Under Her Skin
"Just drop that one anywhere," Ginny said, waving her hand at all the boxes piled up around the room, leaving little space to maneuver, or even breathe.
Charlie grunted as he hitched the box up higher in his arms to push it on top of a tall stack sitting in the middle of the foyer. "What have you got in here? Bars of gold?"
"I wish," she replied with a laugh. "Just essentials."
"Essentials. Right. I don't think essentials weigh as much as infant dragons."
"I don't think this job requires your snark," she replied with a roll of her eyes as she cut a box open with her wand. "Thank you for the help."
"No problem. I know how mum can be about these things." These things being the moving out of a Weasley child from the Burrow.
"You know?" Ginny repeated incredulously. "I'm the one who had to live with her after everyone left! I think if anyone knows how mum can be about these things, it's me."
Charlie ruffled his sister's hair, smiling that lazy smile that normally made girls swoon on the spot, though he seemed to be oblivious to such things. Charlie only ever paid attention to his family and dragons, and everything else—including girlfriends—might as well not exist.
"Poor Ginny had to endure Mum's everlasting tears for the past twenty-three years."
"Not just her tears," Ginny said, ducking out from underneath her brother's hand. "I was lonely too."
"Well, you've ostracized yourself to the coast where no one from the Burrow can find you. Good luck with that loneliness," he teased.
Even though it was childish, she stuck her tongue out at him.
"Do you need any help unpacking?"
"No, I think I've got it. Thank you."
Charlie waved. "Will you be making an appearance at dinner next Saturday?"
Ginny looked up from the contents of the box and smiled, though her lips stretched across her face too stiffly to be anything but a farce.
"Of course! Don't I always?"
Charlie chuckled. "Mum's going to have a great day when she finds out you've already gone. See you next week, then."
As the door gently clicked shut behind him, Ginny glanced around the living room, her eyes wandering down the hall to the overflow near the door. Sighing, she put down the stack of books she had just pulled out of the first box and wandered from room to room. It was a lovely flat with the most beautiful view of the beach. She had seen the sea before, when visiting Bill and Fleur at Shell Cottage, but there was quite a difference between living in a place where the waves nearly lapped up to the back door and visiting such a place for a night or two. This opportunity to see such beauty from her own home was all thanks to Luna, who had rented the flat out to her for a very considerate price. How Luna had come to own this property Ginny didn't know, but she was grateful for the kindness and looking forward to the peace and quiet of the coast.
Her heart fluttered in excitement every now and then as she thought about living away from the Burrow for the summer, which subsequently caused her heart to seize with fear. Living alone was quite a different thing as well. Being the youngest of seven children, she had never been alone growing up, and even at Hogwarts she had lived with several other roommates.
It was too soon to start feeling lonely, so before any melancholy could set in, she would have to banish it away.
Time to meet the neighbors.
When the door opened, all Ginny could do was stare. In awe. In horror. In shock. No. No. This could not be happening. She did not leave the Burrow for this.
"Can I help you?" Malfoy asked with a supercilious sneer—as if she were some beggar woman who had just wandered up to his door!
Ginny opened her mouth to answer and floundered for words. It had been years since she'd last seen Draco Malfoy. Back at Hogwarts, she remembered him being thin and pale, pointy in all the wrong places, making him look sickly. To be fair, the war had been raging and he had been caught right in the middle of it during his last two years of school, so she supposed he had not looked his best back then. Time had improved on looks she had never known he'd had.
Somehow he'd become tan—well, tanner, since she doubted his skin could ever darken enough to be considered tan. He must have outgrown the look he used to wear while they were in school because now his hair hung loose and long. In a scary way, he took after his father, and at first that was an unappealing thought to Ginny, but she gave him another look-over and decided, Hot damn! This is a man.
The thin, stressed out boy from Hogwarts was gone. In his place stood a lean but well-muscled man. And Ginny knew he was well-muscled because he wasn't wearing anything over his boxer shorts except a bathrobe, which he thoughtfully let hang open. For Ginny's benefit, she was sure.
"Hello? Can I help you?" he repeated when Ginny's speechlessness continued for an embarrassing length of time.
"I... Oh, hi! We're neighbors," she said, distinctly aware of how idiotic she sounded.
"And?" He crossed his arms over his chest. Ginny was aware of a vague disappointment at the gesture.
"And I just wanted to say hello," she replied, annoyed that she had to explain herself for doing something not uncommon in these sorts of situations.
"Draco, darling, who is at the door?" a female voice asked from inside the flat. A moment later, a woman appeared behind Malfoy's shoulder with the delicate look of someone from a high-class family. She was dressed in dress robes, though some made of a light material for summer, and Ginny didn't know whether to be amused by her beach wardrobe or disgusted.
She went with disgusted, but not only was her disgust aimed at this dainty flower, who looked like she wouldn't know how to have a good time at the beach even if a beach ball hit her on the head—no, Ginny was also disgusted at herself. This was Draco Malfoy, for Merlin's sake! He was not someone she needed to be drooling over, no matter how toned his abs were, or how good his hair looked, or how deliciously his eyes smoldered with superiority. He was a Malfoy, and apparently he had a girlfriend.
"Oh! Isn't that that Weasley girl?" the woman said without waiting for Malfoy to answer her first question. "You remember her, don't you, Draco? She had a brother in your year, if I recall."
Malfoy's eyes narrowed at Ginny. "Yes... it does look something like her, doesn't it? You can tell if it's a Weasley—"
"By the hair?"
Malfoy scowled at being interrupted. "No, Astoria. By the smell of poverty that follows them everywhere."
Ginny frowned, her annoyance turning into outright anger. "Yes, okay? I'm Ginny Weasley! I'll be living next door for the summer! I just wanted to introduce myself. Have a nice day."
She spun on her heel and retreated as fast as she could, but before she made it the five steps to her own door, she heard Astoria say, "You're right! She does smell like poverty," before Malfoy managed to close his door.
Unless Malfoy had kept the door open just long enough for Ginny to hear it, that is.
The next day, Ginny decided to make use of the fine weather and the glorious view to sit on the beach and try to get some writing done. Her mum had been Floo calling all morning, her face tear-streaked at first as she beseeched Ginny to come home, but as Ginny continued to refuse, Mrs. Weasley's tears disappeared while she scolded her daughter for leaving two days earlier than she had intended.
But Ginny knew exactly what would have happened had she moved out Monday morning instead of Saturday. Not only would Mrs. Weasley have accompanied her on the move, she would have tried to convince Ginny to stay at home the whole time.
"Look, Mum," Ginny had said to her mother an hour after her head had appeared in the fireplace that morning. "I have got to finish this book by September. I've been working on it for a year, and I haven't made any progress! I need to get away from my distractions and get it done or I'll lose this contract."
"Is that all I am to you?" Mrs. Weasley had cried, more tears filling her eyes. "A distraction?"
"To be quite honest, yes. You and Harry and the kids running around as if the house were a playground, and George's joke products going off every other second, and the chickens in the yard, and day after day after day of the same thing. Everyone else has moved out of the house, but I'm twenty-three years old and I'm still there. Just give me three months to finish my book!"
And with that, she had ended the call for Mrs. Weasley. After her stressful morning, nothing sounded better than sitting on the beach while she tried to finish her first chapter.
Unfortunately, she had not been alone in this idea.
She had no sooner sat down after setting up her chair and umbrella than Malfoy and his girlfriend showed up. Ginny heard them before she saw them, causing her whole body to tense. Clutching her parchment and quill to her chest, Ginny looked around, and there they were walking up behind her, Astoria wearing a sarong over her bikini and a wide-brimmed hat, Malfoy wearing nothing but a pair of swim trunks.
"Draco, I'll freckle!"
"Why did you want to holiday at the beach if you planned to coop yourself up inside the flat all summer?" Malfoy asked, the irritation clear in his voice.
"Because that's what people do in the summer! They go to the beach! My skin is going to ruin!" There was a childish whine in Astoria's voice, as if she were close to tears. Ginny snickered to herself and, unfortunately, was heard.
Sunlight hit Ginny as her umbrella was snatched away. "Look what we have here," Malfoy said.
"What? What is it?" Astoria asked.
Malfoy's scowl deepened as he gestured towards Ginny in her chair. "A weasel, it would seem."
"Very original," Ginny said with a roll of her eyes. "Like I've never heard that one before."
"You know what else you've never heard of?" Astoria asked with a nasty sneer. "A swimsuit."
Ginny glanced down at her cotton pants and tank top, and then said sarcastically, "No, please stop. You're hurting my feelings."
Clearly misunderstanding Ginny's sarcasm, Astoria had a smug look on her face as she continued. "I mean, who goes to the beach and doesn't wear a swimsuit?"
"Can I have my umbrella back, please?" Ginny asked Malfoy, completely ignoring his dull girlfriend.
"What's the magic word?" he replied with a smirk.
The umbrella flew into Ginny's outstretched arms, and grabbing her chair and dragging it along behind her, she marched off the beach and back to her flat.
"Coming, coming!" Ginny called as she rushed from the bathroom wrapped in nothing but a towel. Someone had been knocking for nearly ten minutes, and she had thought that whoever it was would have left if no one answered. Obviously, she had been wrong, so she jumped out of the shower, tucked a towel around her body, and raced to the door. "I SAID I'M COMING!"
She yanked the door open with one hand, while the other clutched the towel to her chest, and what a sight she was for Draco Malfoy, who stood at the door with a shocked look on his face. Clearly he had not imagined her answering the door mostly nude.
"WHAT? WHAT? What do you bloody want!"
Malfoy gulped, and if Ginny hadn't been so irritated at that moment, she would have been ogling him the same way he ogled her. Where did he shop for Muggle clothes? Malfoy wearing a white T-shirt and swim trunks was probably a new wonder of the world—something beautiful and wonderful that no one ever could have imagined existed unless they witnessed it for themselves. And boy was she glad to witness it.
"You did not interrupt my shower to scold me for my language!"
"I have to admit," he said, "this is a much better look for you than what you were wearing yesterday." The shock of seeing Ginny in a towel seemed to have worn off quite speedily.
Now that the adrenaline of getting to the door in time was running down, regret for her hastiness took its place. She could have taken a few extra moments to put on some clothes—hey, she could have ignored the door all together. A blush stained her cheeks as she looked away from Malfoy's roaming eyes. With one hand, she hitched her towel up a little more in self-conscious embarrassment.
"Your slow girlfriend might not agree with you."
He waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. "Speaking of my girlfriend, you are not her."
"That's great, Malfoy. So what are you doing here?"
"I was just curious as to how you can afford a flat on the beach. The last I heard, your family had to eat your chickens just to survive."
"I'm going to ignore the stupidity of that statement," Ginny said, tightening her grip on her towel as she felt it start to loosen. Her hair dripped down her shoulders, and she was uncomfortably aware of how naked she was—as well as the fact that he seemed to be stalling to keep her standing there in the doorway in all her naked glory for as long as possible. "It's been great chatting with you," she said sarcastically. "But I should really be getting dressed right now."
"Shame. You look better this way."
"And you look better with the door closed," Ginny said, and then promptly slammed the door in his face.
It was a lie, of course. The best way to look at Malfoy was with the door open and his shirt off.
"How's the writing going?"
Ginny groaned at the head floating in the fire. "It's not. I can't concentrate any more here than I could back home."
"What is the book about?"
Ginny dropped to her knees in front of the fireplace, all animation now. "It's fantastic! It's about this Muggle named Maggie, who meets a wizard and falls in love with him, but they go through some trials because his parents don't approve, but she falls more and more in love with him as he shows her more of the wizarding world. Oh, it's great, Luna!"
"That sounds wonderful!"
"I've already figured out the synopsis too! Here, listen to this." Ginny cleared her throat and gazed at a far wall as if she were watching the words scroll through the air. "Maggie the Muggle always thought she would live an average, mundane life, but when she meets—I haven't thought of his name yet—a wizard from London, her world gets turned upside down."
"I'm sure it will be a great book," Luna said, "but I think you need more than a synopsis."
Ginny's enthusiasm collapsed as her bubble busted and reality seeped back in. "I know. I'm distracted. I came here to get away from my distractions and I just found some more."
"What's distracting you?"
Cringing, Ginny recalled all the uncomfortable moments she had shared with Malfoy after her hasty wardrobe choice when he knocked on her door two weeks ago. He had made every effort to remind her of how awkward that had been for her, while also insulting her hair, family, and lack of wealth. Same unoriginal material he always used, though it irritated her more now than it used to at school. Couldn't he find anything new to insult her about? Honestly, his normal routine was getting old. However, she noticed a different tone to his insults now that he'd seen her dripping wet and wrapped in a towel. She couldn't quite name exactly what had changed, but it made her skin tingle in familiar ways, which irritated her more than the lame insults.
"How well do you know your neighbors?" she asked Luna's head.
"Hardly at all," Luna replied. "Most of the other flats are rented out, so there are always people going in and out every season. Are you having problems with the neighbors?"
"You could say that," Ginny dodged, looking away from the fireplace.
"What exactly has been going on?" Luna looked sincerely concerned, which was kind of funny considering how much of Ginny's turmoil was self-inflicted.
Before she could answer, the doorbell rang, and Ginny knew it could only be one person—a person who was persistent enough to stick around until she answered the door.
"Excuse me for just a moment," Ginny said, grimacing.
She pulled open the door, mindful of the fact that the position of the fireplace allowed Luna to see who had come to call, but she was unable to do anything about that. Like a dream, Malfoy stood on the front step, shirtless and wearing sunglasses, his hair framing his face, his skin glowing with sunlight.
"What is it this time?" she asked with a long-suffering sigh.
"Astoria and I will be down on the beach for most of the afternoon. We would appreciate it if you didn't ruin our day by making an appearance." His smirky smile was so annoying, so infuriating, so, so—so attractive—that Ginny wanted to jump him and wipe it off his face. Any way that she could.
"REALLY, Malfoy? That's what you wanted to say? How old are you? Aren't you supposed to be an adult?" She slammed the door in his face (not for the first time since the shower-towel-door debacle), and stormed back to the living room, so angry and irritated that she forgot Luna's head sitting nonchalantly in the fireplace.
"Who does he think he is?" she cried. "Telling me where I can go and what I can do and trying to make it sound like I'm doing him a favor! I'm not a piece of furniture his little girlfriend can move around as she pleases!"
"I see what's been distracting you," Luna commented, a blithe smile on her face. "And I thought it might have been Wrackspurts. I've never been more glad to be wrong."
"Oh, Luna, you don't even understand. He gets under my skin. Sometimes it feels like needles, like someone is pushing needles up under there and leaving them there to sting and bother, and other times it—other times..."
"And other times you like the needles."
Ginny's head whipped around, an outraged denial on the tip of her tongue, but it was true. It was so true, and she hated that there was any truth to what Luna said. Hated it like she hated the lame insults, and Malfoy's glorious physique, and his smirk. Hated it like she hated the daydreams of seeing him dripping with seawater or of being wrapped in his arms.
"He gets to you," Luna continued.
"Yes. He does. And I can't write a thing about Maggie's romance when my own is devastatingly non-existent. He reminds me of that every time I see him."
"Oh, no. He still thinks Harry and I are together or something. I just mean seeing him reminds me of how alone I am—have been for years."
"Well, I think you should show him that."
"Show him what?" Ginny asked, puzzled.
"Show him that you're not there for him to tease like it's no big deal. You should tease him."
The words sparked an idea in Ginny's head, and it was so delicious, so terribly delicious, that she just had to go through with it.
"You're right, Luna. Thank you. I know just what to do."
Heads turned as Ginny spread a towel down on the sand. Why wouldn't they? This area was full of families and retired couples. It was a bit of a rare sight to see young people on this beach, especially a young woman, like Ginny, alone. That didn't bother her, since she was taking a break from her work for one thing and one thing alone.
To get under Draco Malfoy's skin.
"What are you doing?" Maybe Ginny's ears deceived her but Malfoy sounded a bit shocked. She gave him a smirk of her own as she laid down on the towel.
"It would appear that I am sunbathing."
"Yes, I see that. I thought I told you—"
"Unfortunately for you, Malfoy, you do not own this beach, nor do you own me, so you can't tell me when I can sunbathe and when I can't. If you're going to stand around uselessly, you might as well take three more steps to your left. I forgot to bring my umbrella."
She didn't have to open her eyes to know that he was gaping at her. She also didn't need to look at herself to know that she looked miraculous. She'd bought the bikini she was wearing two summers ago, for a trip she and Harry had planned to take together. They'd broken up before their plans could come to fruition, so Harry had gone to the Bahamas without her and Ginny had buried the swimsuit somewhere amongst her clothes. This, she thought, was a much better use for it.
Her skin was covered in freckles, but unlike Malfoy's, it tanned. Her hair, usually an uninteresting, dark red, glittered when cast in sunlight. She looked like she was made for the beach, and, even though she preferred to be covered in Quidditch pads and robes, a bikini suited her.
Long moments passed and Malfoy didn't say another word. Ginny, blocking the sun with her hand, opened her eyes and found that he had gone. She looked around but couldn't spot him or Astoria anywhere.
She closed her eyes again and groaned, her heart falling for a reason she wished wasn't true.
Ginny stared at the piece of parchment she had chosen to become her book. It was as blank as her love life, unfortunately, and equally as unsatisfying. She had left the Burrow for the summer to write her book, but here she was, a month in, and nothing to show for it. Nothing but her own frustration. The book wasn't the only reason she had left the Burrow. There was so much pressure there for her to settle down, like her brothers, and to get a good job, not just a free-lance writing job. Her mum had five grandchildren already, but she wanted more, and obviously Ginny wasn't doing her part in the family since she was sitting at home, single and working part-time.
She took a sip of her wine and closed her eyes, trying to imagine what Maggie's wizardly hero would look like and only managing to picture platinum blond hair, devilish eyes as gray and turbulent as the sea during a storm, pale skin, and a smirk that was at once vexing and captivating. She tried to plan out how Maggie's love would unfold, but all she could think of were needles poking, poking, poking.
The bikini had been a stupid idea, and now she felt like an idiot for it.
"Come on, Maggie," Ginny mumbled. "Get out of the Muggle world already."
Picking up her glass, Ginny wobbled to the foyer and fiddled with the locks on the door. It took a bit of effort, but once the door was open, she finally felt like she could breathe. The warm air seemed to invite her down to the beach, and she gladly followed it's enticing whistle. Her steps were unsteady in the sand, but she turned them into a dance, creating music from the sounds of the wind and the sea and her feet shuffling in the sand. She twirled in circles until she felt dizzy, and when she tried to take a sip of her wine again, she realized she had twirled it all out of the glass. Two glasses of wine ago she would have been annoyed. Now she just giggled.
"Looks like someone's having a good time," a voice said in the darkness.
Ginny giggled again. "Mm-hm."
A hand grabbed her shoulder, and the world tilted wildly now that it was spinning without her. Another hand steadied her at the waist while the first hand slid down her arm to her wrist. The touch brought goosebumps to her skin, and even though the night was warm, she felt chilly.
"Oh, ha ha ha. My eyes aren't open. No wonder it's so dark," Ginny said, opening her eyes only to see white sand and white skin and white hair. But gray eyes.
"Have you had enough?"
"Never. Never ever never never. If... if... Maggie were here, she would take this oppor-opporchunity to..."
"Ack-chuly, I don't know. I haven't thought that far. Who does that? Who decides to write a book, leaves... leaves home so she can write it, and then... and then has no idea what to write? Who does that, Malfroy?"
"Apparently you do."
"Yes," Ginny said, as if the idea was just now dawning on her. "Yes, I do that."
Her head dropped onto his shoulder, but only because it felt so heavy, with wine and with Maggie, that she couldn't hold it up any longer. She turned her wrist so that he could grip her hand, and then swayed back and forth because she liked the way the sand felt over her bare feet. The hand that gripped her waist tightened.
"No terrible insults?" she asked.
"Not tonight," he said.
"I think I'm gonna throw up."
And then a moment later, she did.
Ginny woke up to the sound of someone pounding on her front door. She jumped up from the sofa, her head throbbing in time to the door, and raced to the foyer.
Astoria stood on the other side, irate and beautiful in her stuffy dress robes.
"Where is he?" she demanded.
Ginny, who continued to feel like a giant was being housed in the tiny cage of her brain, could not answer and clutched her head in agony.
"Where is he!" Astoria screamed again.
"I'm here, I'm here," another voice said from behind Ginny.
She twirled around only to find Malfoy standing in her hall, shirtless and disheveled and delicious and—what the hell? What was he doing here?
"Who do you think you are, Draco Malfoy?" Astoria hissed, wielding her pointer finger like a deadly weapon. "Who are you to leave me and spend the night with-this-this-strumpet!"
"Just go home, Astoria," Draco said.
"Do you expect me to just take this!"
"Yes. Now, go home. And when I say home, I don't mean my flat. Get your things and go back to your parents."
Astoria gaped, and then tears filled her eyes. "Draco?"
He gently shoved her through the door and closed it behind her.
"Harsh," Ginny muttered.
Draco shrugged. "She was getting annoying anyway. How's your head?"
"Feels like someone crammed two trolls through my eye sockets and now they're thumb wrestling. Mind explaining what you're doing here?"
"Yes, I think I do."
"What. I'm a little too hungover to have this conversation. Could we do it another time?"
"Sure thing. Mind if I hide out in your living room until Astoria leaves?"
Ginny waved her hand. "Where did your shirt go?" She narrowed her eyes and patted down her body. "Is my chastity in tact?"
"No worries, Weasley. You threw up on me, so I had to burn my shirt. And your chastity is in the same state it was in before you decided to drink. Your dignity, however? That's questionable."
"Ooh, good one," she said, as she headed towards the kitchen. "Keep that up and we can build you a whole new arsenal of insults."
"If that would make you happy."
Ginny paused and turned in the doorway, eying the half-naked man leaning against the wall so nonchalantly it was like he had always been there.
"You know, I think it would."
Author's Note: I know it doesn't seem like this story is over, but this is where it ends for now. I should have rewritten it to give it a more conclusive ending before posting it, but I never got around to it, and I hated not having it archived somewhere. So here it is. That's all. Maybe, if the mood strikes, I'll add an additional chapter later on, but that is no guarantee that I ever will. Thanks for reading. I hope you got something out of the story even if it's ending doesn't really stick the way it should.
Rowan's Prompt (2)
Basic Premise: Life circumstances have thrown Draco and Ginny together - be it because of work, living arrangements, social circles or what have you - they're frequently in each other's company - and they irritate the hell out of each other. These people must genuinely dislike each other, but in the end this fic should reflect the lyrics from the song You've really got a hold on me: "I don't like you, but I love you, seems like I'm always thinking of you...you've really got a hold of me." The song and lyrics must not appear in the fic in any way shape or form.
Must haves: Plenty of good old D/G banter and wit. Draco must be a complete and total ** who goes out of his way to show Ginny just how little he thinks of her. Ginny must become painfully aware of every detail of Draco's hotness - I'm talking about his hair, his abs, his lips, the rare shade of his eyes, etc.
No-no's: A non-** Draco. Harry/Ginny. Characters under the age of 18.
Rating range: Any.
Bonus points: Humor. Unusual side pairings, particularly if they feature a strapping young Weasley brother. If Draco is involved with someone else. If a barefoot slow dance acts as a secret pivot and heralds change for one of the characters - if you write this scene well and keep your sap in check, you'll have in me a fan for life.