It was a Saturday morning at the beginning of her holiday from the Harpie’s, and Ginny walked out of her room and onto the landing only to find Ron on his way downstairs. With a smug grin, she jumped into the bathroom before him, locking the door in his face. Ron let out a few choice words - they would have earned him a ten-minute scolding if their mother had heard him - and pounded the on door.
‘Make sure to dress properly, Ginny, so that the suitable young men might notice you!’ he said, in his best imitation of Aunt Muriel. Obviously, he had realised she would not give up her claim to the bathroom, and had decided to taunt her instead.
Had she not been forced to open the door to do so, Ginny would have used her Bat Bogey hex on him. She would one of these days, she promised herself, if he did not stop impersonating Aunt Muriel. The problem was that after Ginny and Harry had broken up, Muriel had decided to view Ginny, now her last unmarried female relative, as her own special project.
‘Well, I always did think the boy looked gormless,’ her aunt had said sternly when Ginny had told her she and Harry were no longer together. ‘I dare say you can do at least a little better.’
Whenever she stopped by, Muriel would suggest seemingly random bachelors around Ginny’s age and rattle off a few choice words about their suitability. She would then forget herself and mention a few faults, as well, before she finally gave Ginny some advice as to the way to dress, walk, and talk.
Aunt Muriel also had a notion that Ginny needed to ‘broaden her horizon,’ and the last time she had stopped by, she had made it clear that her intention was to bring Ginny on a two-month holiday to Italy. She had decided that Ginny could not turn twenty without having been introduced to some ‘proper culture.’ Ginny strongly suspected she and Muriel would disagree wholeheartedly on just about everything, and dreaded spending two hours alone with the woman, much less the full two months Muriel threatened.
Ginny slipped back out of the bathroom, ignored Ron’s sneer, and was about to walk downstairs. But just then, she heard the front door bursting open and an all too familiar voice drift up the stairs, making her stop right where she was.
‘Molly, I see you’re hardly up. I do approve of rising early,’ Aunt Muriel barked as greeting, even though the clock was showing that it was barely eight in the morning. ‘Where is Ginevra? Still sleeping, I dare say. Young people today!’
Ginny, who could hear every word due to Aunt Muriel’s very loud voice, wished for nothing more than to creep back upstairs and hide. But now Ron was back on the landing, his evil grin telling her he would say her name loud enough for even Muriel to hear if she retreated back upstairs. Glaring daggers at him, she walked into the kitchen, forcing herself to smile pleasantly.
‘Ah! Up at last. Earlier than that long-haired rascal, Ron, at any rate,’ Muriel barked. Ginny grinned at the comment, as Ron groaned and walked in behind her.
‘Ronald! Are you still with the Muggle-born?’ Muriel enquired, and Ron forced out a yes. Getting Muriel to mention Hermione by name had proved impossible.
‘Well? What is taking you so long, Ron? You are old enough to marry now. You’d better ask her before she finds someone better! You never were that good-looking,’ Muriel said sternly, and Ron turned as red as his hair. Muriel had repeated a variation of that comment every time she had seen Ron for the last two years.
As was her habit, Muriel continued without expecting a reply, saving Ron from spluttering excuses that all amounted to him not yet having picked up the courage to retort.
‘Anyway, Ginny, we leave tomorrow. A friend was kind enough to lend me his château for two months. I dare say it will be sweltering hot at this time of year - but it is the place to meet the right people!’
Ginny opened her mouth to protest, closed it again in confusion, and finally got out, ’But…’
‘I don’t suspect we’ll find any eligible bachelors down there, though. Italians!’ Muriel talked on over her half-formed protest. ‘But I will keep an eye open. If only you would do a bit more of an effort with your appearance, Ginevra! That red hair can’t be helped, but even with it, you don’t look half bad.’ As far as Muriel went, that was actually a compliment.
Ginny stared at her mother pointedly for help, but even though Molly Weasley could handle most people, Aunt Muriel was not one of them.
‘Oh, heavens!’ Muriel exclaimed. ‘Look at the time. I must get going. I will come for you at seven tomorrow morning, Ginny. No time to travel like the morning!’ With that, she ambled back to the door and grabbed Rom firmly by the arm. ‘I’m a hundred and ten, Ronald! Don’t stand there like a coat-hanger, but help me down that garden path,’ she complained, leaning heavily on him as she passed out the door.
‘But I can’t spend two months with Aunt Muriel!’ Ginny said shrilly to her mother. ‘No one in their right mind can!’
‘It can’t be that bad!’ her mother snapped, letting out the stress of Aunt Muriel’s visit at the only one still in the room. ‘And you do get two months holiday in Italy.’
There was less than twenty-four hours to escape her two-month holiday from hell with Aunt Muriel. Her mother gave her no support, and had decided to act as if the holiday would be a treat to Ginny. Ron’s contribution was a rather vindictive laugh on the whole matter. So, after threatening to hex him soundly, Ginny could do little but pack her luggage, groan loudly, and be ready at seven the next morning. She contemplated making a run for it, but upon closer inspection two months in Italy did sound better than two months cooped up at the Burrow. At least, if she ignored the looming presence of Aunt Muriel, it did.
A week later Ginny got out of bed reluctantly, not wanting to face the day ahead. Aunt Muriel actually did leave her alone most days, claiming that a lady her age should rest in the afternoon, that the heat was too bad to bear thinking about, and that she should have had the sense to stay in England. But Ginny still had breakfast and dinner with her. During that time, Muriel always found plenty at fault with Ginny.
As she walked into the breakfast-parlour, Muriel glanced up and greeted her with the usual, ‘At least you did decide to get up before dinner!’
Ginny sat down with a bright and insincere ‘good-morning,’ thankful that Muriel never understood sarcasm.
‘Don’t you have something more fitting for a girl to wear, Ginny?’ Muriel continued. ‘No wonder you cannot find a man when you dress like that.’
Ginny groaned, counting the minutes until she would be out of the house. After a week she had to admit that Capro, Italy, was great, but she would have enjoyed it much better without Muriel’s rude remarks.
When she was finally free of Muriel (‘I say, this heat is unbearable, why did I let you talk me into going?’) Ginny decided that a nice relaxing day on the beach was what she needed to calm down again.
Getting out her bikini and grabbing a towel, she walked down the steep path leading down the crumbling hillside onto the beach. Once there, she spread the towel out on the sand, but was distracted from pulling off her sundress by a sudden shout from above.
Turning, Ginny stared in shock at the man tumbling down the hill above her and ending up in a heap in front of her feet. Bending down to check on him, she realised that she had seen that pale-blond hair before. Turning him over only confirmed the awful suspicion. Sharp, slightly pointed features, an arrogant expression on his face even though he was unconscious: Draco Malfoy! That was just what her holiday with dear Aunt Muriel needed. A sneering Malfoy - like she did not already get enough insults flung at her. He was bruised and bleeding after the topple down the hill, and even her loathing for him could not prevent her from taking a closer look to see if he needed healing, or simply a bucket of cold seawater to the face to wake up.
Seeing a nasty cut to his shoulder convinced her that he would need at least a bit of healing. But once she had tended to that, she might grant herself the pleasure of tossing water at him. She drew up the short sleeve he wore, mentally scolding herself while doing so - for some reason, the voice sounded a bit like Hermione - for noticing his clearly defined arm muscles. Whatever Malfoy did these days, he clearly also took the time to exercise. She had just tapped her wand once on his arm when he opened his eyes with a start and sat up.
‘Stay still,’ she snapped at him. Could he not have toppled down the hill and landed at any other feet?
He rose instead, swaying as he did and reaching out a hand to steady himself. ‘There’s a Weasley even here?’ he drawled rudely. ‘I’d rather you not cast a spell near me. If your aim is as poor as your moronic brother’s, I might well end up sprouting a second head.’
Ginny ground her teeth, fully determined to leave him be. If he refused to be healed and died of blood-loss, that was hardly her responsibility! In fact, it might even be a net gain for the world. But he swayed even worse, and sat down again, so she cursed silently and bent over him.
‘That wound still needs healing, and you hardly look fit enough to do it yourself,’ she said sternly, grabbing his arm a little harsher than strictly necessary.
‘Watch it!’ he sneered, trying to yank it out of her grip. ‘I told you to leave it alone.’
‘And what do you intend to do? Walk back along the beach, dripping blood and looking like a mess?’ she asked him sarcastically.
He glared, but stopped trying to get away from her.
Before he could do or say anything else, she tapped her wand to his arm again and muttered a spell that made the cut seal itself back together. ‘There. Do you still have complaints?’
He examined it, and seemed not to find anything negative to say, so he kept remained silent.
‘You’re welcome,’ she said angrily, and straightened up.
‘If you’re expecting a medal, you’re in for a long wait,’ he sneered, getting to his feet again. ‘Your spellwork is better than the Weasel’s, but only by a hair.’ And, with that, he managed to get as close to a saunter as anyone could expect. He still limped slightly on one leg, but even with that, he moved in a confident way.
‘Hope I don’t see you again!’ Ginny called after him.
‘That makes two of us, then!’ he coldly replied, not looking back.
Stomping back to her towel on the sand, Ginny cursed the day Malfoy was born. Or, at least, the day he had decided to go for a holiday at exactly the same place as her.
She made sure to get back to the château in time to change for dinner, hoping Aunt Muriel had not heard of the episode. The woman loved gossip and seemed to hear of everything that happened on the island.
But upon sitting down she was relieved; Muriel’s pleasant greeting of, ‘You really should stay out of the sun! A lady should have a pale complexion, and those freckles make you look horrid!’ told her she had not heard of the incident. If Muriel had gotten wind of her as much as looking at any man, even Malfoy, she would have talked of little else.
After dinner, which was promptly at eight, Aunt Muriel retreated to her bedroom and expected Ginny to do the same (‘You need all the beauty-sleep you can get, Ginevra, and no decent lady goes out at night’), so Ginny had plenty of time to read, or stare at the roof.
Tonight, she found herself flumped into a chair on the small balcony overlooking the bay, thinking about Malfoy. Why had he come tumbling down the hill, anyway?
As she stared out across the moonlit sea, she considered how respectable the Malfoy name was now. In the three years since Voldemort’s death, Lucius had snaked himself and his son out of a justified trip to Azkaban. Well, more like paid his way out. But the Malfoys had not been happy with this alone, and Draco and his father had also pulled the Malfoy name back towards respectability with that old Malfoy combination of galleons and flattery.
She had easily been able to see that Draco was dazed, not drunk. But it would have been a lot more interesting if he had been on a drunken escapade... perhaps with some of his old Slytherin gang. Blaise Zabini, for one, had been rumoured to have gone wild after Hogwarts. She amused herself for some time imagining scenarios that would have led to Draco toppling down a hill. When they became crazy enough to involve a hippogriff, a run-in with a goblin, and Draco on the run from justice, she decided it was time to go to bed.
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