Of ducks and pink soap bubbles.
Ginny woke up with a sour taste in her mouth. "Ah", she thought, "it must be Valentine's Day."
She threw open the curtains to let the sunlight in and also to get rid of the overwhelming smell of sickly perfume of a thousand valentines lingering in the dormitory.
She sighed and leaned uncertainly upon the mahogany window frames. "Good morning, Valentine's Day."
"Good morning, Ginevra Weasley."
"I'd just like to let you know," announced Ginny, "that I'm not planning on celebrating you this year."
"Oh?" Valentine's Day tried its hardest not to sound offended, with little success. "And why is that?"
Ginny bit her lip: "Well, it's just that every year, I find myself going to Hogsmeade by myself and end up stuck at the Three Broomsticks with just a Butterbeer for company. I am sick to death of it!"
Valentine's Day scoffed back at her. "Mostly it's your fault, you know. You're just too shy and quiet to find yourself a valentine." Valentine's Day was rather cynical and arrogant for such an important event.
"I don't care." Ginny wrenched the curtains shut. "I'm going to take a bath now, and then head to the Library, like it's any ordinary day. Because today is like any ordinary day."
Valentine's Day shrugged its nonexistent shoulders, and went back to being glorious and indifferent. "Suit yourself, Ginevra Weasley. Suit yourself."
But little did Ginny know the day had many interesting things ahead of her, even though they did not involve chocolate or singing dwarves in any way.
The hallways of Hogwarts were deserted: everyone had abandoned the less romantic setting of the castle for the pink confetti and Butterbeers of Hogsmeade. At least I can now have the Prefects' Bathroom all to myself, Ginny thought with relish. She comforted herself with visions of lounging in the marble bathtub, buried underneath an obscene amount of fluffy pink bubbles, to make up for the fact that it was Valentine's Day, and she was alone.
But when she put her hand on the bathroom door, her luxurious thoughts shattered quickly. Apparently someone was already enjoying the bath. A muffled voice filtered through the thick wood.
Ginny crinkled her nose in annoyance, wondering who could possibly be in there when half the school was flooding Hogsmeade. Probably a pathetic someone like me, she thought bitterly. Softly, she whispered the password ("Pink soap bubbles"), and pushed the door open. Ginny was the kind of person who thought she had seen everything, though as she stood in the doorway, she realized that nothing she experienced could compare to what she saw.
Sitting there – lounging in the marble bath, swathed in a multitude of scented bubbles and looking and magnificently indifferent was Draco Malfoy.
... He was quite solemnly talking to a rubber duck. "Valentine's is an insipid celebration for social loners who talk to rubber ducks," he declared. "I am pathetic."
Ginny stared in shock at first, which gradually melted into vast and giggling amusement. Curiosity and the promise of entertainment took hold of her, and, very quietly, she dashed behind a trolley of towels, anticipating a very interesting dialogue.
"It's not as if I couldn't find myself a valentine," Draco said, his tired voice ringing across the marble tiles. "My dormitory was slowly beginning to fill with the blinding pink and sickening smell of perfumed valentine's weeks earlier. The hallways were practically alive with rumours on who I was going to go with this Valentine's Day. But not one girl – not one was brave enough to approach me for the weekend."
The rubber duck was silent, thoughtfully turning Draco's words over in its hollow ruber head.
"How am I supposed to find a valentine, when not one girl throws herself at my feet?" Draco declared, clearly under the impression that the world had gone queer. "Of course, I suppose my carefully-cultivated image as potential-Death-Eater must have affected this year's turnout."
Draco sighed. "It's absolutely torture to cultivate a desirably fearsome image and garner yourself dates on Valentine's Day," he declared.
He gave the duck a gentle squeeze. "Squeeeak."
"What was that? Where is Pansy Parkinson in all this? Well." He gnashed his teeth, "If she hadn't gone off with that Simon Capper from Ravenclaw, at least I would have a date today. It's all just because he bought her ridiculous amounts of chocolates and roses that she agreed to go with him instead of me.
Draco sulked, curling his lip in an aggravated sneer. "Honestly – why do you think I'm here, alone and bitter, when I so rightfully belong in a crowd of admirers and being worshiped shamelessly?"
"Squeeeeak," replied the duck, as Draco gave it another squeeze.
Draco gasped in shock. "My personality?" he spat. "What do you mean, my personality? I have a charming personality to those who deserve it – and it's rather unfortunate for the world that most of it doesn't."
He threw the duck a glance. "Don't tell anyone – well, of course you won't – but I wouldn't exactly mind being in the company of any girl at the moment, even those abnormal ones from Gryffindor. I'd appreciate anyone to talk to ... anyone that makes a better conversationalist than you, anyway."
Somehow, the duck managed to look vastly offended. Ginny took this moment as her cue. "Anyone, you said?"
Draco spun around in surprise and shock. He quickly threw the rubber duck to the far end of the bathtub, where it bobbed up and down and obediently pretended it had nothing to do with him.
"Weasley!" Draco announced, a mocking smile already spreading across his face. The surprise in his eyes gradually melted into a cooler, steelier, greyer shade of contempt. "I wasn't expecting you to be here. Aren't you supposed to be in Hogsmeade, drowning in confetti and chatting up idiotic Gryffindors like Potter and Longbottom?"
"Oh, no," she replied, a slow smile appearing on her lips, "I'd much rather drown myself in pink bubble bath, and chat up rubber ducks instead. It does seem so much more ... glamorous."
Draco didn't move. "Exactly how long had you been standing there?"
Ginny was enjoying herself. "Long enough to know that you had been rejected for Simon Capper – and that you have a tendency to talk to bath toys." She grinned. "You also mentioned that you wouldn't mind being in the company of any girl, and specifically brought up those from Gryffindor."
"I didn't mean you," Draco muttered, "and if I had my wand with me right now, that rather unpleasant episode of my life will be gone from your memory."
A light shade of pink had coloured the edges of Draco's cheekbones as he spoke: "You're not to tell anyone. You will be paid for your silence, of course." His voice was normal, as if he were just commenting on the weather.
Ginny shook her head. "I'd ask you for two favours," she announced. "Do them for me, and I will not breathe a word of what happened here."
Favours? Draco thought, suspicious. Favours could mean anything. "As long as they aren't sinister, wounding, or humiliating in nature ... name them."
Ginny thought carefully. She could almost hear the voice of Valentine's Day whispering in her ear, soft and inaudible, feeling like a breath upon her cheek or the dawning of an idea. A peculiar thought formed in her head, and when she looked up at Draco, she was smiling.
"Firstly," she declared, "I want the bathroom to myself when I'm taking my bath, and do not want to be interrupted."
"Fair enough," Draco replied, somewhat surprised that it didn't involve nudity or vast amounts of chocolate, like his past favours did. "And secondly?"
"Secondly –" Ginny took a deep breath, "I want you to kiss me." There was a deep and profound silence. It was the type of silence that occurs when the world takes a breath, the silence that lingers between a flash of lightning and a crack of thunder. Even the angels on the ceiling mural stopped to listen.
Draco stared at her – face expressionless, completely unmoving – until he spoke: "Don't be ridiculous." "Alright." Ginny glared at him."I'll just wait for the right moment to accidentally mention your bath habits to Pansy and Simon, if I ever meet them in the hallway." "Fine, fine!" Draco cried, sitting up amongst the mass of fluffy bubbles, moving to climb out of the bath. "Just let me get decent first ..."
Ginny turned around, and could hear the sounds of splashing water and rustling fabric and a litany of muttered curses as Draco climbed out and reached for a towel. When she turned around, he was leaning casually on the towel trolley.
He doesn't look half bad, the voice of Valentine's Day murmured in Ginny's ear (at least, she thought it was Valentine's Day…)
"Well?" Draco prompted, "Are you going to stand there and admire me all day, or shall we move on?"
Colour rushed to Ginny's cheeks. "Don't flatter yourself. I wasn't admiring you; I was ... making an assessment of the situation." She stood by him, and quite solemnly looked at her shoes.
Draco could almost feel the awkwardness of the situation filling the air like the sickening smell of Valentine's Day. The girl had asked him for a kiss. And Draco knew that it could possibly be the only kiss he'd get this Valentine's Day.
Ginny felt herself being grabbed roughly by the shoulders, and pulled forward. Suddenly Draco's eyes were directly in front of her and she could almost feel the chill emanating from them as he spoke. "Let's just get this over with."
Draco kissed her, and almost immediately pulled away. The icy contempt in his eyes had faded into shock and surprise, and his face was flushed with a deep, rosy pink. His eyes darted over her face in confusion and expectation.
Without another word, he kissed her again.
This time it lasted longer.
Perhaps it was the tangy smell of lavender in the air, or the heat from the bath, but Ginny felt her mind grow light and her stomach churn, as if she were standing underneath a shower of confetti. The kiss lasted for a few mere seconds, though that particular feeling lasted near forever.
He drew away, surprise still alight in his eyes. Finally Ginny commented, "That was weird."
She watched how carefully strands of blond hair fell across his face, wet and stringy. She noticed, for the first time, just how grey his eyes looked – so grey they were almost silver and churning. "Uhhh... you can let me go now."
Draco let go. The surprise never left his eyes. "Ginny –"
"Shh." She placed a finger upon his lips. "Now – fulfil your other favour. You promised."
She pushed him through the door, and closed it behind her. And no matter how many times Draco knocked on the door or how loudly he complained, she refused to open it. Eventually Draco promised – or threatened, "We'll meet again soon, Weasley," and he stalked off to his Common Room to find some clothes.
The bathroom was still as Ginny ran a new bubble bath into the tub and mountainous bubble formations built themselves as water flowed and splashed and slapped against the bath's curved walls.
Ginny saw a speck of yellow floating towards her and laughed.
"Well," she told the rubber duck, cradled in her hand, "that never happened last year, did it?"
She gave it a squeeze. "Squeeeeak."
"Of course I enjoyed it. But let's just keep it between us, hmm?"