Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling owns all things Harry Potter.
A/N: I fully intended this story to be a one-shot. I thought that its open-endedness placed the events of the reunion weekend on the cusp between the past and the future. However, a large proportion of the people who reviewed asked for more. Thus I have added an epilogue which addresses the question of what happens at dinner, though it still doesn't tie up all the loose ends. I can't decide whether I like the story better with or without the epilogue, so I'll let you decide for yourself.
At 6:58 that evening, Ginny ran a brush through her hair, smoothed her robes, and clutched the Portkey tightly in her hand. She had spent the afternoon curled up on the window seat in her sitting room with her cat and a good book. She had enjoyed the reunion, but she needed some quiet time to recover from it and to prepare herself for dinner with Draco. Now, waiting for the Portkey to activate, she wondered again why he had invited her. She had been shocked to learn that he had watched her at Hogwarts, and that he had been willing to show her a bit of who he really was. Why would he do that? What did he want from her? What did she want from him?
Ginny's thoughts were cut off by the familiar tug of the Portkey, and soon she had arrived. The impact caused her to stumble a little, but Draco was there to steady her. She looked up at him and caught a glimpse of something in his eyes. Relief, maybe?
"Thank you," Ginny said, smiling.
"Any time," Draco said, returning the smile. Ginny felt a shiver as she remembered his response Friday evening when she had slipped in the entrance hall at Hogwarts. It was amazing what could change in two days. Draco took her hand and kissed the back of it. "Welcome to Malfoy Manor."
Ginny had always imagined Malfoy Manor to be dark and forbidding, decorated in Slytherin colors, and redolent of dark magic. Instead, she found herself in a light and airy entrance hall, with a white marble staircase spiraling elegantly past a crystal chandelier. It was lovely and not at all intimidating. Ginny relaxed a bit.
Draco seemed to sense this. "Would you like to walk through the grounds before dinner?" Ginny nodded and took his arm as he led her out the front doors.
As they walked along a tree-lined road, they conversed about inconsequential things–the weather, Quidditch results, and the like. Eventually, Draco steered Ginny between two trees to a door in a stone wall.
Ginny stopped short as she stepped through the door. They were in an elaborately landscaped garden, filled with flowers and shrubs of all kinds. "It's beautiful!" she said, wandering through the pathways, Draco following closely behind. Ginny realized that she was entirely comfortable with Draco, despite their silence. This was unusual for her–normally she would feel compelled to chatter endlessly.
Ginny stopped to smell a particularly eye-catching yellow rose, with tinges of red around the edges of its petals.
"Allow me," Draco deftly cut the flower from the bush, removed its thorns, and handed it to Ginny.
"Thank you, kind sir," Ginny said playfully, accepting the flower.
"You're quite welcome, my lady," he smiled.
The two walked a little further in silence, then Ginny sighed. "I'd love to have a garden," she said wistfully.
"Why don't you?"
"First of all," she answered, "I live in a flat. But more importantly, I am a disaster when it comes to plants."
"You can't be that bad, can you? After all, you did get an O.W.L. in Herbology."
Ginny wondered briefly how he knew that. He really must have been paying attention to her at the time. "Yes, well, I just managed to get an Acceptable, and that was really because such a large portion of the exam was written and not practical. I can memorize things as well as anyone, but when it comes to working with an actual plant..." She smiled ruefully.
"What happens?" Draco asked, amused.
"I wish I knew. But something always goes wrong. It even happened when I was a child. I think I was four when my mum banned me from helping in the garden. Ron hated that!" Ginny laughed.
"How many four-year-olds know how to take care of plants?"
"My brothers all managed, somehow. There's just something about me. I even killed a Rasputin Rhododendron once."
"How! I thought they were supposed to be indestructible!" Draco looked at her suspiciously.
"They're supposed to be. When I moved into my flat, my parents gave one to me, figuring that even I couldn't hurt it. But within six months it was dead." Draco shook his head with amusement.
After a few moments, Ginny said, "Neville used to try to help me with Herbology, but even he eventually admitted I am hopeless."
As she stopped speaking, Ginny wondered if it had been such a good idea to mention Neville Longbottom. She knew Draco had despised him in school, and expected him to make a snide remark. She thought she saw his mouth twitch, but he refrained from comment. She found this quite odd, but let it go as she continued to enjoy walking through the garden.
They strolled around to the west side of the house. A rectangular pool reflected the house's facade as well as the light of the setting sun. Draco led Ginny to a table set at the far end of the pool, and held out a chair for her.
The table was elegantly set and lit with candles. There was music, though Ginny couldn't tell where it was coming from. The food and wine were spectacular; Ginny lost track of all the courses. The conversation was pleasant–they spoke of Quidditch, art, and magical theory, among other things. By the time they had finished eating, the sun had set and the moon had risen.
It had been perfect. But Ginny was restless. It had been too perfect.
Looking back, Ginny realized that the entire evening had seemed so... planned. Even the apparently spontaneous things Draco had done, such as kissing her hand or giving her the rose, seemed calculated to impress. Draco had even chosen conversation topics that were interesting, but far from controversial. Whenever Ginny had tried to make things more personal, he had shifted topics. It had become increasingly frustrating. Except for the brief moment when she thought he was relieved by her arrival, Ginny hadn't seen the Draco from the reunion at all.
When they finished their Limoncello (the perfect liqueur for a summer night, Ginny thought uncharitably), Draco asked her to dance. It was clear from his expression that he expected her to agree. After all, she had danced enthusiastically just the night before. Another calculated gesture. Fed up, she decided to cut her losses and go.
"Actually, Draco, I have had a lovely evening, but it has been a long weekend and I have to work tomorrow, so I think I should go home."
"I see," he said, his face carefully blank. "You can Apparate from the entrance hall." He started to lead her into the house. "I enjoyed the evening very much. Will you come again this week? Wednesday, perhaps?"
Ginny looked carefully at him, trying to find some glimpse of the real Draco behind the facade. But he had hidden it too well. "I'm sorry, but I don't think so."
Draco stopped walking, his jaw clenched. "May I ask why not?"
Ginny took a deep breath, trying to find the words. "Everything really was lovely and I had a nice time. But that's all it was. Nice."
Ginny smiled wryly. "You were the perfect host, the perfect Malfoy. If I were Daphne Greengrass, I would probably be in a puddle at your feet. But I'm not." She closed her eyes, and took another deep breath. "I'm not after your money or influence like the grasping opportunists. But that doesn't mean that I don't want something from you. After this weekend, I hoped..." She opened her eyes and looked at his still-blank face. "But I am no longer in the habit of chasing after the unattainable."
"What is it that you want from me?" Draco's voice sounded strangely dead.
"I thought I made that clear this morning." Draco looked confused. Ginny plunged ahead. "It's the same thing I've wanted since I started watching you in school. I want to know who you really are. Not the prat you were in school. Not the image of perfection you put on tonight. The real thing. But apparently that isn't possible."
Draco stood perfectly still, his hands clenched at his sides. His face was still completely expressionless. Ginny shook her head in exasperation.
"Goodbye, Draco. Thank you for dinner." She turned and moved towards the entrance hall.
"Ginny, wait!" Draco's voice sounded strangled, as if he had to force the words out of himself.
Ginny turned around slowly. Her breath caught in her throat. Draco had moved so he was only about two feet from her. His eyes were no longer blank. She couldn't read all of the conflicting emotions in them, but at least he wasn't hiding from her anymore. Would he give her a reason to return? She nearly trembled at the wave of anticipation that passed through her.
"I'm sorry," Draco said, and Ginny had to reach a hand out to the doorframe to steady herself from the surprise. "I... I just wanted everything to be perfect so you would come back again." He eyed her dejectedly, then bitterly added, "I should have known it wouldn't work on you."
Ginny stood still, wondering if he would say any more. Draco was staring at some point beyond her shoulder, seemingly deep in thought.
"That's what you saw in Creevey and Lovegood, isn't it?" Ginny wasn't sure what he meant. He looked her straight in the eye and continued. "They didn't apologize for who they were. The whole school thought they were jokes, but they never let it bother them. They were just themselves. That's what you liked about them."
"That's part of it, I guess. But I also happened to genuinely like them." Ginny smiled a little. "I still do."
"But I'm not like that."
"You were this weekend. At least you were with me."
Draco thought for a minute more. He gazed at Ginny intensely. "Is there anything I can do to convince you to give me another chance? To come back here later this week and try again?"
Ginny's logical side told her to say there was nothing he could do and to forget that this had ever happened. But she had been fascinated with Draco for years, and their interactions at the reunion had only heightened her curiosity. She realized that she wanted to come back.
"You can start by telling me why you want me to come back."
Draco was silent for a moment, and Ginny wondered if he was going to answer at all. But then he took a step closer to her, lifting a hand to brush some hair away from her face. Ginny struggled not to lean into his touch.
"Until this weekend," he began, "I didn't realize how lonely I have been."
Ginny stiffened. Draco noticed her tension and chuckled. "Don't worry, Ginny, there is more to it than that. If I just wanted a cure for loneliness, I would have invited Daphne Greengrass."
Ginny smiled a little at that. Draco went on. "What you need to understand is that it wasn't talking to other people that convinced me I had been lonely, it was talking to you."
Ginny looked at him very carefully, trying to decide if he was being sincere. She couldn't find any hint of deception. In a small voice, she asked, "Why?"
"You aren't like anyone I've ever met. Everyone else either wants my money or hates me because of my family or the way I acted in school. But for some reason, you see beyond all of that. In school, I despised you for seeing the good in everyone. But now... Now you are one of the few people who can see any good in me."
Ginny's breath caught when Draco cupped her chin in his hand. He gently forced her to look up at him and she saw a tenderness in his eyes she had never seen before.
"And that's not to mention that you are beautiful, intelligent, kind, willing to speak your mind, completely comfortable with yourself, and one hell of a Quidditch player."
He kissed her then, and all of Ginny's misgivings flew away. The kiss was not long or overly passionate, but it was genuine. Ginny felt as if she could somehow feel all of Draco's curiosity and insecurities in it, and that made her knees go weak.
All too soon, Draco pulled away and leaned his forehead against hers.
"I can't guarantee that I will always be completely myself with you. I don't have a lot of practice with that. But I will try." Ginny smiled at him. She couldn't ask for more than that.
"Will you... will you please come back?" he asked quietly, and Ginny wondered if she imagined the slight tremor in his voice. She didn't trust herself to speak, so she just nodded.
"Thank you," Draco breathed, kissing her on the tip of the nose. He led Ginny into the entry hall. "Then you had better go home. You do have to work tomorrow, after all."
Ginny took his hand and squeezed it gently. "Thank you, Draco."
"It was my pleasure. Good night, Ginny." He squeezed her hand and let it go. She knew he understood that her thanks were for more than just dinner.
Ginny was still smiling as she Apparated away. She was looking forward to finding out what would come next.