In bed that night Ginny stared up at the ceiling, trying to figure out what Draco had meant. ‘So would I.’ He could simply have been trying to say that he wouldn’t have become a Death Eater of his own wish. She already knew that he and his family had been threatened by Voldemort, back in Draco’s sixth year at Hogwarts, when he had been tasked with killing Dumbledore. Once he was in, she doubted there were many ways out not involving death.
She was just over-thinking it. There certainly was no reason at all to assume it meant Draco didn’t support Voldemort’s ideas. Everyone knew that the Malfoys believed in purity of blood and loathed Muggles and Muggle-borns. She was just hoping he’d changed because she actually liked him.
And she couldn’t just ask him, either. For one, he was likely to tell her it was none of her business - which, Ginny had to admit, was unfortunately true - and for another, he might very well lie to her face even if he did reply. He had been doing plenty of that over the last two years to ‘rebuild’ the Malfoy name. How anyone could actually believe the Malfoys’ claim of being coerced into their actions was another thing entirely. Sure, the Malfoys had felt the dangers of dealing with a murderous lunatic in the end, but that hardly meant they were not responsible.
Sighing, she turned over onto her side. This hardly makes me liking him more reasonable, does it?, she mused. But there was more to him, too, surely.
The next afternoon, Ginny lounged on the beach, casting a random glance every five minutes along the shore and cursing herself for feeling disappointed because Draco didn’t turn up. But of course he wouldn’t. No man in his right mind would want to see a girl who’d behaved the way she had yesterday - and even more so Draco, who was a little touchy, to say the least.
She was nearly about to vanish her parasol and pick up her towel to go back to the chateau when she saw him walking towards her on the hard sand just where the sea lapped onto the shore.
Ginny’s mind blanked at the sight, and ten seconds later she wouldn’t have been surprised to find drool on her chin. I’m acting like I’ve never seen a man before, she berated herself. The still coherent part of her brain was perfectly able to register the fact that there was nothing at all spectacular about Draco’s physique. He had pale skin, a firm torso - slim rather than muscular, but not puny, either. He didn’t have much hair on his chest, but then she already knew that. She could see he looked after himself, but he clearly didn’t spend hours on end working out, either. But the not-so-coherent part of her brain was still indecently excited at seeing him in his swimming trunks. There certainly was no point in her denying the fact that she was attracted to him.
At least he’s not obsessed about his looks, Ginny appraised. The swimming trunks were black, like the rest of his wardrobe appeared to be, even though she was sure any other colour would have looked better on him.
As he walked closer, she averted her eyes, not wanting him to catch her checking him out.
‘Ginny,’ he said, as he walked up to her.
‘Draco,’ she returned. ‘You actually came.’
He snorted, and with a lazy flick of his wand conjured up a sun-bed on which he sat down, leaning back casually. ‘Did you expect me not to?’ he asked. ‘With the opportunity to see a pretty girl in nothing but her bikini, I’d have to be a fool to pass.’
‘Funny,’ Ginny replied, trying not to become all self-conscious because she was barely dressed. He did say pretty, so I don’t have to worry, she told herself, and then nearly blushed at the thought.
‘Of course, I didn’t really count on being measured like a piece of meat in return,’ he continued, smirking slightly.
Ginny grimaced. He just had to notice that, did he? ‘Modesty never was your strong suit, I hear,’ she said.
‘If you’re going to be rude again, I’m leaving,’ Draco replied. ‘I have no desire of being insulted three days in a row.’
‘I have no intention of being rude,’ she replied. ‘Although I would like to know exactly why you came today.’
He smiled. ‘Didn’t I say it was the lure of you in a bikini?’
Ginny rolled her eyes, sitting up so that she could meet his eyes instead of having him look down at her in that annoying way. ‘Fine, you’ve seen my bikini now, Draco. Stop ogling.’
He met her eyes. ‘Why do you insist I must have a better reason?’ he asked, sounding more serious.
‘Let me think…’ Ginny said. ‘Maybe because you usually refer to me as a blood-traitor?’
Draco let out an impatient sound and turned fully to her. ‘It’s been a while, Ginny,’ he reminded. ‘A few things have changed, remember?’
‘I do,’ she said shortly. Being reminded of how much had changed didn’t make her happy. Sure, Voldemort was gone, but the price had been a tall one.
‘Well,’ he said, his voice markedly softer. ‘I did read Rita Skeeter’s latest book Voldemort - From Half-Blood to Dark Lord, don’t you think I may have changed my view a little?’
That made Ginny smile again. That biography was still one of the most-read books out there. Rumours had it that Rita Skeeter had become a very wealthy woman from the royalties. Of course, anyone who had been close to Harry knew half of it to be wild guesswork and the other half to be lies. But, even Ginny had to admit, Rita had actually got Voldemort’s parentage right.
‘Would that be your way of saying ‘I got it wrong’?’ she teased. That would be quite something for Draco to admit.
‘That would be my way of attempting to get you to talk about something else besides my past,’ he replied. ‘It would make a nice change if we could talk without me being accused of being a Death Eater, an insensitive git, or just plain evil all around.’
‘I haven’t said that last,’ Ginny said, a little exasperated. ‘And you were a Death Eater.’
He grimaced, and for the first time she fully registered the fact that Draco had been walking around with his left forearm bare for weeks, and there sure was no hint of a mark on it. Had they been wrong, after all? Or had the mark gone away?
‘Not exactly by choice,’ he said shortly. ‘Although I might have been stupid enough to join anyway.’
Ginny’s mind went blank again - this time in shock. Had Draco just referred to his own actions – admittedly, in the past - as stupid? That surely couldn’t happen very often.
‘I do know you were forced,’ she admitted. If Dumbledore had believed he was forced, she wasn’t about to argue.
‘Well, obeying a man likely to torture and kill me at any time wasn’t a life-long dream of mine, in spite of what you may have thought,’ Draco said, his voice having that mocking tone he so often used. Except, now, he actually seemed to be mocking himself.
‘So you’ve -’
‘I’ve grown up,’ he interrupted, sounding a little angry.
‘That said, you wouldn’t actually go so far as to, say, marry a Muggle-born, would you?’ she said teasingly.
‘Hell!’ Draco let out, sounding shocked. ‘Of course not! Could you imagine the look on my father’s face if I told him something like that?’ His voice was back to being rather arrogant.
Ginny could, actually. She had no doubt Lucius Malfoy would be… disapproving, to say the least. ‘What about you, then?’ she pressed.
‘Merlin! You never give up, do you? I wouldn’t consider it, no,’ he replied. ‘Now, may we talk about something else?’
‘Anything you’d like,’ she agreed jokingly.
‘Would you consider a second date, then?’ he prompted. ‘I don’t call what you put me through yesterday a date.’
‘What I put you through? As I recall, you forced me to stay!’ she protested.
He smirked. ‘Should I take that as a ‘no,’ again?’
‘I might be willing to consider it,’ she replied. Did he seriously want to try again? It was bound to be a disaster... right?
‘I’ll send you an owl, then,’ he declared, getting to his feet again.
‘You’re not going to send another one of those snobbish letters, are you?’ she enquired. Sure, it was a little romantic, but it also made her feel like she was dating a man from a past century.
‘Snobbish?’ he asked, sounding perplexed. ‘I was merely being polite.’
‘Right.’ She tried not to laugh. Apparently Draco had no idea how peculiar his actions were.
He shook his head and vanished the sun-bed again. The simplicity with which Draco could do things like that annoyed her. ‘Try not to gawk too much at me, Ginny,’ he said with a smirk, and walked off down the beach again, in the same direction he had come from.
She supposed she deserved that one for staring at him like that. She pointedly avoided even glancing in his direction as she packed up her things and vanished the parasol.
As she walked back up to the chateau, she tried to make a list of his good sides. Not obsessive about his looks, and he’s clearly a gentleman. He should give Ron lessons, he might finally stop infuriating Hermione – and I’d sure like to see it. Although they probably would end up hexing each other, or possibly in an old-fashioned fistfight. Ginny grinned at the very idea. He’s loyal. Well, to his family, at least. Resourceful. Then again, he was also arrogant, and despite not being a bully now that he was a grown man, he did have those sneers down to perfection.
‘Ginevra!’ Aunt Muriel barked; with a start, Ginny realised she’d already reached the patio of the chateau. ‘You look like you have your head in the clouds. I do hope you’re thinking about some man, and not something pointless, like Quidditch.’
Fighting down the urge to tell Muriel a fib about daydreaming of Giovanni (no doubt the result would have been amusing, but tiring), Ginny lied and said she’d been thinking of writing a letter to Hermione.
‘Well, I do hope your brother plucks up his courage and asks that girl to marry him soon,’ Aunt Muriel replied. ‘Now that he’s finally found someone who can bear him, he shouldn’t hesitate.’
Ginny grinned at the comment, and decided to use that one to torment Ron as soon as she returned home. She would possibly write him a letter, too, just to pass on Muriel’s kind advice. ‘I’ll make sure to tell him,’ she replied.
‘You do that,’ Muriel barked. ‘And you make sure to remember it too, for when you eventually find a man. Hang on to him, and don’t let him get away!’
Ginny gritted her teeth. Of course the topic had to come back to her again! When did Muriel not criticise Ginny’s lack of a man? Of course, she was sort of dating someone. Does that mean I’m supposed to hang on to Draco, and not let him go? she wondered. The idea was highly amusing.
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