"Mi dispiace," the portrait apologized, smoothing a hand over his hair. "You do not know the correct words, signiorino, therefore I cannot tell you exactly what you need to know." The brushstrokes of magical moving paint on the canvas had the good intelligence in waiting to look smug until Draco had his back turned. "I would tell you if I could." Paolo threw his hands up in the air in helplessness. "Alas, I cannot."

Draco growled a curse of frustration to the room at large and rounded on the portrait, who didn't flinch, but looked up at Draco with a placid expression. "You seem a bit upset, signiorino. Perhaps you find a bella ragazza and relive some of that tension, si?"

The vein in Draco's neck stood out and his usually pale and emotionless expression looked murderous. "Listen, you," he threatened. "My temper, kerosene, and an open flame does not equal a good time for you."

The Italian put up his hand in protest. "All you have to do is say the proper incantation, and the instructions are yours. Was not my idea," he explained, "but that of the Maestro. Maybe you find the questions? Giordano, he had a journal," he offered.

"I know he had a journal, and I wasn't able to find it. I thought if I had you," he spat, misting the canvas with a fine spray, "that I wouldn't need it."

The portrait wiped a finger underneath his eye and affected a disgusted expression. "Well, you would have a been wrong, no?" he asked, shooting Draco a glare. "It's not my fault that you did not do your research properly. If you had, you'd know that the journal as well as knowing exactly what questions to ask, are essential in getting me to say anything.

Draco glowered at the painting. It had been like this for days. He'd done everything in his arsenal of intimidation to crack the man: threatened turpentine, fire, carpenter ants, and mold, dry rot, and water damage, but nothing would sway the portrait to give up his secret and Draco was at the end of his metaphorical rope, considering bringing the man back to life and hanging him with it.

There was a tapping at the window, and when Draco opened it, a tiny owl flew in, landing on Draco's shoulder as if he belonged there. Draco sneered.

"Get off, you."

The owl hooted happily and stuck out his leg, where a small scroll had been cleverly tied around it, so as not to weight the bird down, or throw off its balance. Draco pursed his lips and walked over to his own owl's cage, turning his shoulder.

"Go on, then," he said gruffly. Glaring at his own bird, Artemis, as the small owl swooped into the cage, Draco scoffed. "Pushover," he said as his eagle owl allowed the smaller bird to snuggle up to him and share his perch. "You've absolutely no pride."

Artemis shot him an unimpressed look.

"Listen, you could live in the barn, you know."

The owl wisely closed his eyes. "Impertinent bird," Draco muttered.

Unrolling the scroll, he read:



By now, you must know that you need what I have as much as I, you.

Interested in a trade?

Get your mind out of the gutter.


Unable to stop himself; he penned a reply:



I've never needed anyone or anything, but wanting what you have is something that I've never denied.

What have you got, Red?




Apparently nothing you need.


Draco stewed for a bit before replying.


Perhaps I could make it worth your while. Come out to the house?




Funny, I didn't see a "please," a "would you", or a "thank you," anywhere in that owl.



Miss Ginevra Weasley

Due to the fact that I think we both know that you have some information that is potentially, mutually beneficial, I humbly request that you please make the journey out to Malfoy Manor at your earliest convenience.

I'm not saying thank you until there's actually something to thank you for.


Mr. Draco Malfoy



See? That wasn't so bad, was it?

Tell me, did you grit your teeth the whole time? Did that vein in your neck stand out? I LOVE it when I get you irritated enough for that to happen. I so wish I had been there.

I could actually hear you growl out the 'Cordially.' It made me perversely happy.

See you for tea, then?



Ginny sent off her owl with the last missive for Draco and smiled. It was intensely satisfying to brass him off. She hugged her thick notebook full of copious notes she'd taken on the greatest potions master of all time, and a slow smile spread over her face. This would be simple.

She knocked sharply on the blatantly imposing door; Ginny pursed her lips and thought, They probably had it built specifically to intimidate. She tossed her hair over her shoulder, and lifted her chin. No edifice in the world is going to bully Ginny Weasley into being afraid.

"It looks like you're winning."

She spun on her heel, surprised to see Draco Malfoy lounging against the massive stone wall of his ancestral home.

"Seriously," he continued. "I think you could stare it down. That's door's always been a coward."

Ginny folded her arms in front of her. "You can't just open the door from the inside? Like normal people?"

"I'm not normal people."

"No," she told herself, quelling the urge to form a snappy comeback. "Too easy. I can't take the first opportunity to come my way," she murmured, following him to the interior of the house. "I have to pace myself," she said quietly.

"Are you talking to yourself?"

She gave him a smug smile. "I'm the best company in the room."

"You're awfully cheeky for a girl who's about to be made very, very rich by the other person in the room."

Ginny rolled her eyes. "The same argument could be made for you."

"Ah, you see? There's the difference." Draco led her into a parlour and seated himself on a chair by the fire, gesturing for her to do the same. "I'm already very, very rich."

"You know, maybe if the whole gigantic prat thing doesn't work out for you, you can go 'round pointing out obvious things to people."

"No, the gigantic prat thing seems to be getting me along just fine, thanks."

"Good for you."

"Yes, Thank you."

"No, I mean it. Good on you."

"Ready to see the portrait?"

"Of course."

He gestured over to an easel that had a cloth draped over it, and Ginny glanced over at him before she realized that he wanted her to go and look for herself. Rising, she held up her hands in protest. "No, no. You stay right where you are. I'll go."

"Good," he said, settling more deeply into his chair. "I just got comfortable."

While Ginny mumbled something that sounded a lot like "imbecilic layabout" under her breath, Draco watched as she crossed the room to unveil the painting. Still has a great arse, he thought.

Ginny whipped off the piece of cloth to reveal the shabby painting underneath. To her surprise, upon closer inspection, the man in the picture was handsome, with a devilish smile and eyes that she really did think she could lose herself in.

"Hello," she said, immediately clearing her throat and embarrassed at how throaty her voice had sounded.

The portrait winked and Ginny couldn't stop the giggle that came out of her mouth.

"You're Paolo Marconi, yes?" she asked.

The portrait grinned at her enigmatically.

"I've studied your notes on Master Giordano for the past year. You're brilliant in your own right."

The painting gave a humble shrug and glanced at Draco.

"Signiore Marconi," Ginny began, as she opened her notebook, "I have some questions to ask you."

Marconi shook his head vehemently and glared pointedly at Draco.

Ginny followed the portrait's gaze and looked at Draco herself. "Is he a mute?" she asked, her expression quizzical.

"Merlin, no. The thing never shuts up." Draco directed his attention to the canvas, and without leaving his chair, he asked, "Oi, you. What's the hold up?"

"Ah, yes," the portrait answered, looking around Ginny to Draco. I cannot speak to anyone but the wizard who bought me. If you could tell the lovely lady that I am so very sorry."

"I will not," Draco said sourly.

Ginny frowned. "If he can't speak to me, I can't get the information for the gold formula out of him."

"I'm right here," Draco said, rising from his recumbent position. "Give me your notes. I'll ask him."

"Think again, Mr. Art Mogul," Ginny said, clutching her notebook to her chest. "This represents a solid year's worth of work, Draco. I'm not going to just give it to you. Not without something in return."

Draco raised a fine blond eyebrow. "How opportunistic of you."

"Yeah, well. When in Malfoy Manor."


Draco stood looking at her, a smile hovering over his lips.

Finally Ginny rolled her eyes. "No, Draco. You're not getting it. Gone are the days when you see something that you want and I just give it to you."

Draco tried valiantly to refrain from pouting. "Then I guess we can't get the gold potion." Or anything else I want, he thought sourly.

"Of course we can. Just give me half the portrait."

"Dream on, Ginny. You drove the price on the bloody painting up four hundred percent. I could have got it for next to nothing if you hadn't been there."

Ginny sighed heavily. "So sell it to me."

Draco nodded and wrote down a number on a piece of parchment, handing it to her.

Ginny smirked at the whole 'negotiation tactic' until she saw the number he'd written. "Are you high, Malfoy? That's more than you paid for the whole thing! The hospital doesn't have that sort of money, and even if they did, I wouldn't allow you to fleece them!"

"Alright, alright," he replied defensively. "I wouldn't be me if I didn't try, you know."

"Yes, I'm aware," she said, handing the parchment back to him. "Why don't you try again?"

Draco grinned. This was part of just what he liked about Ginny Weasley. She never let him get away with anything. She was one of the few that called him out on being, well... him. Passing her the reconfigured amount, he watched her carefully.

She eyed him and sighed. "If that's the best you can do," she said, taking a pouch of coins from her purse. "It is to benefit sick children, you know."

"It's to benefit the hospital that is a multi-million galleon earner. It was in the Prophet last week."

"You're splitting hairs, but whatever," she said handing him the sack.

Draco accepted it and turned to the portrait, gesturing to Ginny. "I present to you Ginevra Weasley. She now owns half of your sorry arse. Speak to your heart's content." Giving Ginny a sour look, he crossed back to his seat, and made a show of settling in comfortably.

"Well, well, well. Ciao, bella," the portrait said smoothly. "Non sei tu bello, Ginevra?"

Ginny giggled and bit her lip, glancing at Draco. "Do you know what he said?"

"No," Draco bristled, having the sudden urge to cut the canvas from the frame and stomp on it. Stupid portrait. Art can call her beautiful and get that sort of response and I get nothing. "I don't," he lied.

"I said you were the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen, cara mia," Paolo said, eying Ginny as if she were something delicious to eat, and he was a starving man.

Draco stood. "He did not!" he said indignantly. "He just said you were pretty."

Ginny turned and fixed her stare on Draco. "The difference is negligible, at this point," she said in clipped tones. Turning back to the portrait, she said, "Thank you. That's so sweet of you to say."

"I only speak truth," Paolo said with a wink, eying Ginny's curves.

"You're full of shite," Draco muttered.

Ginny rounded on him. "I'm sorry. What was that?"

"Him, not you," Draco clarified.

"So he's full of it because he thinks I'm pretty?"

"Beautiful, actually," the portrait interjected.

"You need to shut your gob," Draco growled, pointing a finger at the picture.

"Oh, dear me, yes," Ginny snapped. "Let's insult the girl who stands between you and your next zillion Galleons."

"Well, maybe you could, oh, I don't know," Draco mockingly pontificated, "get on with it."

Ginny sniffed disdainfully, thinking what a waste that such a handsome man was such a berk, and sat down on the floor in front of the portrait, laying the journal open in her lap.

"Partis vestri specialis, sermo volo," she chanted. "Partis vestri specialis, sermo volo, partis vestri specialis, sermo volo."

Draco watched her as her eyes closed involuntarily, and the magic welled up inside her, fairly brimming from her every pore. Her head was thrown back, exposing the alabaster line of her throat, and her hair tumbled in soft garnet waves over her shoulders and down her back. Draco shifted uncomfortably. He didn't remember her being so... sensual.

That was a lie. He remembered. He remembered everything about their brief relationship. And he remembered how she'd ended it. That stung, if he were to be honest. Well, if he were completely honest, it did a lot more than sting; but he'd be damned if he were going to follow his instincts and move to her now, pressing his lips to what he knew was the softly scented skin of her neck, to cradle the back of her head in his hand, taking all that hair in a fist-

Draco blinked. That train of thought was definitely not profitable. Eye on the prize, Malfoy, he told himself sternly.

The portrait laced his fingers together and leaned his chin into them, watching Ginny intently. "If we had met when I was alive, cara, I would have been putty in your hands. Yours to command."

Ginny giggled and leaned in closer to the frame. "Then it's a shame we never met while you were alive, Paolo."

"Yes," Draco intoned from the other side of the room. "Crying shame. Let's have the formula, then, Marconi, shall we?"

The canvas shot Draco a glare and smiled winningly at Ginny. "It is in my frame, Signorina Ginevra." His tone turned husky as he said, "Be gentle with me."

Draco strode across the room and jerked the painting off its stand, sending Ginny scrambling to get out of the way so as not to get stepped on. Marconi spewed a steam of loud Italian profanities from inside his frame, interjected with the occasional indignant wail.

"That," Draco said, "was your boyfriend here disparaging my mother's integrity," Draco said blandly, pointing his wand at the picture to silence it. Draco's hands moved over the back of the canvas and the frame until he found an irregularity in the wood, and popped open the secret compartment.

He grinned at Ginny. "Brilliant. You're brilliant."

She smiled back and stood on her tiptoes, craning her neck to see the tattered piece of parchment Draco removed from the frame and held in his hands. It was a little difficult to make out, some of the words were smudged, and the writing spidery, but it was all there. They had the formula to make gold. To create it. Used judiciously, the hospital would have enough money to treat everyone, indefinitely. She wouldn't have to turn children or their families away anymore. She could make them all well. She beamed up at the man standing next to her.

Draco looked down at her, his expression mirroring hers. "Perfect."

She gave into the impulse for which she would later berate herself and pressed her lips to his; she'd wanted to since she saw him at the auction house, anyway. Their time together in school had been passionate, if short-lived, and Ginny had wondered, off and on, for the past week what the time had done to him. If he were the same now as he'd been then.

His hands gripped her waist, thumbs rubbing small circles on her lower back. She was pliant and soft and warm, pressed brazenly against him, teasing him with her tongue and making him crazy by threading her fingers in his hair. He hadn't realized just how much he'd missed this girl, this woman. Ginny Weasley was smart and gorgeous and clever, and if that weren't enough, her blood was pure. His teeth grazed her lower lip and the soft moan she made in response was almost his undoing.

She gazed up at him, her brown eyes hazy with want, and asked, "Do you want to celebrate, Draco?"

Draco kicked the portrait so that it was face down, its stream of Italian muffled, and swept her into his arms. "Ginny, I can't think of anything I'd like to do more."
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