Catagelophobia: Fear of Being Ridiculed
She is embarrassed by how much she is primping. Curling her eyelashes and wearing more makeup than she ever has before is far too much effort to put into lunch with a former Death Eater. Why should it make any difference if she confessed a few embarrassing truths to him one night? A night she was sure he had forgotten until the letter had landed on her desk at the Ministry.
One sentence (Draco Malfoy requests the pleasure of your company for lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, kindly send acceptance to…) and he had managed to anger her as quickly as he ever did in their days at Hogwarts. Kindly send acceptance? No mention of a refusal whatsoever, as if the very concept was foreign to him. Which it most likely was.
She takes one last look in the mirror. Her ire has given her cheeks a healthy blush that, combined with the makeup she has already applied, makes her look like a literal scarlet woman.
Sighing, she soaks a tissue and begins to dab at the rouge off her cheeks. She’s not entirely sure why she’s even bothering. It won’t really matter how much makeup she wears or fancy her clothes are, Ginny knows this. Regardless of what she does, Draco Malfoy will find a way to make her feel like a piece of dirt he could as easily tolerate as stamp under his shoe.
He’s been waiting for a little over five minutes now and it is becoming a struggle not to show his impatience. Of course, Draco has always known that the Weasleys were inexplicably inferior when compared to one of his class, but surely even they realize the values of promptness?
Ah, and here she is, Ginevra Molly Weasley herself, stumbling through the door with hair disarrayed and cheeks flushed. Breeding dictates that he not show his irritation, and he stands and pulls out her chair.
She flops most ungracefully into the chair and begins to rattle off a litany of what kept her from punctuality. He bears this as long as he can before interrupting her with an abrupt, “Surely you wondered why I asked you to come here?”
Ginny’s voice stops short and her head literally reverberates in a way he would find most amusing were he not quite so annoyed. Suddenly shy, she nods.
“Yes, well—” a waiter comes with a menu—honestly, it’s about time—and Draco pauses before continuing, “I thought you might wish to talk.”
She nods slowly but doesn’t quite meet his eyes. He coughs and clarifies, “About the first time we met.”
The ends of her mouth turn upwards ever so slightly and now she’s studiously avoiding his gaze as she responds, “As I recall, our first meeting ended somewhat disastrously.” Ginny looks up and sees his confusion before adding, “You made fun of me for loving Harry Potter and I ran away in tears. Don’t you remember? His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad…yes?”
Draco laughs and she instantly remembers the first time they truly met, the time Draco was talking about, the first time she realized how much more handsome he looks when he laughs. “How could I forget? You had such promise as a poet, I can’t imagine why you ever stopped sharing your gift with the world.”
They pause for a moment to speak into their plates (salad for her, fish for him) and then the only sound is the scraping of forks on plates. Draco waits until her mouth is full before speaking again. “You know what I meant, Ginny. About the first time we met.”
She nods and swallows. “Of course I do. I just don’t really understand why we would need to talk about it.”
“Well….” For the first time, he falters. “I thought you might want to.”
“How wonderfully selfless of you. A less gracious person might point out how terribly uncharacteristic that is.” Her voice trails off and she smiles ironically. “But I’m hardly that sort of person.”
Draco can feel his mouth purse, and before he can stop himself he’s talking in his very best lord-of-the-manor voice. “Very well, Weasley. If you don’t want to speak of it, then we shan’t.”
The following silence becomes excruciatingly noticeable as the dining room begins to empty out, until they are the only two left. A waiter comes to collect their plates and without the porcelain to stare at, they simultaneously resort to staring stonily out the window.
Ginny is the first to try and break the silence. Pointing to a small, black-haired child running after his mother, she asks, “Isn’t he cute?”
“I don’t like children.”
“I see.” Another pause. “Anything you do like?”
“Sunshine. Puppies. Gifts. Blondes. Money.” He’s still staring out the window
Ginny snickers and turns to face him. “In that order?”
“Hardly.” Draco meets her eyes.
She laughs again before looking at her watch and saying, “I need to go, I’m already five minutes late. We should do this again.“ Draco snorts. “No, I mean it! Other than that little…skirmish, your company wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be.”
“Someone less gracious than myself might consider the former an understatement and the latter less than complimentary.”
They both laugh again and Ginny takes her leave. A few minutes pass—long enough to insure that she will have already Apparated—and Draco leaves as well, Apparating from just outside the Cauldron.
The house he arrives at is much more dilapidated than he had expected. No matter what his mother told him, Draco had never found it credible that the same man who lived by method and reason and physical laws at school would allow himself to live in a house that seemed to defy all those laws and reason by its very existence. And yet he does, inhabiting a broken-down brick house with ivy crawling all over one wall. The plant would have been considerably more picturesque were it not quite so obvious that the vines were beginning to infiltrate cracks between the stones; already, several bricks have fallen out and are littering the overgrown yard.
Stepping over an iron gate that has long since been warped out of shape, Draco manages to hack out a path towards the front door. Raising the serpent’s head on the knocker, he pounds three times. The door immediately creaks open to reveal a familiar, if slightly withered face. But if the face has changed, the voice has not; it’s as soft as it ever was and still strokes every syllable as if the sound itself is a gift and the voice is loathe to part with the treasure. That sound still raises the hairs on Draco’s neck as the man says, “Draco? What brings you to Spinner’s End?”
Author notes: +++
Again, apologies for the delay.
To Be Continued.
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