On Thursday morning, Ginny nearly fell out of bed, awakened by a loud racket outside her window. She got up and saw that the cause was their new family owl, Harold. Being younger (and slightly cheaper) than the other owls, it was really no surprise he made a fool of himself at regular intervals. But at least he did deliver letters to the right address. Now, he was pecking on the window while hooting indignantly, no doubt loudly enough to wake even Aunt Muriel, assuming she was still asleep at what she would call ‘this hour.’
‘Calm down!’ Ginny complained sleepily. She yawned, getting out of bed.
She opened the window, and had to duck immediately so that Harold wouldn’t hit her across the head with his wings. When he landed on the back of a chair, she sighed and walked over to him. Would it hurt the bird to behave like normal owls did?
Untying the letter, she recognised her mother’s writing. She opened it to read her mother’s urgings that Ginny remember to wear a sweater at night, as even Italy would be chilly in the evening. Ginny rolled her eyes and ducked again as Harold took off, narrowly avoiding a collision with the wall before he flew out the window.
Ginny sat down to read the rest of her letter, grinning as Molly lapsed into a long description of the latest antics of her only grandchild - Fleur and Bill’s little daughter. The letter ended with a sincere hope that Ginny was enjoying herself, and an encouragement to write home and tell them what she was doing. Yes, Ginny mused, I could do that. ‘Dear Mum. Today I’m going on a date with Draco Malfoy.’ That would be the day!
Walking up the hill just before one o’clock, Ginny could hardly believe she had agreed to this. It seemed like an insane thing to do. This is what happens when Aunt Muriel’s your only companion, Ginny mused. Even Draco seems almost human by comparison. She firmly ignored the little butterflies doing somersaults in her belly. She certainly wasn’t excited to see him. And she most certainly wasn’t excited because she hoped he would kiss her again.
Continuing past the point on the path where she had collided with Draco the last time she had been up here, she passed the firs and arrived on the side of a large, paved patio. On the top of a slight slope stood a terracotta-coloured building clearly shaped like a horse-shoe, with what she could see was an open courtyard inside. Below the patio was a large swimming pool around the size of a normal garden, and on the far side of the pool she could see other buildings and what she could only imagine was an orchard with what seemed to be orange and peach trees.
She saw Draco leaning against a tree, looking like he always did in those black clothes of his. She wondered idly if he had a pair of black swimming trunks too, then realised what she was thinking about and quickly banished the thought. Did I just try to imagine Draco in nothing but his undies? she wondered. Something is wrong with me, clearly.
‘Ginny,’ he greeted, walking towards her. ‘You came.’ His tone made it clear that he hadn’t even considered the possibility that she might not show up.
‘Draco,’ she returned, a little uncertain. ‘What have you planned?’
‘A picnic,’ he said simply.
‘A picnic?’ she repeated, stunned. It had never occurred to her that this might be the sort of thing Draco did on dates.
‘Yes,’ he replied, looking a little oddly at her.
‘You would go on a picnic?’ she pressed. ‘I just can’t imagine you on a picnic.’
He snorted, shaking his head a little at her. ‘And why not?’ he asked, rather challengingly. ‘We used to go on picnics all the time on this island when I was a child.’
Ginny tried, and failed miserably, to imagine Narcissa, Lucius and the toddler Draco wandering off into the orchard with a picnic-basket. ‘Really?’ she finally got out. ‘I can’t imagine Narcissa sitting on the grass.’
Draco laughed. ‘Of course she didn’t!’ he declared. ‘What sort of picnics are you used to?’
Now, that sounded more like a Malfoy. ‘We would bring a few blankets, my mum would pack plenty of food, and then we would walk up the nearest hill, usually only reaching halfway there before one of my brothers started complaining of hunger,’ she told him, smiling at the memory.
‘I see,’ he replied, somehow making even that simple statement sound arrogant. ‘Well, are you coming for this picnic, or not?’ He started walking down the patio, so she followed.
‘There’s no need to be condescending, you know,’ she informed him, as she caught up.
‘I wasn’t,’ he said shortly. He tucked her arm under his, his eyes glinting. ‘Now, do you want me to conjure up a picnic basket and a blanket for you, or are you content with doing this my way?’ he teased, a little haughtily, as they rounded the pool and continued along the orchard. Ginny could really see oranges in there, and peaches. No doubt they magically ripen at just the right time, too, she thought.
Ginny smiled at him. ‘You invited me. I’m just doing as you say.’
‘That’d be a first,’ Draco drawled, sounding like he wouldn’t believe the statement until he saw proof.
They walked out towards the end of the property, arm in arm. It surprised Ginny that Draco would make such a simple, sweet gesture.
‘We’re here,’ he said, as they rounded a small thicket of trees and reached a weathered old paved circle with a stunning view of the sea below. In the middle of the circle stood a table and chairs, over which a sailcloth marquee provided shadow from the baking sun. The sight was like one taken out of a Witch Weekly decorating article, and Ginny could well imagine Narcissa going on picnics if this was the Malfoy way of doing it.
Draco walked her over to the table, pulled the chair back for her, and only let go of her arm once she was seated in a comfortable position. Ginny had to concentrate not to ogle at him. What had happened to the rude Draco? Next thing she knew, he would start opening doors for her and bowing as she entered a room. His behaviour was unsettling. She could almost imagine she was on a more...romantic date.
He sat down opposite her, looking relaxed, and met her eyes again, smiling a hint of a smile.
‘I took the liberty of preparing lunch for us. I do hope a salad followed by a fillet of swordfish and rounded off by Semifreddo is acceptable?’ he said naturally, making it sound like the question wasn’t a question at all. She was clearly expected to say yes, and was struck by a peevish urge to say ‘no’ instead. On the other hand, ‘acceptable’ was hardly a word she would use to describe that meal.
‘Of course,’ she replied, wondering what on earth he was on about. Was this a joke? Draco didn’t really behave like this, did he?
At her words, the salad appeared in front of them, looking more like a work of art than any food she had ever seen. And, to top it all off, the soft sounds of a flute filled the air. Feeling hopelessly unsophisticated and out of place, she watched Draco drape a napkin over his lap with a well-practiced movement and then look at her again. This time, she really did ogle.
‘What?’ he asked, sounding surprised.
‘It’s not what I expected, that’s all,’ she replied hesitantly, trying to articulate what she meant without making it seem like she had expected Draco to be completely without manners. ‘Is this what you normally do on dates?’ He couldn’t really be this elaborate all the time, right? After all, what sort of man was?
Draco looked like she had just asked him whether he normally brought his wand along when he left the house in the morning. ‘I don’t take them all on picnics, no, but I hardly see the problem. Are you not comfortable?’ He asked the question as if he was expecting her to say the chair was too hard, the music too loud, or something of that sort.
Ginny spluttered. It didn’t look like he was joking, either. ‘No. It’s perfect,’ she assured him. ‘It’s just… not what I’m used to.’
He smirked. ‘I can well imagine Potter falling a little - er - short,’ he taunted, sounding like his old self again. ‘Besides, what did you expect? I did ask you on a date,’ he said, emphasizing the word.
Apparently, this was just what Draco did on dates. Did he even understand that what he was doing wasn’t – to say the least – the norm? She could understand why girls liked him. Draco gave off an air of making his actions seem completely natural, as if he was born with some sort of inner sophistication.
‘I don’t know what I expected,’ Ginny admitted, cautiously trying to eat her salad, which tasted just as great as it had looked. A sip from the glass of white wine beside her plate told her he seemed to have impeccable taste in that area, too. But then, he would. He, no doubt, had been used to having the best of everything since before he could walk.
‘Well, I hardly expect you to be surprised at the fact that I’m not acting like a troll beside a table,’ Draco replied, a little impatiently.
A troll, indeed. She had six brothers, and none of them ever behaved anything close to this. And, in their defence, besides Ron, they all knew how to eat like civilised people even when starved.
‘It tastes great,’ she stated instead, changing the subject.
Somehow, they managed to chat their way through the salad and fish, arriving at dessert without having once sneered at each other. The wine might have played an important part in that respect – or, then again, it might have been the hour-long discussion about Quidditch.
‘He might well have teamwork down, but as far as true skill goes, he can’t compete,’ Draco said, making the word ‘teamwork’ sound as if it was something nasty and contagious.
‘Well, for a Chaser, teamwork is essential,’ Ginny retorted.
Draco made a condescending sound as they watched the fish plates replace themselves with dessert dishes.
‘Was that an orchard we passed on the way here, by the way?’ Ginny asked, her curiosity getting the better of her. ‘I think I saw lemons.’ She took a sip of wine. He had changed it again, this time to fit dessert.
Draco smiled. ‘Yes. It’s supposed to be the best in Italy, and contains pretty much any fruit you could imagine,’ he said. ‘I’ll show you later, if you’d like.’
‘Sure,’ Ginny replied lightly. I could get used to Draco acting like he’s actually nice. Although, she admitted, he’s still being rather arrogant, to put it mildly.
She tasted the Semifreddo, which was in tone with the rest of the meal and tasted excellent. But who had three courses for lunch, anyway?
After they were done, Draco rose and reached out his hand to help her up, making her feel like she had been transported back in time - far back in time. It wasn’t just that he did it; he did it with a straight face. Ginny had to concentrate on not grinning when she considered how Ron would react if he saw Draco behaving anything like he currently was. He would probably laugh his head off – well, at least until he realized Draco was with Ginny.
They walked back to the orchard, passing between the trees. Draco snaked his arm around her waist, so naturally that Ginny didn’t notice it until she felt the pleasant warmth of his touch through the thin fabric of her dress. He kept giving the names of trees they passed in a way that suggested he had countless hours of practise in speaking effortlessly about anything - or nothing - at all.
When they ended up at a summerhouse, she almost was compelled to roll her eyes. It was beautiful, to be sure - a simple wooden structure, and the roof was made out of grapevines instead of being actually built - but just how much of a perfect picture was Draco trying to present? If he sat her down and started telling her that her eyes were beautiful, she would start laughing, no matter how offended he might become.
‘Let me guess,’ she said, amused, as he walked into it. ‘We need a rest?’
Draco smirked at her. ‘I planned on making out, actually. But if you’d rather walk, I know of a nice tree up ahead,’ he replied.
She snorted. He sure had guts. Plus, he had the nerve to sound like he wasn’t at all uncertain that she would want to agree to that. Then again, she doubted he had ever been uncertain around a girl in his life. The worst part is, she mused, I’m not at all sure I want to refuse.
‘And you feel certain I’d want to kiss you?’ she asked, turning to face him.
He met her eyes, and might as well have replied ‘yes,’ for all he looked smug. Putting a finger under her chin he tipped her face up a little, bending down to meet her lips. Last time the kiss had been short, rather like he was testing it out. This time it was teasing, turning deeper, and soon her arms had laced themselves behind his neck again. She could feel him steering her down on a seat, so used to getting his will that he undoubtedly believed she would make out with him. Obviously, she would, but it would have been nice not to be taken for granted.
She gently freed herself when his hand snaked a little too far up the inside of her thigh. Whatever Draco might be used to, she was certainly not willing to be that close and personal with him after one date. Hell, she thought, I’m not supposed to be any kind of close to him at all.
He looked at her with one eyebrow raised, seeming surprised, but made no comment as he walked her back to the path.
Well. I’m definitely not writing home about today, Ginny thought, shaking her head at herself as she wound her way back down the path after he had kissed her goodbye.
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