'd really had her picture at home 'years ago'? Wow!
Molly grabbed the box and angled it towards Ginny. She lifted the lid and found four boxes inside. The smallest one opened to find two diamond studs and three pieces of silver meant to be fitted into her hair when it was in an up-do. "Wow, Mum, they are really beautiful, aren't they?" Ginny sighed.
"Narcissa always looked beautiful, especially before she married Lucius." Molly affirmed and then she fingered the next box.
The second box contained the crystal shoes. Ginny eyed them with distrust. How could shoes so hard be comfortable, even with charms put on them? She tried them on and miraculously they fit without having to be altered. They felt delicious on her feet, like floating.
The third box, the biggest one of the four, held the dress. Ginny pulled it out and lovingly rubbed her hands down the embroidered silk. It may have been Slytherin colors, but Mrs. Malfoy was right. The green went perfectly with her red hair. It looked like the bodice would be a little too small, Ginny was more developed than that, but the length was just right. Mrs. Weasley held up the dress and smiled. "I can make it fit perfectly dear. Now, what's in that last box, you don't have much time? You need to go get ready soon."
Ginny opened the last box and turned bright red. Along with a pair of dark green gloves there were dark green silk stocking and garter with a green strapless bra and matching knickers. There was another note pinned inside.
I realized after I wrote the card that I hadn't organized any green underclothes. The green would be less likely to show from under the dress. I hope it's not too much green for you, I know you are a Gryffindor, dear.
Much love, Narcissa
"Well, she did think of everything." Molly mused with a smile. "Now, up to the shower, Ginny. Wash your hair twice so I can magic it up easier."
Ginny did as she was told. In between getting showered and dressed she even managed to pack an overnight bag. "You're sure you don't mind me staying overnight at Malfoy Manor?" Ginny asked her mother hesitantly.
"Ginny dear, this is almost a common thing when invited to a ball. And besides, without Lucius there, I feel you're completely safe. Narcissa seems excited and I'm sure she'd like to get to know you better, just as we would like to have Draco come over a few times before you go back to Hogwarts.
Ginny hugged her mother. A little shocked that her parents had accepted Draco so readily... but not unhappy about it at all. "Thank you SO much, Mum!"
By 6pm Ginny looked perfect. Her mother went down to get supper on the table for the few that would be at home, and Ginny stood gazing into her full-length mirror.
The dress was strapless. It hugged her figure and the embroidery trailed all the way to the floor. Ginny decided against the gloves, and instead wore one of her mothers silver bracelets. Ginny's fiery necklace showed off her fiery hair. It was twisted around the silver circlets with curls drizzling loosely all over her head. She'd decided to be presumptuous and put a tiny silver clip in the shape of a lion near the back of her tangled curls. She couldn't let everything she wore tonight be Slytherin themed. The crystal shoes and Narcissa's diamond earrings topped the outfit off... well, Ginny tried not to blush when she thought of the lacy green under things, because they certainly didn't 'top' anything off under there. She knew she looked beautiful!
It was a while before she recognized that Harry was standing at the door and watching her.
"Oh, hello, Harry." Ginny was uncomfortable. That was clear.
"Hi, Gin." He didn't move.
"Do I... Do I look okay?"
"Yeah, Ginny. You look okay. I'm sure you'll be the belle of the ball." And with that, Harry walked in the room, his look unreadable until he eyed the tiny lion yawning in her hair and he smiled. "Of course, you'd have to make a statement. I wonder if anyone else will 'get' the Gryffindor lion?" He reached for her and she backed away slightly.
"Gin, I'm sorry I was so blind. That it took me so long to see you..." He came closer and reached his hand up, as if to touch her face, but Ginny backed away.
"Harry, please. You're my friend. I'm sorry you feel more, but..." she kept backing away, "I love Draco and he loves me, and nothing you say will change that, Harry." She stepped out of the bedroom and walked down the stairs without a look back.
"Potter? What have you done now?" Harry asked himself. "Stupid git! Ugh!" he flopped down on her bed.
Ginny was trying to cover that she'd been flustered, but it was hard when she was so frustrated with Harry. She'd wanted to stay his friend, but his attitude was making that really difficult. Some people would think she was crazy for turning down advances from 'The-Boy-Who-Lived-Again', but despite his general good nature and handsome good looks, she just couldn't. Not when Draco was there in her head. Being so sweet and vulnerable. Even with his pale, pointed face. She loved that they had become best friends first, without their names getting in the way. She loved his extreme insecurity when it came to her and his over confidence when it came to everything. It made him endearing. Heck, she even loved his stupid fur hat!
She smiled at that thought, and then fingered her necklace. Tonight was going to be wonderful!
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