Ginny looked at her reflection in the full length mirror on the back of her bathroom door. She’d tried to go for classy, but with her figure if she wore anything with a daring neck or hemline she just ended up looking cheap, in her opinion. The dress was one that she’d bought especially for this occasion and was sure to give Pansy Parkinson enough ammunition for the next year. She had a generous amount of cleavage showing from the neckline of the coffee-coloured evening gown. The thin straps showed off her shoulders and the fabric clung to her hips. The slit up the leg, well, she thought she could probably do something about that.

She sighed, reminding herself for perhaps the hundredth time that this was not really a date, but a way to check private homes for ‘misplaced’ artefacts from the war. She didn’t really think Theo would have any, but, then again, Theo was nothing like his late parents. Mr. and Mrs. Nott had definitely been some of the worst of the Death Eater lot.

She had decided that she would accompany Malfoy to this party, and at the same time, conveniently tie up some loose ends from her own life as well. At this point, Ginny felt she would do anything to make the nightmares of the last few weeks go away. She desperately wanted to put the past behind her and thought that using Malfoy was likely the only way that she, as a Weasley, could ever be invited to some of the ‘darker’ wizard’s houses. The fact that he was easy on the eyes in dress robes had nothing whatsoever to do with her decision. It was business. Sort of. Mostly.

Sighing, she grabbed her wand from the nightstand, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth, and tried fervently to remember a tailoring charm. She was about to resort to needle and thread when the wards chimed, signalling a visitor had arrived. She went to the door, wand held absently in her hand, and opened it, unsurprised to find her ‘date’ for the evening.

Draco Malfoy stood resplendent in traditional dress robes, charming smile in place, bouquet of flowers in hand, and looking for all the world like a perfect gentleman. He stepped in to her flat without saying anything.

Ginny raised an eyebrow. “You know, you should talk less. It’s very becoming when you just stand around and look pretty.”

“It’s what I do.” He replied with a disgustingly elegant shrug, before holding out the bouquet for her to take. “These are for you.”

“Right.” She took the flowers from him and before she could leave for the kitchen, he put out a hand to stop her.

“Weasley, those are some impressive wards out there. Are you seriously afraid you’ll be attacked?

“Constant vigilance,” she answered simply.

He snorted, suppressing a slight twitch at the mere allusion to the man who’d transfigured him once.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Right. Well, I’ll go put these in some Draught of Living Death, then.”

He nodded. “Good.”

She left the room, and he took the opportunity to have a look around. It was a modest flat. He’d never been invited before and wasn’t completely certain he’d ever be again.

There were pictures of ginger-haired people everywhere, smiling and waving, a basket of stitching, and a bookshelf stuffed with more books than it could possibly hold. It had both huge tomes and paperbacks, books on the ancient Egyptian wizards, titles on obscure charms and curses, and what looked like a half dozen rather trashy romance novels. He gave her full marks for the literary gamut she apparently ran. There was an overstuffed, flower-patterned sofa, a rocking chair, and a hall tree with bags and coats hung haphazardly on its hooks. A jumble of boots and shoes lay at its base. The flat was what he imagined people called ‘cosy’, but what his mother would have disparaged as ‘untidy’ or ‘cluttered’, which in Narcissa-speak was roughly on par with ‘war zone’, ‘ebolic’, and ‘third world-esque’. He decided not to mention this to his partner.

He turned from the bookshelves when she entered the room, inordinately pleased that she’d placed his floral gift in water rather than killing them, and looked at her properly for the first time that evening.

She looked amazing. The colour of the dress complimented her hair and skin, and she had a flush on her face that he thought was extremely becoming. The slit up the skirt of the garment ought to have been illegal, and he knew that every wizard at the party would be falling over themselves to dance with her. The dress that she was tugging on left just enough to the imagination that he wanted to have a peek at what it did cover. He silently cursed the Auror robes they wore to work every day, now that he knew what was covered by their cursed, voluminous folds.

“You look lovely.”

She rolled her eyes again. “Shut up. Do you know any tailoring charms?”

He eyed her speculatively. “Why do you ask?”

“This dress shows too much leg.”

His gaze moved down to the slice of creamy thigh peeking out from the high slit of the caramel skirt. He knew tailoring charms aplenty, after all, he had spent countless hours in dress shops with his mother when he was younger, but he wasn’t about to share this knowledge and ruin his view tonight. “No,” he lied, smiling. “But you’re wrong. It’s very appealing.”

“It’s trashy,” she complained.

“It’s perfect,” he countered gently.

She met his gaze with a distrustful eye. “Really? It’s okay?” She spun around slowly.

Draco thought he might have heart palpitations right then and there. “Yes, Ginny, you look fine,” he said. Inwardly, he continued. Amazing. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Terrifically shaggable.

Tiny wrinkles appeared on her forehead as Ginny frowned. “I don’t know which I take more offence from, Malfoy. ‘Ginny’ or ‘fine,’” she pouted.

Draco steeled his emotions, reminding himself that this was a marathon, not a sprint. This girl, however, was not making it easy on him at all. He thought that if she pushed her bottom lip out any further he’d have no choice but to—

“Malfoy?” she queried, “Are you ready?”

His attention snapped out of the daydream he’d drifted into momentarily. He took her cloak from her hands and put it around her shoulders, smiling. “I am,” he replied. “Shall we?”

Without waiting for a response from his date, he pulled her closely to his side and Apparated them both to the ball.


Ginny wasn’t angry. It wasn’t that strong of an emotion.

Ginny was dissatisfied. Not by the food, or the music, or even the company. Pansy had thrown a few half-hearted insults her way, and Ginny had parried well, but there was no real heat behind either of the girls’ barbs.

To her surprise, Draco Malfoy had proved to be an excellent companion. He made small talk effortlessly with all of the people they met, introduced her seamlessly, and then made her giggle uncontrollably by making witty comments about the same wizards the moment they turned their back. He danced flawlessly, making her feel graceful, feminine, and weightless. He had impeccable manners, was the consummate gentleman, and, most of all, made her feel comfortable around a group of wizards that she had been sure she wouldn’t fit in with.

She was having a good time. Damn him, he was truly making using him a hard thing to do. She only wanted to come to this party in the first place to find out what war spoils Nott might have stashed away. She saw a few likely pieces, and thought it particularly daring that Theo had put up a suit of armour with what was clearly the Vance family crest emblazoned on the chest. Or perhaps it was clear only to her.

She wanted to think the best of Theo; after his parents had been killed, he had come out of hiding and fought with the Order. Malfoy had vouched for him at the time. She and Theo had even saved each other once, as well. They had never spoken of it since, but it was there. And now, on her way to the loo, Ginny had noticed this suit of armour and couldn’t get it out of her head. Jumbled thoughts of Theo, Malfoy, Parvati, and that wretched Pensieve memory ran rampant through her head. Feeling a bit dizzy, she sat down on a bench in the enormous hallway.

“I wondered where you’d got to.”

His voice pulled her from the mess of her thoughts and she looked up to find Malfoy lounging against the wall, gazing at her.

“Oh. I just needed a rest.”

“From the dancing or the company?”

She gave him a small smile in reply. He sat down beside her on the bench across from the suit of armour. She relented. “I have had a nice time tonight, Malfoy.”

“You say that like you’re surprised.”

“I suppose I shouldn’t be?”

He stood and extended his arm. “Have a last dance then, and I’ll get you home before you turn into a pumpkin.”

She smiled and took his arm. “Alright.”

As they walked down the hallway, he covered her hand in the crook of his arm with his own, and she had to put forth effort to control the giddy feeling that started in her stomach. Yes, she thought to herself. Using Draco Malfoy is going to be a tricky business.


Two weeks after Malfoy had escorted her to the ball at Theodore Nott’s manor, the two partners were sitting in their office catching up on paperwork when their former host popped his head in their office door. “Hello, you two.”

Malfoy stood and welcomed the man into their office. “Nott. What brings you to our little corner of the Ministry?”

The tall, thin man took Ginny’s hand and pressed his lips to the back of her fingers. “Who can stay away from such beauty?”

Ginny smiled at him. Her back to her partner, she didn’t notice Draco clear his throat while glaring at his former housemate.

“Did you stop by for something more than to drool on the back of my partner’s hand, Nott?

Theo looked at him with an amused expression. “Proprietary, aren’t we, Malfoy?”

Before Malfoy could threaten him with bodily harm, Ginny decided to intervene. “Theo, please sit down. What can we do for you?”

Their guest sat down in one of the unoccupied seats between the Aurors’ desks and sighed heavily. “I’m not exactly here on official Ministry business.”

Draco rose and closed the outer door to the office. “Oh? And what can we,” he said, sparing a glance at Ginny, “do for you unofficially?”

“Well, the thing is,” Theo began, looking embarrassed, “a couple of days after the ball, someone broke into the manor.”

Draco frowned. “Someone got through your wards? You’re as paranoid as Weasley here.”

Ginny blushed but refused to look down as Theo continued. “I wouldn’t have even noticed, but the house elves notified me that a suit of armour was missing. They were all a dither about not having enough to clean.”

Draco snorted, and Ginny looked away from a spot on the wall that had been occupying her attention. “What would you like for us to do, Theo?” she asked softly.

“I vaguely remember seeing the piece, but I don’t care if I ever get it back. It’s probably something my parents picked up on their world travels; I don’t really know,” he said, giving Draco a look. “It’s just the fact that someone was in the house. Do you think you could check it out? Unofficially? The paper trail if I went through the proper channels would be a nightmare.”

Ginny looked at her partner. “Yes, Theo. I think we could do that for a friend.”


Later that evening, Draco and Ginny found themselves walking the muddy perimeter of the Nott mansion. Ginny sighed with disgust as her favourite heels squelched down into the black mud.

“You should have worn proper boots,” Draco observed.

“Yes, thanks, Mum. As I wasn’t exactly prepared to do this today, I really can’t be blamed for inappropriate footwear.” She tutted. “I do hope they’re not ruined.”

“No. A good cleaning charm should fix them up.”

“Malfoy, what the hell would you know about cleaning charms?”

“I know that whoever broke into the house should have used one. There.” He pointed to some mud on the grey stone of the outer wall of the house. “Theo’s thief broke in here.”

Ginny looked at him in disbelief. “How could you possibly know that?

He cast a revealing charm on the window. “See? The wards are stronger here, as if they’d been recast recently. The layers of magic on these wards are very well done. This must be a very talented wizard. And he must’ve been small as well, because he left mud from his boots where he had to brace himself against the house to get through the window. It the intruder were tall, he could’ve just swung a leg over, yeah?”

Ginny smirked at him. “Have you been watching Muggle television, Malfoy?”

“No,” he answered, looking horrified, and a bit sheepish.

She smirked unrepentantly in his direction. “Alright, alright. Tell me more about this so-called ‘intruder.’”

“Let’s go inside.” She tried to ignore the fact that she liked it a little too much when he put his hand at her elbow to guide her steps through the mud.

They walked around to the front of the building and entered through the grand front doors. After one elf took their cloaks, another showed them to the window they’d just viewed from the outside.

This time Draco cast a different revealing charm and showed Ginny where the house elves had cleaned the floor in a direct path to the empty spot where the suit of armour had been the last time they were in the hallway, as if the thief’s shoes had made marks the elves had cleaned up. Draco seemed to be lost in thought, staring at the empty space before them.

Ginny peered up at him. “Where did you learn those spells, Malfoy?” Why don’t I know them? I don’t remember them being taught at the Ministry when I was going through Auror training.”

Draco shook his head. “No, they aren’t Ministry approved. But then, this isn’t an official investigation, right?” he replied with a crooked smile.

She cleared her throat impatiently. “Where did you learn them?”

He sighed deeply. “My father was paranoid, Weasley. Very paranoid. He was forever thinking of how to keep from getting caught in his illegal dealings. He developed those charms for his own use,” he said as he sank onto the stone bench.

“Ah. So what do you think happened to it?” she asked, gesturing vaguely to the empty spot in the hallway, before sitting next to him.

“I think that by the levels of trace magic, we can safely assume that he shrank the armour and Disapparated.”

Ginny nodded and stayed silent for a moment.

“What do you think?” he asked.

She shook her head and shrugged. “That seems as likely a scenario as any. Why though? Why Theo? Why only that piece? There’s lots of other, more valuable stuff here.”

He squinted at her briefly. “Why indeed?” He rose and turned to her, holding out a hand to help her up. “Any thoughts on how we could modify the wards to keep the thief out again?”

She accepted his help, stood and he dropped her hand. She frowned. “Well, yes, I know a few tricks. Let’s go find Theo and I’ll show him some things my brother showed me about wards when he was working in Egypt.”

They began walking up the hallway. Draco cleared his throat. “So, Weasley. The Parkinsons’ annual ball is next weekend. Care to attend? I know how you do so love to taunt Pansy.”

She hid a smile. “I don’t know, Malfoy. I’m really used to turning you down when I have a full cup of coffee in front of me.”

He chuckled. “Shall I summon an elf to make it easier for you?”

She smiled at him. “No. But if I accept . . . are you sure that me being seen publicly with you won’t compromise our working relationship? I’d rather like to keep that as it is.”

He stopped walking and spun her to look at him. “Listen. I don’t want to force you into doing anything you don’t want to do. But I also can’t promise that things will stay as they are. If, if you accept my invitation, and you keep accepting my invitations, things will change. It’s inevitable, Weasley.”

She looked up at him, and of all the times she’d ever seen him, this was the first time he’d ever looked vulnerable. She didn’t understand how everything had changed. She’d been fine. Fine. And then he just had to start asking her out. And he had to be charming. And handsome. And kind. Somehow it seemed like it’d be easier for everyone involved if he was still the arse he’d been at school. But he wasn’t, and now he had hold of her arm and was as close to her now as they’d been when they last danced.

All I wanted was for the nightmares to go away. All I wanted to do was to fulfil my promises. Now all I want is for him to kiss me. Oh, this does complicate things, she thought.
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