1. Chapter 1 by GoldenFawkes
2. Chapter 2 by GoldenFawkes
3. Chapter 3 by GoldenFawkes
4. Chapter 4 by GoldenFawkes
5. Chapter 5 by GoldenFawkes
6. Chapter 6 by GoldenFawkes
7. Chapter 7 by GoldenFawkes
He had an important financial report sitting on his desk, waiting to be reviewed, but his mind kept wandering. He stared at the grounds visible from his study windows at the extended curving grassland, rising into lush hills in the distance, and absently reflected on how taking up Blaise’s offer would mean that he would no longer have such scenery to zone out on when he was supposed to be focusing on his work. Not that he couldn’t come back whenever he wanted; the estate would still be his. But he wouldn’t be living there anymore, which meant that he wouldn’t be there very often.
His mind wandered to that day, a month earlier, when Blaise had introduced his idea. He and Pansy had come for dinner and when dessert was served, Blaise had made his announcement.
“I’ve applied for a job at St. Mungo’s and I think I have a very good chance of getting it.”
“Well, that’s exciting, isn’t it, Draco?” Pansy said, looking eagerly at Draco.
“If you like hanging around people who are suffering from dragon pox or werewolf bites then, yes, it’s exciting,” Draco replied.
“Oh come off it,” Blaise rolled his eyes. “I didn’t spend two years in training in order to get a job managing a factory. Not all of us are cut out for business, Draco.”
“To each his own,” Draco said with a shrug, digging his spoon into a piece of chocolate cake.
“I’ll be moving to London,” Blaise said, watching Draco carefully. “And I’ve been thinking… You should move with me.”
Draco looked up in surprise. “Who, me?”
“No, Pansy,” Blaise said sarcastically. “Of course you!”
“I wouldn’t mind moving in with you two,” Pansy said, glancing at Draco with a glint in her eye. Draco ignored her.
“Why would I want to move to London when I’ve got this magnificent estate here in Scotland?” Draco asked casually.
“You’ve got an even more magnificent estate in Wiltshire and you don’t live there,” Blaise pointed out. “So it’s obviously not the estate that’s keeping you here.
“Blaise, you know why I don’t live in Malfoy Manor,” Draco said testily. “Living in London would be even worse.”
“It’s been six years, Draco. Don’t you think that it’s about time that you got over the War and went home?”
“I’m not the one who needs to get over it,” Draco said coldly.
“If you got over it, you wouldn’t care about people pointing at and whispering about you. Draco, London is the center of Britain’s wizarding world and you’re one of the most important businesswizards in Britain. Do you really think that you’re going to be able to avoid it for the rest of your life?”
Draco knew that Blaise was right. Over the last year, when he’d finally taken over full responsibility for his companies and properties, he’d realized that if he wanted to keep them flourishing then he’d have to stop relying on middle-men to take care of business. That meant that he would have to return to England.
“Muggles and mudbloods,” Draco thought darkly. “London’s full of them, and Blaise expects me to live there?”
It was a weak excuse and Draco knew it. If he let his prejudice get in the way of his responsibilities he’d be risking the success of his fortune and when it came to that, Draco knew that he would even suffer muggles and mudbloods.
In any case, Draco was less concerned about having to live amongst such filth than he was worried about how the wizarding world would react to the reappearance of Draco Malfoy. It was one thing for other businesswizards to work with him – they could scarcely avoid it since he had so many businesses and money invested in a fairly large portion of the wizarding business world. Being accepted into the wizarding world socially, however, was a completely different story. People would tolerate him, certainly, but he doubted that they would accept the son of war-criminal Lucius Malfoy, regardless of his Wizengamot pardon.
Maybe it was worth losing money as long as he didn’t have to face all the people who hated him.
Draco narrowed his eyes at this thought and sat up straight in his chair. Who was he fooling? He was a Malfoy; he wouldn’t allow any sappy feelings get in the way of his fortune. What did he need the respect of the wizarding world for anyway?
Draco snatched up a quill, took out a piece of parchment, and began to write:
I give in; if it makes you happy, I’ll come and look at this bloody house in London. I’m through worrying about what people think of me.
Without bothering to read it over, Draco sealed the letter, stood up, gave it to his owl, and told the bird to take it to Blaise.
After the owl disappeared over the green landscape, Draco collapsed into his tall leather chair and poured himself a glass of Firewhiskey Gold.
He was going to get smashed.
“So, how do you like it, Draco?” Blaise sounded very pleased with himself.
They had just finished a tour of a house in Kensington, London, and though Draco was loath to admit it, it was a very nice house, even if it was tiny compared to what he was accustomed to.
“It’s small,” Draco said gruffly.
“Compared to what you’re used to, yes, but when you live in the city you can’t expect to have 20 bedrooms, Draco,” Blaise said, undisturbed by Draco’s tone.
Draco glanced out the front windows. Blaise caught the glance.
“It’s one of the most popular neighborhoods in London; one of the most expensive,” Blaise emphasized the word ‘expensive.’
“Packed full of muggles, I suppose,” Draco said.
“Draco, you’ve got to get over your muggle-phobia,” Blaise frowned. “And anyway, there are a fair number of wizards and witches living in the neighborhood as well.”
Draco wrinkled his nose in distaste. “Mudbloods, the lot of them, I’m sure.”
“Get over it, Malfoy.”
“Alright! Let’s take the bloody place and be over with it!” Draco said disdainfully.
“Thank you; I will!” Blaise said, lips twitching as he turned around and strode over to the real estate wizard who was watching them anxiously from a respectful distance.
“You’re not the only wizards who’re taking a place in Kensington,” the man said, having overheard Draco’s complaint about muggles and mudbloods. “I just closed on a flat for two young witches last week – very pretty ones, I might add,” he said with a grin. “It’s getting to be a very popular neighborhood, Kensington.”
Blaise looked interested. “Really? Are they living nearby?”
“A few blocks,” the man replied, taking out some paperwork and starting on it as he spoke. “Not quite as grand as this block, but a nice area. And they’re not the first ones to be moving over there. It sounded as though they wanted to move closer to some friends. Or maybe it was family; I’m not sure.”
Blaise smirked over at Draco. “Hear that, Drake? A nice neighborhood and lovely witches. Can’t say as much for your Scottish estate, can you?”
Draco shrugged morosely. Blaise, who had managed to stay out of the War, might be able to have a good time with the witches, but he was sure that they wouldn’t look at him twice once they knew who he was.
Ginny Weasley glanced around her new flat with a smile.
“Glad you like it,” Luna said with an answering smile.
“I’m still having a hard time believing it’s true,” Ginny admitted, joining her on the couch. “Ginny Weasley living in Kensington? Doesn’t sound very likely, does it?”
“It does when Ginny Weasley has just received a charming promotion from her already good job. You shouldn’t be so hard on yourself, Ginny; you’ve come a long way since you were poor little Ginny Weasley.”
“You’ve come a long way yourself,” Ginny replied with a grin. “Still not quite down to earth, but you’re sensible enough… What are you staring at?” Ginny asked, following Luna’s gaze to the ceiling.
“I’m trying to visualize what the ceiling would look like painted with a sky pattern,” Luna said, squinting. “Would you mind, Ginny?”
“No, go ahead. It’s your flat too. Won’t the landlord mind you painting his ceiling, though?”
“I asked him whether I could decorate and he said that we could do whatever we wanted with the place as long as we got the rent in on time,” Luna said, taking her eyes off the ceiling and smiling at Ginny.
“Hope he doesn’t come to regret that statement,” Ginny smirked.
“Why would he?” Luna asked, widening her eyes. “My designs are very popular among yuppie wizards and witches.”
“I know Luna; I was just teasing,” Ginny answered with a small laugh. Luna was what some people called a flighty artist: artsy to the point of distraction. But she’d managed to channel that nature into a fairly successful career. “I love your designs as well; you have my permission to do whatever you want with the flat and I’m sure I’ll love whatever you do. Are you thinking a night sky or a day sky for the ceiling?” Ginny asked, glancing back up at it.
“Sunset, I think,” Luna replied. “The purples and pinks have such a sweet calming affect.”
“Have fun,” Ginny said, getting up and walking over to the kitchen to get a drink. “You up for dinner at Lavender’s and Parvati’s tonight?” she called from the adjacent room.
“Oh dear, I’d forgot about that,” Luna sighed. “Can’t they come here or something? I’m so wiped out from moving…”
“We don’t exactly have any food, Luna.”
“Then let’s all go out for dinner somewhere near here. I really don’t want to have to travel right now.”
“I’ll Floo-call them and ask,” Ginny said. “Not that we know any places to eat around here.”
“We’ll find one,” Luna said confidently. “Tell them to meet us here and we’ll find one together. I think I saw a pizza place somewhere.”
“You’re lucky we’ve had our Floo system set up already. You’d better thank me for taking care of it,” Ginny grumbled, coming into the room and walking over to the fireplace.
“No need to thank you twice; I’ll thank you when you tell me Lavender and Parvati are on their way.” Luna smiled as she heard Ginny grunt in reply as she threw some Floo powder into the fire and stuck her red head into the green flames.
“Green’s a good color for her,” Luna thought absently as she watched Ginny with her head in the flames for a good two minutes. Finally, Ginny pulled her head out.
“They said they’ll be here in a half hour,” Ginny informed Luna. “And I’m waiting for a very big ‘thank you.’”
“Thank you Ginny!” Luna said brightly, standing up from the couch and giving her slightly wet kiss on her cheek.
Ginny rolled her eyes and turned around toward her room.
“I’m going to take a quick shower and change,” she called over her shoulder. “You might want to consider doing the same.”
“I’ll go into the shower as soon as you’re out,” Luna said, picking up a book from the coffee table.
40 minutes later, Ginny and Luna were sitting in their living room waiting for their friends to show up and Ginny was getting annoyed.
“They said a half hour,” she grumbled, glancing at her watch.
“They’re Lavender and Parvati, Ginny,” Luna answered, not looking up from her book. “They probably got sidetracked by some people of the male persuasion.”
Ginny snorted derisively.
It was another fifteen minutes before there was finally a knock at the door. Ginny jumped up to open it.
“I am so sorry we’re late!” Lavender gushed, throwing her arms around an irritated Ginny. “How are you honey? We really were planning on being here on time, but you’ll never guess who we bumped into!”
“You’ll really never guess,” Parvati echoed from behind her.
“Some really handsome guy,” Luna’s voice floated from behind her book.
“Two of them, actually!” Lavender said, beaming over at Luna. “But you’ll still never guess who! You two are so lucky to be living in this neighborhood! They just closed on a seriously gorgeous house a few blocks from here. Come on, take a wild guess!”
“I can’t imagine,” Ginny said carelessly. “I’m starving, can we go?”
“Oh, sure!” said Lavender. “I’ll tell you on the way. Where are we going anyway? Maybe we can catch up with them and try to have dinner with them,” she said, grinning mischievously over at Parvati, who responded with an airy giggle.
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Sorry, I’m not in the mood to chase a bunch of guys tonight. I’m starving. Come on Luna, let’s go already.”
“Coming,” Luna said, putting down her book and standing up quickly. “Let’s find that pizza place.”
Ginny locked the door behind them and they all sauntered out onto the street.
“So don’t you girls want to know who we met?” Lavender asked impatiently.
“You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it,” Ginny said indifferently.
That was invitation enough.
“Well,” Lavender said conspiratorially, “we were passing a block of beautiful houses on the way to your flat and I was telling Parvati that whoever lived in those houses must be seriously loaded.”
“Rich as the Queen, she said,” Parvati put in.
“Yeah, well, just as I said it, three men came out of one of the houses and I seriously thought I was seeing things! One of the men I didn’t recognize – he must have been the real estate wizard. But I recognized the other ones, even if I haven’t seen one of them in years.”
“Are you going to tell us who it was?” Ginny asked moodily, her stomach giving a low grumble.
“Patience, Ginny!” Lavender exclaimed. “The first one I recognized pretty quickly because I’ve seen him around a few times. It was Blaise Zabini!” she crowed, looking triumphant.
Ginny looked disdainful.
“Who?” Luna asked?
“Oh for goodness sake,” Lavender said impatiently. “Even Parvati knows who he is!”
“Hey!” Parvati cried, affronted. “What do you mean by ‘even Parvati,’ aye? He was in our year at Hogwarts – of course I know who he is.”
“Your year at Hogwarts?” Luna asked. “What house was he in? He wasn’t in Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, or I’d recognize his name.”
“Slytherin,” Lavender said with a gleam in her eye. “You must have seen him around school; the tall black guy with the incredible cheek bones and hazel eyes? He’s seriously hot.”
“Forgive me for not jumping up and down in excitement, but I don’t really take kindly to Slytherins.” Ginny said as they turned into a Pizza Hut that they’d just come across.
“Oh come on, Ginny,” Parvati said eagerly. “You know Zabini wasn’t a Death Eater. And he’s a medi-wizard, so he can’t be that bad. Anyways, when you see him,” she said with a smirk, “you won’t be so quick to dismiss him.”
“Fat chance,” Ginny mumbled as they went over to the counter to make their order and had to cease all talk of Death Eaters lest a muggle hear them.
When they were finally seated, Lavender leaned forward, eager to continue the conversation.
“And who do you think is moving into that splendid house with him?”
“Draco Malfoy, I presume,” Ginny answered sarcastically.
Lavender and Parvati looked at each other in surprise.
“How’d you know?” Parvati asked, looking disappointed.
“I was joking!” Ginny said, looking alarmed. “You’re not serious, are you? Draco Malfoy? Back in England?”
“And we were the first ones to see him!” Lavender said, looking extremely proud of herself.
“Why are you looking so happy about that?” Ginny scoffed. “Of all Slytherins, he’s the last one I’d be excited to see. Maybe Zabini wasn’t a Death Eater, but we all know for a fact that Malfoy was involved with them.”
“Ginny, he was pardoned by the Wizengamot – you know that,” Parvati said calmly.
“Yeah, yeah, he was underage; under an unhealthy influence; only did what he did out of fear, yada yada yada,” said Ginny. “But that doesn’t change the things he did in his sixth year.”
“But Harry testified for him, Ginny!” exclaimed Lavender. “He said Dumbledore believed that he hadn’t done any real harm and the harm that he did was only because he was threatened and coerced by the Dark Lord – you know that!”
“Yeah, well, I still don’t think any better of him. Any son of Lucius Malfoy couldn’t be anything but evil.”
“It’s been six years since the war ended!” Lavender interrupted. “Can’t we just let bygones be bygones?”
“No,” said Ginny, biting into her crust.
Lavender and Parvati shot annoyed looks at each other.
“Well it’s your loss,” said Lavender. “Those guys are both seriously dreamy and if you want to be a snob about it, you’re the one who’ll lose out. Guess you’ll just have to ignore them at my party.”
Ginny stared at her.
“You invited them to your party?” she exclaimed. “And you actually expect them to come?”
“I’m not going to allow prejudice to get in the way of two really hot guys,” Lavender said, sounded annoyed. “Blaise looked pleased about coming. I’m not sure about Malfoy. He was quiet throughout the conversation.”
“I think I’ll be sick the night of your party,” said Ginny.
Lavender glared at her. “Don’t even think about it, Ginny Weasley! You’re going to let guys get in the way of our friendship? What kind of friend are you?”
Ginny sighed. She wasn’t going to win this round.
“Just don’t expect me to be nice to them,” she said finally.
“That means more for me!” giggled Parvati.
Ginny rolled her eyes.
Anyone recognize any of Austen’s lines?
A few days after Draco and Blaise moved into their new London home, Blaise received an owl. He opened the letter and read it. Draco watched as a smile edged onto his face.
“What in Merlin’s name are you so cheerful about?” he finally asked, annoyed.
Blaise looked up with a grin.
“Why shouldn’t I be cheerful? I just started an excellent job, moved into a very handsome house, and you and I have just received an invitation to a party. What’s not to be cheerful about?”
“We’ve what? What party?”
“The party that that Lavender chick invited us to last week. Remember: the one that her good friends, the two witches who just moved into the neighborhood, are going to be attending?”
“There is no way that I’m going to that party, Blaise,” Draco said with a grimace. “You know that. Can’t understand why on earth you’d want to go --”
“To let everyone know that two handsome – and available - young bachelors have moved into the neighborhood; why else?” Blaise smirked.
Draco couldn’t resist a small smirk. “You forgot fabulously rich; handsome and fabulously rich available young bachelors.” Then he frowned. “You’re trying to change the subject, aren’t you? Nice try; now tell me: what’s wrong with you that you want to go to this Gryffindor party?”
“Honestly? When that Lavender woman mentioned that she had two friends who’d just moved into the neighborhood, I remembered what our real estate wizard said – about two ‘very pretty witches’ who he’d just found a flat for. I don’t think it could hurt to meet the beautiful ladies of the neighborhood, do you?”
“That real estate wizard was an old codger, Blaise. He’d probably think that Pansy was pretty.”
Blaise snorted back a laugh. “Now that’s not a very nice way to talk about a friend, Draco.”
“Who ever said I was nice?”
“In any case, I’m not going to this party, pretty witches or not. I’m not interested in being pointed at and whispered about, thank you very much.”
“Yeah, pointed at and whispered about, Draco. And if you’re lucky, some of your admirers might even talk to you. You’ll be the envy of every guy there,” Blaise grinned.
“That’s not what I meant, Blaise, and you know it,” snapped Draco.
Blaise glared at his friend. “You know what Draco? I am sick and tired of you feeling sorry for yourself and wallowing away your life, hiding from anyone who might criticize you – ”
“ – I’m not hiding! – ”
“ – afraid that someone might call you a Death Eater – ”
“ – I’m not afraid – ”
“Like hell you’re not!” snapped Blaise. “It’s time to get over it, Draco! You’re DRACO MALFOY, for goodness sake! You’re not supposed to worry about what people think!”
“I’m not worried about what people think! I’m worried about the hexes and curses that they’re going to throw at me,” barked Draco. “I may have been officially been declared innocent, Blaise, but that doesn’t mean that people believe it! If Potter’s at the party, he’ll probably try to kill me!”
“Potter, and everyone else, knows the real story now, Draco. He may not like you, but he won’t attack you.”
“The whole story?” Draco said coldly. “And what exactly would that be? They know I tried to kill Dumbledore; they know I let that creature into Hogwarts. Do you think they care what the background story is?”
“They’ve forgiven the man who actually did kill Dumbledore; they’ve even made him a war hero, Draco. After the War, people finally started to realize that you can’t always judge a person by their appearance and they’ve accepted people who they’d never have trusted before. They’ve accepted me! Yes,” Blaise said, holding up his hands to halt Draco’s protests, “I know that I’m in a different situation than you since I never actually became a Death Eater. Still, I was a racist bigot back at Hogwarts, but they’ve accepted me because they know I’ve changed. I know it will be harder for you than it was for me, but the fact is, you’ve changed too, and eventually people will recognize that. But only if you let them.”
“How do you know that I’ve changed?” Draco asked, looking at Blaise unblinkingly.
Draco was aware that the question was eerily close to the one that he’d asked Dumbledore so many years before. “How do you know I’m not a killer?”
“Why are you so convinced that you’re a bad person, Draco?” Blaise asked quietly, interrupting his thoughts. “You’re not the same person you were when you took the Dark Mark; you couldn’t be the same person after everything that has happened since that day. And you know that you’re not.”
Wordlessly, Draco turned away from Blaise and folded his arms. Blaise was right; he had changed since he’d eagerly allowed the Dark Lord to brand him nine years ago.
With his back still turned Draco said, “All right, I admit that in essence, I have changed. But I haven’t in persona. I’m not a Death Eater at heart, but I am still a Slytherin. That’s not going to change, and as long as it doesn’t change, people won’t believe that I’ve changed.”
“Then make your comeback in the wizarding world as a Slytherin, and the hell with what people say about you. You never used to care what they thought of you before! Why let it stop you now?”
Draco stared at Blaise for a good long minute. Then he narrowed his eyes and hardened his jaw and said, “As much as I hate to admit it, you’re right, Blaise. I shouldn’t give a damn what people say to or think about me. I’ll go to this… party,” he spat, “even if it kills me, because I’m not going to allow the wagging tongues of a bunch of pathetic Gryffindors dictate my life.”
“That’s my boy!” Blaise beamed, slapping Draco on the back.
Ginny Weasley was busy at her desk finishing up some paperwork before it was time to leave for the day when a graying head poked through her office doorway.
“Ms. Weasley? Mister Ragnok would like to see you in his office before you leave,” the middle aged woman said.
Ginny nodded without looking up to show that she’d heard the message. She finished up her paperwork, straightened up her desk, grabbed her cloak and purse, and made her way to her boss’s office down the hall. The door was open.
“Come right in, Ms. Weasley,” said a cracking voice. “Take a seat, this won’t be long.”
Ginny sat down and looked at the Goblin behind the desk expectantly.
“Ms. Weasley,” he began, “you’ve been working in your new position as Gringotts of Diagon Alley’s most senior banking consultant for a month now and I’m glad to say that your performance has been everything that I expected.”
“Thank you, sir,” Ginny said, pleased.
“However,” the goblin continued, “you have not yet had the opportunity to perform the most important duty of a senior banking consultant, namely, working with our most valuable clients. I wanted you to first get settled in to your other duties before I had you start on this one. Besides,” he said, almost as an afterthought, “we haven’t had any new valuable clients in all the time since you took over your position. In any case, I called you here to inform you that I expect you to take over that particular duty starting tomorrow.”
“Of course, sir,” Ginny said with a smile. Working with clients was Ginny’s forte, and Gringotts knew it. It was why she’d received two huge promotions since she’d first been employed at the bank four years earlier.
“Of course, as of now, I have no idea when the next one of our top clients might come to the bank,” Ragnok said with a grunt, “but I wanted you to know that I’m sending out a memo that will say that all clients dealing in a million galleons or more are to be sent to you. You might not see such a client for months, for all I know, but I want you to be prepared. It is your responsibility to do everything possible to get them to open accounts with Gringotts. I’m sure that you’ll do admirably, as you have done in the past with our lower profile clients.”
“I look forward to it sir.”
“Very good. That’s all, Ms. Weasley. Good evening.”
“Good evening, sir.”
Ginny got up and left the office. As she walked into Gringotts’ entrance hall and out the front door, she swung her purse happily. She loved her job.
“Hey, Ginny!” a voice called from behind her. She spun around and came face to face with her brother and his two closest friends.
“Hey Ron!” she grinned as he hugged her. “Harry, Hermione,” she said over his shoulder “ – how are you all doing?”
“Great, Ginny!” Hermione said enthusiastically. “I heard you got a promotion; congratulations!”
“Thanks,” Ginny answered as Ron released her, smiling more broadly.
“And a new place,” Harry added. “Decided to join the neighborhood, have you? We’ll have to come check it out some time.”
Before Ginny could reply, a voice behind her called, “Yoohoo! Ginny, is that you?”
She glanced over her shoulder and saw Lavender rushing towards her. She’d obviously just finished up at work too.
“Who else?” Ginny asked, knowing full well that Lavender wouldn’t be interested in whether it was her or not once she saw the aurors near her. Sure enough, as soon as Lavender reached them, she threw on a dazzling smile.
“Harry! Ron! How are you? How’s the auror business? And Hermione too? It’s been much too long!”
Harry, Ron, and Hermione greeted her with smiles. Ron’s and Harry’s were a bit more enthusiastic than Hermione’s. Ginny rolled her eyes at Hermione behind Lavender’s back. Hermione shook her head with a sigh.
“So, have you had any exciting cases lately?” Lavender asked, batting her eyelashes.
“Actually we’re not supposed to talk about it,” Hermione said.
“Kind of a, ‘I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you,’ sort of thing,” Harry added. He and Ron started laughing. Lavender tried to laugh along. Ginny looked on in confusion.
“It’s a muggle thing,” Hermione muttered as Lavender continued her conversation with Harry and Ron. “Harry’s getting Ron addicted to the things.”
“What things?” Ginny frowned.
“Movies; they especially like spy thrillers.”
“I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about, Hermione.”
“You’ll have to come over some time so I can show you, I guess. You should come over anyways! It’s been way too long since you’ve visited our flat.”
Ginny smiled weakly. She didn’t really enjoy going over to the flat that Harry, Ron, and Hermione shared. It was a large one but Ginny always felt like there wasn’t quite enough room for her when she was there. And while she and Harry had broken up years ago, they still weren’t quite back to their pre-relationship friendship.
“Yeah, we’ll have to do that sometime,” said Ginny. “Look, I really have to go; I told Luna I’d be back by 5:30. I don’t want her to worry about me.”
“No problem,” Hermione said cheerfully. “Take care of yourself Ginny.”
“Bye,” Ginny called to the others loudly.
“Wait a second, Ginny!” Lavender cried. “Don’t forget about my party Saturday night; I’m calling it for 8pm. Tell Luna, alright? And you guys have to come to!” she trilled at Harry and Ron.
Ginny still didn’t think that she’d be going to a party that Draco Malfoy might be attending but she definitely did not want to talk about it in front of her brother and his friends who were looking annoyingly interested.
“Uh, sure Lavender. I’ll see you then.” And with a quick wave, Ginny turned away from the group and began to make her way to the apparition port.
With a sigh of relief at having avoided promising Lavender that she’d attend the party, Ginny walked up to the port, went through security, and apparated home.
“Luna? I’m back!” she called into the apartment.
“Hello,” Luna’s voice was coming from above her. Ginny looked up. Luna was standing on a ladder, painting the ceiling. Ginny grinned.
“Having fun, Luna?”
“Oh yes,” Luna answered, not looking down from her painting.
“I have a message from Lavender. She said that the party’s Saturday night at 8pm. I’m not planning on going, of course, but you can if you want.”
“Why aren’t you planning on going?” Luna asked vaguely.
“Oh gee, I wonder,” Ginny said sarcastically. “Maybe I don’t want to hang out with Slytherins?”
Luna sighed and finally tore her eyes away from her painting. “Ginny, you shouldn’t judge people by their school houses. Even if they were defined by their houses when they were at Hogwarts, so much time has passed that you can hardly expect that people haven’t changed. I say we go, check out the scene, and if we don’t like it, we leave as fast as we came. What do you say?”
Ginny looked at Luna thoughtfully. “Doubt they’ve changed, but I suppose I could go for a few minutes. Like you said, if not, we’ll just leave.”
“That’s the spirit,” Luna said, turning back to the ceiling.
“I wonder what sort of party it’s going to be,” Ginny said as she walked out of the room. “Lavender invited Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and if the Slytherins are there too… It’ll be quite a scene.”
Late Saturday afternoon found Draco Malfoy regretting that he’d agreed to attend the party.
“I cannot believe that you’re going to this thing,” Pansy said from her relaxed position in one of the love seats in the parlor. “
“Why not?” Blaise asked, not looking up from the game of wizard’s chess he was playing with himself. “A party’s a party, right?”
“Well, I think that you’ll need someone to keep the Gryffindors away from you,” Pansy said snootily.
Draco rolled his eyes, “That was a thinly veiled plea for an invitation if I ever heard one.” Not that he was surprised. Pansy always tried to push her way into Blaise’s and Draco’s –mostly Draco’s – lives, as was clear by her appearance at their house that day without any warning.
“Are you saying that you’d rather hang out with Gryffindor girls, Draco?” Pansy raised an eyebrow.
“Did you hear me say that? I don’t need you to protect me; I can take care of myself fine. If you want to come, just say so.”
“I don’t want to come,” Pansy protested. “I’m just offering to help!”
“Eh, just come, Pansy. The more the merrier,” Blaise said absently, concentrating on his game with himself a bit too much for comfort.
“You mean the more Slytherins, the merrier,” Pansy said with a smirk.
“Yeah, that,” Blaise replied.
“Well then, I’d better come. Don’t you think so Draco?” she asked, eyes glinting mischievously. “Won’t I make the party much more fun?”
“Sure, Pansy,” Draco said, fighting the urge to roll his eyes. He liked Pansy a lot better when she treated him like a friend, rather than a potential boyfriend.
“Ha!” Blaise suddenly shouted. “I won!”
“Which one of you?” Draco asked.
“Oh, shut up, Draco. I think we should go get dressed, don’t you?”
“Whatever,” Draco muttered. But he appreciated the excuse to get away from a flirting Pansy so he stood up and strolled out of the room.
“Make sure you look presentable when you come back,” Blaise shouted after him.
“I always look presentable,” Draco called back as he marched up the stairs, down the hall, into his bedroom, and slammed the door behind him.
Despite his claims that he always looked presentable, Draco sneaked a glance into the mirror. He examined his reflection, wondering what people would see when they saw him after all these years.
His gray eyes and white blonde hair were the same as ever. But his facial structure and haircut showed that he wasn’t a young teenager anymore. His face had filled out since Hogwarts; it was less thin and pointed and more squared and muscular. His hair wasn’t as long as it had been back at school. He had what his personal barber had called, “a contemporary version of the Ivy League cut.” His hair was cut to the form of his head, except for in the front where it was a bit longer and softly spiked. He was more filled out as well. He hadn’t grown any taller than the six feet he’d been at 17, but with more time with himself than with friends for so many years, he’d spent a lot of it working out, and it showed.
Draco narrowed his eyes at the image in the mirror and turned away.
“Who cares what people think?” he told himself for what felt like the tenth time that day. “I’m Draco Malfoy; I don’t care what people think.” If he repeated it, maybe it would be true.
He walked over to his closet and pulled out a set of black robes with a cut that would emphasize his height and make him look imposing. He’d look presentable alright.
Lavender and Parvati’s flat in the Forest Hill London neighborhood had a relatively large reception room, which was appropriate – and necessary – considering Lavender’s tendency to throw parties whenever it tickled her fancy. That was pretty often.
Tonight the reception room was fairly crowded. Lavender had charmed the lighting to cast a pinkish glow over the room. The room seemed to be vibrating slightly, a result, no doubt, of the loud music and the voices that were raised to make themselves heard over that music. There was obviously a soundproofing charm on the room because no neighbors had yet come banging on the door to demand that the volume be lowered.
The guests were mostly Gryffindors, though there were a nice number of Ravenclaws and a few Hufflepuffs as well. There were no Slytherins, a fact that Ginny was grateful for.
“They must have decided not to come,” she thought to herself with a sigh of relief.
“What are you looking so relieved about?” Ron called over the sound of the music.
Ginny shrugged, not wanting to mention the missing Slytherins to Ron and the friends who were standing with him. But Luna, not really noticing Ginny’s reluctance, said, “Probably because Malfoy didn’t show up.”
Ginny elbowed her with a sharp look.
Ron and Co. stared at Luna.
“I’m sorry,” called Hermione. “Could you repeat that? The music was too loud and I didn’t hear you.”
“Never mind,” Ginny replied a bit too quickly.
Harry looked at her carefully. “I thought she said that Malfoy no-showed. Why would Malfoy be here? He hasn’t shown his face in years. And the last place that he’d be likely to show it would be at Lavender’s party.”
“Yeah well,” Ginny said, throwing a resentful glare at Luna, “she invited his friend and him to come and they said they would. Never should have believed them; they are Slytherins after all. Not that I’m complaining – luck has favored us tonight by keeping them away.”
“Why would Lavender invite him? And where did she see him in the first place? He hasn’t been spotted in England since the end of the war!” Ron frowned.
“Who’s his friend?” Hermione wanted to know.
“Blaise Zabini,” Luna replied.
“Ah. Well, I suppose that explains it.”
“Explains what, Hermione?” Ron asked.
“Why she invited him; she is Lavender, after all.”
Harry looked confused. “What on earth are you talking about? What’s wrong with Lavender?”
Hermione exchanged an amused glance with Ginny and Luna.
“No one said there was anything wrong with her,” Luna answered. “All Hermione said was that she’s Lavender. By which, I presume, she meant that she’s a girl who can’t resist inviting any handsome men that she happens to meet to her parties.”
Ron looked disgusted. “Handsome? Zabini?”
“And Malfoy,” Luna added.
“And MALFOY?” Ron exclaimed, giving Luna a look that she’d received often at Hogwarts; it was the Luna-is-Loony look.
“Well, that’s what Lavender said, at least” Luna shrugged. “I haven’t seen them lately and can’t offer my opinion on the subject.”
“Why would it matter if they’re…handsome?” Harry asked with a frown. “They’re Slytherins – why would anyone want them at their party?
“You don’t know Lavender very well, do you Harry?” Ginny looked amused.
“Well it’s just as well for him that they didn’t show up,” Ron huffed. “I would have had them arrested if they did.”
“Ron,” Hermione said, looking uncomfortable to be defending the Slytherins. “You can’t arrest them. They were cleared of all charges. Blaise Zabini has been completely accepted and as for Malfoy,” she threw a nervous glance at Harry, “I’m not defending him, really, but you’re the one who testified for him!”
Harry was looking distinctly disgruntled, but he didn’t argue with Hermione.
“He’s also one of the richest businesswizards in Britain,” Hermione continued, “and arresting him could hurt a lot of people – think of all the people he employs! The ministry would not be happy with you if you did something like that.”
Ron gave Hermione a disgusted look. “I’m going to get some more punch,” he said, and he turned on his heel left in a huff.
“It’s spiked, isn’t it?” Luna asked conversationally.
“Yeah,” Harry replied, trading the concerned look on his face for a grin. “Good old Ogden’s Old.”
“Typical,” Ginny muttered, glaring over at the rowdy crowd that was obviously getting tipsier by the minute.
“Want some, Ginny?” Harry asked, grinning even more broadly.
“No thanks – ” she started, but was interrupted by a very loud doorbell chime.
Lavender skipped over to the door and flung it open. She gave a wicked smile to the two men and the woman standing in the doorway. “You’re late!” she said. “Come on in.”
“On second thought, Harry,” Ginny said in a quiet voice, “I think I would like some punch.”
Draco had lost count of the number of times that he’d told himself that he was Draco Malfoy, that he was better than everyone else, that he didn’t care what they said, and would not be intimidated by the simpletons of the universe. The pep-talks had been successful; Draco was now absolutely certain that he would not be able to stand a moment of the party because the participants were completely inferior to him.
Now as he, Blaise, and Pansy walked into the flat, Draco looked around contemptuously. It was not a very classy party, in his opinion. Not a whit of caviar in sight.
Blaise, on the other hand, was smiling broadly at the girl who’d opened the door as he apologized for coming late.
“Sorry – just got caught up in some things, you know how it is…”
“Of course,” the girl, who Draco knew must be the Lavender person Blaise had mentioned, said. “Come on in and help yourselves to some refreshments. I’m running off to get some refills; I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere!” She winked cheekily at Blaise before she turned and rushed away.
“What a flirt,” Pansy sniffed.
“You’re one to talk,” Draco thought to himself.
“Wonder which of these girls are the ones that Lavender told us about,” Blaise said to Draco as they walked into the room and he surveyed the crowd. “Wow; they don’t look too pleased to see us, do they?”
Draco glanced around. The guests were all standing still staring at them with varying degrees of surprise and shock on their faces. His lips curled into a sneer.
“I told you we shouldn’t have come,” he said to Blaise waspishly. His eyes fell on Potter and his friends. “Mark my words - they’ll start throwing hexes at us any moment now.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Blaise answered lightly. “They’re just startled. They’ll get over it.”
Sure enough, after a moment, the crowd hopped to life again, turning away from the new arrivals and back to the party.
Blaise’s eyes were looking at someone with a light of interest. “I’m going to mingle,” he said, and immediately walked in the direction of his gaze.
Draco turned to watch him, resisting a scowl.
“It was his idea to come and he just walks away, leaving me to deal with these freaks by myself,” he muttered.
“I’ll help you,” Pansy said brightly, taking his arm.
“Oh even better,” Draco groaned to himself. But, ever the gentleman, he let her hold onto his arm as they walked over to the side of the room, not far from where Blaise had gone.
Draco looked over at Blaise. He was saying something to a blonde girl with large blue eyes who even Draco had to admit was pretty. He couldn’t hear what Blaise was saying – the music was too loud – but he assumed that he was introducing himself. And flirting. Standing next to the blonde girl was a redheaded girl who was looking at Blaise with a clear expression of distrust.
“That must be a Weasley,” Draco thought to himself. Then he frowned. Weasleys were supposed to be recognizable from their red hair and their old ragged robes, and this woman’s robes were obviously new. Feeling annoyed at this, he shifted his focus to the middle of the room where some couples were dancing. They looked a bit inebriated. Draco looked toward the refreshment table, searching for the alcohol that was obviously affecting these people.
“Punch? Their drink of choice is punch?” he scoffed.
“Very low class,” Pansy sniffed. “Don’t you agree?”
Draco was distracted from answering as he noticed Blaise walking with the blonde girl over to the area where the couples were dancing and starting to dance with her. Draco didn’t blame him; she was pretty. But that didn’t mean that he approved; what if she was a mudblood? Didn’t Blaise care?
“Want to dance?” Pansy interrupted his thoughts.
“No thank you; I’d rather not risk coming into contact with any of these people.”
“We could dance next to Blaise,” she tried to wheedle.
“If you want to dance, go find yourself a different partner,” he said uncaringly. “I don’t feel like it.”
Pansy folded her arms, leaned against the wall, and glared at him. Draco ignored her, so she turned her glare to the dancing couples. This lasted for a minute, then she turned to him and snapped, “Fine! I’ll go do just that!” and she stalked off towards a crowd of guys that Draco didn’t recognize.
When the song ended, Blaise said something to the girl who nodded and headed back toward her friend while Blaise moved his head, looking for something. When his eyes fell on Draco, he grinned and hurried over to him as the music switched to a softer song that finally allowed them to talk in normal voices to be heard.
“Hey!” he greeted him happily.
“Aren’t you going to join the party? Come on – I’ll find you someone to dance with!”
“I most certainly will not,” Draco answered with a sniff. “I am not going to dance with someone I don’t know; at a party like this, they’re bound to be a mudblood or something. Besides, the girl you were dancing with is the only pretty one in the room.”
“She is, isn’t she?” he grinned. “But her friend is really pretty also; I’ll ask her to introduce her to you, alright?”
“Which friend?” Draco asked quickly, as he glanced over to where the blonde girl was standing a few feet away.
“The redhead,” Blaise answered. “Come on; you have to admit that she’s quite good looking.”
Draco looked at her for a moment and then said, “I’ll do nothing of the sort. She’s tolerable, but not nearly pretty enough to tempt me. Why isn’t anyone else dancing with her? I certainly won’t dance with the unwanted leftovers. And anyways,” he added with a sneer. “Isn’t she a Weasley?”
Blaise rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to scold Draco but Draco cut him off before he had a chance.
“You’re wasting your time trying to convince me; I’m not going to budge. In fact, I think I’m going to leave now.”
Blaise glared at him for a moment, and then sighed with a shrug. “Suit yourself, mate. Your loss.”
“Yeah right,” Draco snorted.
Ginny watched Luna dancing with Blaise with narrowed eyes. He seemed like a nice guy, and he was definitely hot, but she wasn’t sure if she trusted him. Luna seemed happy though, and Ginny wasn’t about to ruin her friend’s happiness, so when Luna made her way over to Ginny after the song ended, Ginny fixed a smile on her face.
“So,” she said. “How’d it go?”
Luna smiled happily, but before she had a chance to reply, they heard Blaise’s voice a few feet away from them.
“Hey!” his voice was a bit muffled by the noise in the room but there was a calmer song on now so they could make out what he was saying.
“Aren’t you going to join the party? Come on – I’ll find you someone to dance with!” He was talking to Draco.
Luna smiled. “Isn’t he nice?” she asked Ginny in a low voice.
Ginny shrugged but didn’t answer, waiting to hear Draco’s reply.
“I most certainly will not,” Draco answered. “I am not going to dance with someone I don’t know; at a party like this, they’re bound to be a mudblood or something. Besides, the girl you were dancing with is the only pretty one in the room.”
Luna flushed. Ginny gritted her teeth at the mudblood comment.
“She is, isn’t she?” Blaise answered in a cheerful voice, and Luna turned even more red, though it was hard to tell in the pink lighting. “But her friend is really pretty also,” he continued. “I’ll ask her to introduce her to you, alright?”
Suddenly self conscious, Ginny stared off across the room, pretending that she couldn’t hear a word.
“Which friend?” Draco asked.
“The redhead,” Blaise replied. “Come on; you have to admit that she’s quite good looking.”
“That’s the last thing he’ll ever do,” Ginny thought to herself.
“I’ll do nothing of the sort,” she heard Draco say. “She’s tolerable, but not nearly pretty enough to tempt me. Why isn’t anyone else dancing with her? I certainly won’t dance with the unwanted leftovers. And anyways, isn’t she a Weasley?”
Ginny had heard enough. Her face was burning, not as much with embarrassment as with anger.
“I’m going to get a drink,” she said quickly, before Luna had a chance to say anything. “I might leave afterwards – if you don’t see me, it’s because I’ve gone, so don’t wait for me.” And she marched away from a worried looking Luna.
“What a jerk!” she raged to herself as she reached the refreshment table and took a glass of punch. “Once a Slytherin, always a Slytherin. He may have been declared innocent, but he is still an absolutely revolting creature! I wouldn’t dance with him if he were the last wizard in the world!”
She finished her glass of punch quickly and took another. By the time she was finished with that one, she was feeling very dizzy. She looked around for Lavender to thank her for the party but, not seeing her, she stumbled over to the fireplace and threw some floo powder in. She didn’t feel like splinching tonight and she had no doubt that she would in her semi-drunk, completely-enraged state. She stepped into the fireplace and flooed back to her own flat.
A few more lines were Austen-inspired in this chapter. Can you spot them?
As soon as Ginny got home, she stumbled into her kitchen and found herself a bottle of Alcohol Antidote potion. She took a swig from the bottle and immediately felt her head begin to clear. Knowing that there was a temporary side affect of lightheadedness, she went and lay down on the couch, closing her eyes. As she rested, she thought moodily about how Malfoy certainly hadn’t changed since his days at school.
She drifted off…
Luna’s voice was awfully close to Ginny’s ear. Ginny opened one eye blearily and found Luna leaning over her.
“Are you feeling alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Ginny grunted, rubbing her eyes and then pushing herself up onto her elbows. “How’d the rest of the party go?”
“It was very nice,” Luna said, her eyes going dreamy.
“Really?” Ginny asked in surprise. “You’ve never like Lavender’s parties!”
“Yes, well, this one was a bit different. I’ve never been to one with Blaise Zabini before.”
Ginny looked at Luna carefully. She was examining a couch cushion with a smile.
“So Blaise is a nice guy, is he?”
“Oh, yes. He was so pleasant and gentlemanly… And did you know that he’s a healer? He just got a job working at St. Mungo’s. Isn’t that wonderful?”
“Um, yes… It is.” Ginny continued to watch Luna for another moment then finally said, “Luna, I hate to fling cold water all over this but… Well, he’s a Slytherin, Luna. From what I remember from my days in the Slug Club, he wasn’t the nicest guy.”
Luna turned and looked at Ginny. “Ginny, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions about people. I’m telling you what he was like as I saw him firsthand. Don’t you think that that if he wasn’t a nice person that he wouldn’t bother being nice to me? It’s not like people went out of their way to be nice to me at Hogwarts. He may not have been the most pleasant person at school, but if he wasn’t, then I guess he changed. He has no reason to put up a façade for me. Besides, not all Slytherins are evil, and you know it Ginny. It was Snape’s house and we all thought he was evil, and see how that turned out? There are bound to have been some decent people in his house.”
“Yeah, maybe one…” said Ginny reluctantly. “Lucky him that he managed to find someone like you who’s willing to look past the stereotypes.”
“Don’t you think there should be more like me?” Luna asked with a smile.
“Not unless there’s more than one Slytherin like Blaise, if your description of him turns out to be accurate.”
“You don’t believe me?”
“I didn’t say that. We just don’t know whether he’s just pretending or something. After all, how could a really nice person be friends with Malfoy?”
“Maybe Malfoy isn’t all that bad?” Luna said uncertainly.
Ginny looked at Luna, her face upset.
“What?” Luna asked, taken aback.
“You think Malfoy’s not so bad? Luna, you heard what he said about me tonight! But then, maybe you think he was just being honest when he said that I’m not good enough for someone like him because I’m a Weasley. Not that I’d want to be considered good enough – ”
“Of course I don’t think that, Ginny. You’re right; he wasn’t very nice tonight. And I won’t try and excuse him. But Blaise must have some reason that he’s friends with him and I don’t want to believe that it’s because Blaise isn’t nice.”
Ginny sighed and started to rub her temples. “Luna, I’m sorry. I don’t know Blaise and I have no right to criticize him.”
“Thank you Ginny,” Luna said quietly. “I’m going to bed now. Good night.”
“Yeah, me too,” Ginny said as she got up and started to head for her room. “Good night.”
Draco’s tall form was intimidating in its dark robes as he swept purposefully through Diagon Alley, and he knew it. He held back a smirk as people stepped out of his way with looks of apprehension on their faces. No longer did he have to repeat to himself that Draco Malfoy was better than everyone else. It was thoroughly engraved in his mind and he could honestly say that he didn’t care what people were thinking about him anymore.
He marched up Gringotts’ marble steps, through bronze doors, into the entrance chamber, and through the silver doors that led into the main banking room, not sparing a glance for the Goblins who had opened the doors for him.
Draco strode over to an empty counter where a young goblin was writing something in a ledger and cleared his throat. The goblin looked up and raised an eyebrow at him.
“Can I help you, sir?” the goblin said, looking as though he really couldn’t care less about helping anyone.
“I need to open a new account and transfer money from an old account into it.”
“Under whose name is the old account listed?” the goblin asked, bored.
“Mr. Lucius Malfoy,” answered Draco pointedly.
The goblin sat up straighter. This was a big account they were dealing with.
“Excuse me, sir, but will you be transferring all of the money out of that account?”
“Well, seeing as he’s dead and doesn’t need it anymore, I’d have to say yes,” Draco said impatiently.
“You have his key, sir?”
“Of course I do,” Draco said and, sticking his hand into an inner pocket in his robes, pulled the key out and handed it to the goblin.
The goblin looked at the key and then put it on what looked like a brass scale. After a few seconds, the scale spit out a piece of parchment. The goblin picked up the parchment and read it.
“Sir, I’m afraid that you’ll have to meet with our senior banking consultant for any transactions dealing with the Lucius Malfoy account,” the goblin said, looking up from the piece of parchment.
“Why’s that?” Draco snapped. “You don’t trust me, is that it? I’m Lucius Malfoy’s son; how else do you think I have his key? You think he’d just leave it lying around?”
“No sir, that’s not it,” the goblin said quickly, looking nervous for the first time in his entire banking career. “It’s just that any transactions involving a million galleons or more are dealt with by the senior banking consultant. It’s Gringotts’ policy.”
“Right,” Draco said, annoyed at the bureaucracy but cheered by the fact that it was due to the fact that he was an important client. “Well then, take me to the bloody man, will you?”
“Woman, actually,” the goblin said nervously. “Kenlock will show you the way,” he said, handing Draco’s key and the piece of parchment to a goblin who came forward from behind Draco.
Draco turned and followed Kenlock without bothering to thank the first goblin. He was led through the hall back toward the entrance. The silver entrance doors were on the right; Kenlock turned left towards a set of gold doors guarded by two goblins. He showed the key and the piece of parchment to one of the guards. The guard studied it for a moment, handed it back to Kenlock, and nodded to the other guard. They opened the doors and Draco followed Kenlock through into a long hall with dark wood paneling. Draco noted the gold moldings lining the ceiling and the gold doors leading off from the hallway with a smirk; it was obvious that only the rich were privileged enough to enter this hall.
Kenlock stopped in front of a gold door that had the words, “Senior Banking Consultant” engraved on it, and knocked.
“Come in,” a woman’s voice called out.
Kenlock opened the door and stepped inside, Draco right behind him. When Draco saw who was sitting behind the large mahogany desk, he stopped short.
“Special account to see you, Ms. Weasley,” Kenlock said, placing the key and piece of parchment on her desk.
Ginny looked up from the paperwork she’d been working on and saw Draco Malfoy standing next to her office door frozen with a look of shock on his face. She looked startled for a second, but recovered quickly.
“Won’t you sit down, Mr. Malfoy?” she said in a businesslike tone, standing up and gesturing elegantly to the maroon leather chairs in front of her desk.
Draco shook his head quickly to clear it and walked over to one of the chairs. He sat in it gracefully, determined not to let Weasley out-sophisticate him.
“I admit, Weasley,” he said with a sneer, “I never would have dreamed of finding one of you behind one of Gringotts’ gold doors.”
“I apologize for the shock,” Ginny said courteously, taking her seat again. “I assume that you’re here to open an account, Mr. Malfoy?”
She got right down to business, didn’t she?
“Obviously, Ms. Weasley,” Draco said, feeling slightly uncomfortable about calling her by just her last name when she was being so formal.
“Will the account be in your name or in your family name, Mr. Malfoy?” Weasley asked him as she opened a drawer in her desk and extracted some forms from it.
“My name,” answered Draco. “And I need to transfer the money from the Lucius Malfoy account into the new one.”
“Certainly, Mr. Malfoy,” she said, picking up an eagle-feather quill. She dipped it into a crystal ink-dish and was about to bring it to the form in front of her when she stopped and looked up at him.
“Perhaps it would be best if you filled out this form, Mr. Malfoy. It will be a lot more efficient than having to ask you dozens of questions because I don’t know your information. I can fill it out if you like, but – ”
“No, I’ll do it,” Draco said quickly. He’d finish it faster and be able to get out of this uncomfortable situation.
She slid the form across the desk towards him with manicured hands and handed him the quill. Draco started to fill it out. He ran out of ink and looked up just in time to see her picking up the crystal ink-dish carefully and placing it closer to him. Not bothering to thank her, he dipped the quill into the ink and continued with the form.
It was a long form; it took him ten minutes to fill it out. When he finally finished he laid the quill down and looked up at her. She was sitting with her left elbow resting on the armrest of her chair, her thumb and pointer finger supporting her chin as she gazed out of the large window that made up most of the wall on her right.
“I’ve never seen a window in Gringotts before,” Draco said. She jumped at his voice.
“Oh?” she said sitting up quickly, recovering from the surprise. “Yes, well, only the offices off of the gold hall have them. They’re not real windows, though; there’s no view like that in London,” she said, nodding toward the window.
Draco turned to look out the window and was surprised to see that the scenery outside of the window looked much like the scenery outside of his office in Scotland. It was very green, with mountains in the distance. He raised an eyebrow at it.
“It’s enchanted,” Weasley was saying. “The theory is that having such a view will put visitors into a good mood, which increases the chances that they’ll open an account with us.”
“And only the offices off of this hall have it?” Draco said with a smirk. “Gringotts works hard to please its rich clients, I see.”
The Weasley woman smiled. “But of course, Mr. Malfoy. Speaking of which, can I get you something to drink?” she asked, reaching for a cherry-wood wand resting on her desk.
“I’m already opening an account, Weasley,” Draco said, irritated. “No need to get me drunk.”
“I’m not trying to get you drunk,” she said indignantly. “I was going to offer you some tea or coffee, but if you’re sure that you don’t want me to get you any, I can wrap this up.”
“Get you a drink or wrap this up?” she was, infuriatingly, smiling again.
“Wrap this up, Ms. Weasley. I have more important things to do than sit around here all day.” It wasn’t strictly true; opening a Gringotts account was the one of the more pressing things that he had to take care of.
“Indeed?” Weasley said, still smiling. She reached across the desk and picked up the form, turned it around, and began to study it. While she did, Draco studied her, wondering where a Weasley had picked up classy manners.
“All seems to be in order, Mr. Malfoy,” she said, reaching the bottom of the document. “I’ll have your account up and running with the money from the Lucius Malfoy account in it within the hour. Would you like me to close the Lucius Malfoy account?”
She looked up at him with raised eyebrows.
“There’s no point in keeping it open if there’s nothing in it.”
“I’ll take that as a yes, so I’ll be sure to take care of that as well. Is there anything else I can do for you today, Mr. Malfoy?”
Draco looked at her for a moment, then said, “No, that’s all for today, Ms. Weasley.”
“Very well then,” she said, standing up. She seemed to be hesitating for a split second, and then she stretched her hand out towards him. “It’s been good doing business with you, Mr. Malfoy.”
Draco looked at her hand. Was he supposed to shake a Weasley’s hand? Surely not… But then he’d look like the fool, wouldn’t he? With an inward sigh, Draco shook her hand. “Thank you Ms. Weasley.” Then he stood up and strolled out of the room, missing the grimly narrowed eyes that followed him all the way.
Draco arrived home that evening surprised to find the house was dark.
“Blaise?” he called out from the front hall. There was no answer. Draco frowned to himself. Blaise almost always got home before he did. With a small shrug, he walked to a door leading off from the hall on the left and went into the dining room. The house-elf had lit the lamps in the room and had set two places at the table, leaving a copy of that day’s Daily Prophet near Draco’s chair as he liked it. He picked up the paper as he sat down in his chair and began to read it, ignoring the food that had appeared on his plate as soon as he’d sat down. After a few minutes, he leaned the paper against a bottle of wine sitting in front of his place so that he could read as he ate.
When he finished, Draco took the paper into the drawing room and settled into one of the large black velvet chairs sitting near the lit fireplace. When he’d finished the paper, he glanced at his watch with a frown. Blaise was very late and, much as Draco hated to admit it, he had gotten used to having company and found the silence in the house a bit disconcerting.
“I wonder how Georgiana is doing…” he thought to himself vaguely. “I really should write to her.”
He heard the front door open. He quickly picked the Daily Prophet back up and pretended that he’d been reading it. There was no need for Blaise to know that he’d been sitting around dreaming.
“Hey Draco,” Blaise greeted him, walking into the drawing room. Draco looked up at him with what he hoped was a bored look. He was surprised to see a huge grin on Blaise’s shining face.
“What are you so cheerful about?” Draco asked, raising an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t be so cheerful if I was kept late after work.”
“Oh, I wasn’t kept late at work, Draco. I met a girl on the way home and took her out for a drink. Pretty nice, hey?”
“Fantastic,” Draco said dryly. He was feeling a bit put out that Blaise had been out having fun when he’d been all alone at home. Not that he needed anyone’s company, of course.
“I’m going off to change out of my work clothes,” Blaise said, and he walked out of the room whistling.
Draco watched him go in disgust. Blaise was acting way too cheerful for his taste.
Ginny had also spent the evening alone, though her time had been a bit busier than Draco’s since she didn’t have a house-elf to make dinner for her. She had whipped up a small pot of pasta and was now enjoying a bowl of it on the couch, opening a letter that Ragnok had given to her as she was leaving. He’d already told her that it was an invitation to the Ministry of Magic’s Charity Ball that was coming up in two weeks, informing her that as senior banking consultant, Gringotts wanted her to attend the ball so that she could meet potential rich clients in a more casual setting than at the bank. It was another marketing ploy, he’d explained. Once people knew her well, they would be more comfortable entrusting her, and Gringotts, with their money.
Ginny studied the invitation halfheartedly.
“I won’t know a single person there,” she sighed. “There certainly won’t be any other Weasleys at a Ministry charity ball. And it’s not likely that any of my friends will be there. Well, maybe Harry will be.”
The thought that Harry might be the only person at the ball that she’d know didn’t cheer her up. They’d dated for four years after the war, but over time, they just seemed to grow apart. They were still friendly with each other, but there was always an unsettling feeling in the air when they were together.
Ginny sighed again, feeling lonely. She wondered where Luna was. Her mind wandered back to her meeting with Malfoy that afternoon. He’d been relatively polite and businesslike, but Ginny had found that she couldn’t look at him without cringing inwardly. Oh, how she hated him…
Ginny finished up her dinner and went to clean up. When she was halfway through, she heard Luna come into the kitchen behind her.
“Everything alright, Luna?” she asked, not turning around.
“Yes, yes, everything is fine,” Luna said almost breathlessly. Ginny turned around.
“What’s up with you?”
Luna smiled broadly. “I met Blaise on the way home and he took me out for a drink. Isn’t that sweet?”
Ginny smiled back despite herself. “It’s very sweet Luna.”
“And he was wearing his St. Mungo’s robes…” Luna started dreamily.
“Ugh, those lime-green things? Must have looked awful.”
“Oh, no!” Luna said looking up in surprise. “He looked adorable in them. I told him that I had a pair of shoes the exact same color.”
“What are you trying to do, Luna? Scare the poor fellow away?” Ginny asked with a smirk.
Luna frowned. “Why would that scare him away? He asked if he could see them sometime.”
“A guy who appreciates your fashion sense is just too much to hope for, don’t you think?” Ginny laughed. Luna glared at her. “Just kidding! Hey, guess who came into my office today?” she said, trying to change the subject. “It was Malfoy – you should have seen the shocked look on his face when he saw me in my new office.” Ginny started laughing again.
“Bet he made some crack about how you had to work in a bank because it was the closest you’d get to money. Am I right?”
“No, he just said that he was surprised to see a Weasley behind one of Gringotts’ gold doors. But I was completely businesslike and that forced him to be as well.”
“Ah, you kept him in check, did you?” Luna asked with a small smile. “Did you enjoy it?”
Ginny looked puzzled at the question. “What do you mean ‘enjoy it’? I acted the same way as I act with all my clients. Well, maybe I was a bit more formal than usual. But it was a business meeting; it was no more enjoyable than any other business meetings I’ve had. Less so, if you really want to know.”
“Oh well,” Luna said. “I was hoping you might have enjoyed his company, and then you wouldn’t be so hard on Blaise any more.”
“Enjoyed his company, Luna? You must be joking. To paraphrase what he said at that party, he’s tolerable enough, but not nearly nice enough to tempt me. I can admit full-heartedly that I am not the least tempted to spend any more time in Malfoy’s company than is absolutely necessary.”
Luna sighed at Ginny’s reminder of what Malfoy had said about her at the party. “I’m sorry Ginny. It was a stupid thing for me to say. Of course you didn’t enjoy his company. I guess I just forgot what he’s like for a second because I was so caught up thinking about how nice Blaise was tonight. It wasn’t fair of me. Forgive me?”
“Sure I do,” Ginny answered. “Hey, you want some dinner?”
“Yes, I’m starving. That reminds me, by the way: Blaise asked me to go to dinner with him this weekend.” Her face was lit up.
“That’s wonderful Luna. I’m sure you’ll have a lovely time,” Ginny said with a warm smile, handing Luna a bowl of pasta.
Luna smiled appreciatively and went to sit down with her food, wishing Ginny had someone that she could go out to dinner with.
Ginny leaned back on her bed pillows, flipping through a copy of Witch Weekly. She was examining dress robe designs, trying to decide what style she wanted to wear to the upcoming Ministry ball.
A flash of lightning lit up her room and Ginny glanced up at her bedroom window. It had been raining for hours. Ginny hoped that Luna’s date was indoors.
Thunder growled as Ginny threw the magazine over the side of her bed; there weren’t any robes that interested her in that issue. She picked up another issue from the pile that Lavender had lent to her and began to go through it. Maybe there would be something in this one…
It took three more issues before a set of dress robes caught Ginny’s attention. Ginny folded a corner of the page to mark the place. She’d bring the picture to Madame Maxime and find out whether she had anything like it.
As she closed the magazine and carefully placed it on her bedside table, Ginny heard a tapping noise at her window. She looked up and saw a very wet brown owl standing on the sill.
Ginny got up, went over to the window, and opened it. She grimaced at the water that dripped onto her floor and blankets as the owl flew in and landed on her bed. Ginny untied the letter from the owl’s leg and it flew back out the window. Ginny shook her head at the mess as she shut the window.
Ginny opened up the letter and glanced at the signature at the bottom. She was surprised to see that it was from Luna. Curious, she began to read the letter.
Before I start anything, I just want you to know that I’m fine. I had a little accident and ended up hurting my leg pretty badly when I slipped on the wet pavement. I’m at Blaise’s house now because he insists that as a healer he has to care for me. He said that my leg is broken and I have to spend the night, so I wanted to let you know that I’m not coming home tonight. Don’t worry about me – I’ll be alright.
Ginny blinked at the letter in shock. Luna had broken her leg? How could she possibly be alright?
“I need to go check on her,” Ginny mumbled to herself.
Without giving it a second thought, Ginny grabbed her wand and ran out of her flat, slamming the door behind her and throwing a door-lock spell over her shoulder. She rushed down the stairs of her building and out into the rain and quickly did a combined location and point-me spell that pointed her wand to show her how to get to Blaise’s house.
Ten minutes later found Ginny rapping on the front door of a house that she could see, even in the dark and rain, was not only large, but beautiful as well. After waiting for a minute, the door swung open and Ginny found herself face to face with Draco Malfoy.
He stared at her in surprise. For a half a second, Ginny’s eyes widened, and then went back to normal.
“I’ve come to see how Luna is doing,” she said quickly.
“In the rain?” Malfoy asked, looking her up and down with a raised eyebrow.
Ginny looked down at herself and suddenly realized that she’d run out of the house without a coat and her jeans and blouse were soaked. Her red hair was hanging limply about two inches below her shoulders. She looked back up and lifted her chin high.
“As you can see,” she replied tightly.
Malfoy just continued looking at her. Ginny felt her temper rising.
“Can I see her or should I stay outside in the rain the rest of the night?” she finally asked, aware that she probably should not be talking that way to one of her most important clients, but too out of sorts to care.
Malfoy shrugged and moved aside from the entrance to let her in.
Ginny walked into the entrance hall of the house and followed Malfoy into a drawing room off to the side of the hall.
Blaise and Pansy were in the room. Pansy was sitting curled up on a black velvet sofa, working a charm on her nails. Blaise was sitting on a matching love seat, bent over a large piece of parchment.
Malfoy cleared his throat. Pansy and Blaise looked up. Pansy looked disgusted to see her. Blaise’s looked surprised for a moment, and then smiled tiredly. He stood up quickly to greet her.
“You must be Ginny – Luna told me about you,” he said, coming over to her and reaching out to shake her hand. Ginny shook it gingerly.
“I am. I apologize for intruding on you like this, but I got an owl from Luna saying that she’d hurt her leg and I wanted to check and see how she’s doing.”
“The leg was broken; I’ve healed it but she needs to rest,” Blaise answered. “I’m sure she’ll be glad to see you. If you’ll just follow me, I’ll take you to her.”
Ginny nodded, and allowed Blaise to lead her out of the room.
Pansy’s face still showed her contempt as she watched Ginny leave the room. Draco ignored it and walked over to a large window, leaned against the side of the windowsill and glared out the window. He was disgusted with himself: he’d found his eyes roaming over the Weasley woman back at the door.
Blaise returned to the room and Draco quickly glanced over at him. He was relieved to find that the woman wasn’t with him.
“Is Luna alright?” Pansy asked Blaise in what Draco guessed she considered a kind and considerate tone. “Not asleep, then?”
“No, she’s not asleep yet. She was very happy to see Ginny,” answered Blaise, returning to his seat by the fire.
“Can’t say the same for myself,” Pansy smirked. “Did you see her when she came in? Drenched from head to toe. With her wet hair she looked like an alley cat, slinking in from the rain.”
Blaise looked annoyed. “She rushed out of the house without a coat because she was worried about her friend; I think that’s admirable.”
Pansy sneaked a look over at Draco and said, “Surely you noticed how wild she looked, Draco. I’m certain you wouldn’t want to see Georgiana walking around looking disheveled like that.”
“Certainly not,” answered Draco in a stiff tone.
Pansy looked delighted. “She’s really not a very attractive girl, is she? Well, of course I remember from Hogwarts that you thought she was, Blaise. I don’t know where you get your taste from… Do you remember when we saw her at that party? I overheard some men saying how great she looked. What do you think about that, Draco?”
“She’s as attractive as her brother is civilized,” Draco said dryly.
Pansy burst out laughing.
Blaise shot a glare over at Draco. Draco shrugged a shoulder at him and turned back to the window, trying to push away the thought of how bright the Weasley woman’s eyes had been.
“Luna, are you sure you want to stay here tonight?” Ginny asked with a wrinkled brow. “It wouldn’t take much to floo home.”
“Honestly, Ginny, I don’t know if I could stand up. I’m really starting to feel the effects of that sleeping potion Blaise gave me,” Luna said, her eyes starting to close. “I’ll be fine. I’ll probably come back tomorrow morning.”
Ginny squeezed her hand. “Alright Luna; I just want you to get better and thought you might be more comfortable at home.”
“I’m fine… Ginny,” Luna said, and her breathing turned heavy. She’d fallen asleep.
Ginny sighed and pulled up the covers so that Luna would be warm. She turned to go and then stopped, remembering how contemptuously Malfoy had looked at her before. She took out her wand and did a quick hot-air charm, drying her clothing and hair. When she was done, she opened the door, walked out into the hallway, and closed the door quietly behind her.
As she walked down the staircase back to the entrance hall, she heard Pansy laughing. Ginny bit her cheek; she didn’t want to leave Luna here, and she certainly didn’t want to go into the room where the three Slytherins were sitting, but she had to thank Blaise. So, despite her discomfort, Ginny entered the room.
Blaise jumped up when he saw her. “Is she asleep?” he asked quickly, throwing an angry glance over at Pansy.
“Yes, the sleeping potion just caught up with her. I really want to thank you for taking care of her, Blaise,” she said hesitantly.
“Oh, it’s my pleasure,” he answered with a quick smile. “Let me get you some tea, Ginny. After that walk in the rain, you need it. Come sit near the fire, won’t you?”
Ginny paused, not wanting to stay any longer, but not wanting to be rude either. She reluctantly walked over to the couch and sat in the space next to Pansy.
Blaise took out his wand, conjured a tray of tea and biscuits, and handed a cup to Ginny. She thanked him quietly and began to drink it.
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence in the room. Malfoy walked from the window over to a writing desk, took out a quill and began to write on a piece of parchment. Just as the silence was getting almost unbearable, Pansy broke it.
“So, do you often walk in the rain without a coat, Weasley?” she asked.
Ginny coughed on her tea. She looked up at Pansy, who was surveying her with a look of innocence.
“Of course not,” Ginny answered, annoyed. “I was just in such a rush to see Luna that I forgot about it.”
“That’s a relief,” Malfoy muttered from his seat at the writing desk. “Bloody unhealthy…”
Ginny stared at him. So did Pansy.
“What’s unhealthy?” Pansy asked uncertainly.
“Women walking around in the rain without coats,” Malfoy replied, not looking up from his writing.
Ginny looked at Malfoy in disbelief. Pansy’s mouth dropped open.
“It’s unhealthy for women to walk in the rain without their coats on,” Pansy repeated slowly, as though trying to understand what exactly Malfoy was talking about. “Erm… Just for women? Isn’t it unhealthy for men as well?”
“Who said anything about it being unhealthy for women?” Malfoy said, dipping his quill in ink and starting another line on the parchment. “It’s unhealthy for men to have women walking around in the rain without coats.”
“Draco, you’re not making any sense,” Blaise said with a frown.
Malfoy finally looked up. “I make perfect sense. If women always walked around in the rain without coats, their clothes sticking to them like just a second skin, men around them would have a hard time concentrating on walking straight. I’d say that’s bloody unhealthy, wouldn’t you?” He leered over at Ginny insolently.
Ginny eyes widened. “He is so crude!” she thought to herself in horror.
Pansy looked appalled. She gave Malfoy a look of disgust and, in a move that shocked Ginny, grabbed Ginny’s arm and linked it in her own. Then, glaring over at Malfoy she said, “He is horribly vulgar, isn’t he? How can we punish him?”
Ginny stared at Pansy in astonishment, not understanding why Pansy would turn to her for support. She could only suppose that Pansy must feel desperate for an ally. Ginny smiled to herself. Why not take advantage of the situation?
“Oh, punishing him is simple enough,” Ginny answered easily. “Just find something to laugh at him about and that’ll do it. With an ego like his, I don’t think he could stand it. I’m sure you, as a close friend of his, know plenty of things that we can laugh at him about.” Ginny threw an exaggeratingly sweet smile at Malfoy, who was watching her with folded arms.
As though she suddenly remembered who she was dealing with, Pansy withdrew her arm from Ginny’s and, her eyes on Malfoy, said, “Why would there be plenty of things to laugh at him about? Draco is one of the most perfect men I know,” she said, throwing a wink in his direction.
Malfoy looked like he was restraining himself from rolling his eyes.
“What a pity; I do love a good laugh,” Ginny said lightly, taking a sip of her tea.
“Nobody’s perfect,” Malfoy said, surprising everyone in the room. “But I’ve made certain that I have very few traits for people to mock me about.”
“Such as, say, vanity and pride?” Ginny asked, raising an eyebrow at Malfoy.
Malfoy was quiet for a moment. Ginny was quietly congratulating herself on her ingenuity when he spoke up again.
“It’s true that vanity can be a negative character trait,” he said slowly, studying her face. “But pride – people who are truly superior have every right to be proud.”
“What did I tell you?” Pansy interjected quickly. “There’s nothing about Draco to laugh about; he’s perfect.”
“Clearly,” Ginny answered sarcastically. “He admits it himself.”
“I never said anything of the sort,” Malfoy said irately, glaring at Pansy. “Nobody is perfect and I don’t claim to be. I have faults, but thinking too highly of myself is not one of them. I know that my temper is rather unforgiving, for example. Once someone loses my good opinion, they’ve lost it forever.”
“Well,” Ginny replied slowly, surprised that Malfoy would confess such a thing, “that is a character flaw. I can’t say that I find it very funny, though.”
“I think that everyone has defects in their character,” Malfoy said quietly.
“Yours is to hate everyone,” Ginny said coldly.
Malfoy narrowed his eyes at her. “Yours is to deliberately misunderstand them,” he retorted.
“Shall I get some more tea?” Blaise said loudly, trying to prevent the argument from escalating.
Ginny turned away from Malfoy quickly, biting her lip. She was happy hating Malfoy; she didn’t want the glimpse of humanity he’d shown her by confessing to having faults.
She stood up quickly. “No thank you, Blaise,” she said. “I really need to go; I have to get up early tomorrow to get to work.”
“You can floo home,” Blaise offered, walking over to the mantelpiece over the fireplace and picking up a silver bowl full of floo-powder.
“Thank you,” Ginny said quietly. And without looking back, she took a pinch of floo-powder, threw it into the flames, and flooed home, missing the piercing gray eyes following her every move.
Ginny was having visions of herself as an acrobat as she balanced her purse, briefcase and garment bag while trying to get the front door of her apartment open. When she finally managed to stumble through, she used her foot to shut the door behind her as she dropped her briefcase and purse onto the floor.
“Luna! Are you home?” she called.
“In here,” a voice floated back to her from the living room.
Ginny walked into the living room and found Luna resting on the couch. She had a sketchbook open on her lap but didn’t seem to notice, so engrossed was she in studying the sky-patterned ceiling.
“Thinking about Blaise?” Ginny asked innocently.
Luna didn’t deny it. “He’s an excellent healer,” she said, her eyes twinkling up at the ceiling. “I’ve recovered beautifully.”
“Right,” Ginny grinned. “That was a week and a half ago, you haven’t seen him since, you aren’t going to see him unless one of you goes out of your way, and you’re still dreaming about how he’s such an amazing healer. Have I got that straight?”
“Not going to see him unless one of us goes out of our way…” Luna mused. “Yes, I suppose that’s true; we don’t work anywhere near each other. But,” she said with a small smile, “he floo-called me a few minutes ago to invite me to go to the Ministry ball with him.”
“Ah, so that’s why he’s on your mind. I’m really glad he did that -- at least I’ll know someone there!” Ginny sighed with relief. “I got some new robes for the ball; want to see them?” She unzipped the garment bag as she spoke and pulled out a pair of elegant dress robes in brown silk. “I had Madame Malkin copy a design from Witch Weekly in a color that’s good for me. What do you think?”
Luna studied them. “Simple but elegant. They’re perfect for you, Ginny.”
“Of course, the great Luna Lovegood would never wear anything simple,” Ginny said in a mock-serious tone. “Let me guess: you’re going to wear your radish earrings with violet dressrobes and your lime green shoes?”
“Oh, no. I am going to wear the lime green shoes, because I promised Blaise I’d show them to him, but I’m not wearing violet dressrobes. I’ve got a pair of navy blue ones and I’m going to add a border to the sleeves, neck, and hem to match the shoes. I think they’ll do nicely.”
“I’m sure, Luna,” Ginny said, hiding her grimace at the picture that was developing in her mind as she strode out of the room. “I’m just going to hang up my robes,” she called over her shoulder.
“I’m so happy that you’re going to be there, Luna,” Ginny said when she reemerged from her room. “Really. I don’t know if Harry is going but if he is and he was the only one I knew there, I would be terribly uncomfortable.”
“You’ll have to put up with Blaise’s company,” Luna warned her, her eyes twinkling.
“I think I can handle it,” Ginny smiled. “Actually, I agree with you: he really is a nice guy. I could see that when I went to visit you in his house. I’m happy for you Luna.”
“Thank you Ginny,” Luna said, looking at her seriously. “That means a lot to me.”
“You’re very welcome,” said Ginny. “Now, how should I wear my hair to the ball?”
Draco Malfoy was not happy. As an important businesswizard newly returned to London with a reputation to reestablish, he knew that coming to this Ministry Charity Ball was of the utmost importance but he wished that he could have had a date with someone other than Pansy. He was even reluctantly finding himself envying Blaise, with Loony Lovegood as his date in some strange blue and garish green ensemble.
“Ooh, there’s Harry Potter!” Pansy hissed into his ear.
Draco shuddered, and it wasn’t at seeing Potter. Pansy’s mouth was entirely too close to his ear for comfort.
“I see,” he returned coolly, trying to pull his arm out of Pansy’s tight grip as he looked over at Potter.
As though he sensed his stare, Potter turned his head and looked straight at Draco. Draco stiffened and began to turn away but before he could, he noticed Potter walking straight towards him.
“Malfoy,” Potter said when he reached Draco, sticking out his hand, “It’s good to see you.”
Draco stared at the hand being presented to him, wondering what Potter was up to.
“You’re supposed to shake it, Malfoy,” Potter said with a grin.
“Yes, Potter, I realize that,” said Draco drily. “I’m just wondering whether it’s coated in a potion that will cause my hand to fall off as soon as it comes into contact with yours.”
Potter lowered his hand and regarded Draco seriously.
“I don’t want to fight with you, Malfoy. The war is over. There shouldn’t be anymore fighting.”
“If you insist, Potter,” Draco replied with a sneer. “But shaking hands with a Malfoy? Isn’t that a bit much? Won’t it taint your boy-hero reputation?”
“I didn’t ask to be a hero,” Potter said, looking annoyed. “But people look up to me whether I like it or not, so I’d like to make peace with you to set an example for everyone else. Is that too much to ask?”
“It most certainly is, Potter,” Draco said haughtily. “I won’t let you use me to further your own means.”
“I was sorry to hear about your mother, Malfoy,” Potter said, suddenly changing the subject. “I know she cared for you very much.”
“You know nothing about my mother, Potter,” Draco hissed.
“I know that she risked her life to save you,” Potter said. “I’m sure she would want you to make a better life for yourself. You can start that by shaking my hand, Malfoy. I can help you get places around here.”
“As if I needed your help, Potter,” Draco scoffed. “You think entirely too highly of yourself. I’ll thank you to stay away from me and never mention my mother again,” he finished. He turned on his heel away from Potter and suddenly found himself staring into a pair of wide brown eyes. He paused for a moment, long enough to realize that they belonged to the Weasley girl, before he turned and walked away quickly, an anxious Pansy rushing after him.”
Ginny sipped her champagne and watched the dancing from the sidelines. She watched Luna and Blaise dance with a smile on her face. She really was happy for Luna.
She continued to scan the room and her eyes lit upon Harry Potter. He wasn’t alone. Ginny scrutinized his date. She was average height and had long brown hair; Ginny thought she recognized her from somewhere, but wasn’t sure.
Harry was, as usual, surrounded by people who wanted to meet him. Ginny wondered how his date was handling it. The woman was smiling broadly at all the people who came over to Harry as she held onto his arm. Harry didn’t seem to mind. Ginny chewed at the corner of her lip.
She was surprised when she saw Harry walk away from his date. She was even more surprised to see him walk over to Draco Malfoy and put his hand out to him.
Oh bugger; I should have known he’d be here. Ginny moaned to herself. What the hell is Harry doing?
Whatever Harry was trying to do, it didn’t seem to work. Malfoy was apparently refusing to shake his hand and was glaring at Harry. He seemed angry.
How typical, thought Ginny. Don’t know why Harry even bothered with the slime ball.
At that moment Draco turned away from Harry and was… Looking directly at her. Ginny’s eyes widened in surprise, but before she could even stop to wonder, he’d turned again and stalked away.
Ginny watched him go, Pansy Parkinson hurrying behind him in a pink-lace gown, with a puzzled frown.
Ginny jumped and looked around. Luna was standing next to her studying her face.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” Ginny said quickly, taking a deep breath. “You just startled me. Where’s Blaise?”
“He went to get some drinks.” Luna looked over at an elegant bar in the corner where Blaise was standing and chatting with a few people.
“He seems very outgoing for a Slytherin,” Ginny said, following Luna’s gaze. “It’s funny: I don’t remember him being that way at school.”
“I think he’s changed a lot since then,” Luna responded. “He told me that one of his courses when he was studying to be a healer was in how to deal with patients and that some of the things that they learned were how to be tolerant and respectful to people, no matter what’s ‘wrong’ with them. I think that it helped him in other areas of his life as well.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Ginny mused.
“Draco Malfoy seems to be paying a lot of attention to you, Ginny,” Luna stated so calmly that if Ginny hadn’t heard the words, she would have thought Luna was talking about what to make for dinner tomorrow night.
Ginny stared at her. “What are you talking about?”
Luna gestured with her head to the side and Ginny peeked over in the direction that she was gesturing towards. To her surprise, Malfoy was only about six feet away from them and, sure enough, he seemed to be looking over at where she and Luna were standing.
Ginny pretended that she had just been scanning the room as she turned back to Luna.
“What’s he up to?” Ginny whispered angrily. “Eavesdropping, probably – ”
Luna studied her nails, looking amused, as Ginny continued to hiss at her.
“ – I don’t know what’s wrong with him! Look! He’s coming closer! I’m telling you Luna, he’s up to something…”
“I think I scuffed my shoe, Ginny.” Luna stuck her foot out from under her gown and studied it interestedly.
“Luna haven’t you heard anything I’ve been saying?” Ginny asked incredulously. “And look – he’s getting closer!”
Malfoy was only two feet away by now. He had moved smoothly, making it look very natural, but Ginny was convinced that he was trying to hear what she and Luna were talking about.
“Here comes Blaise,” Luna replied, successfully distracting Ginny.
“Sorry I took so long,” Blaise said cheerfully, handing Luna a glass and bestowing a dazzling smile on her. Luna smiled back lightly.
Ginny looked at Luna curiously. If a guy she liked had smiled at her that way, she would have responded with more than a little grin.
“Hey, Draco, how’s it going?” Blaise called, noticing Malfoy standing nearby.
Malfoy strolled over calmly, as though he’d just noticed that they were there. Ginny barely refrained from rolling her eyes.
“It’s fine,” Draco asserted calmly.
Ginny’s annoyance overcame her self-control. “Hear any interesting conversations tonight, Malfoy?” she asked sweetly.
Malfoy looked at her impassively. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Ms. Weasley.”
“Of course,” Ginny smiled knowingly.
“Hey, Luna and I are going to dance,” Blaise interrupted quickly. Then his eyes lit up in mischief. “Why don’t you two dance as well?” he suggested before turning with Luna to the dance floor.
Draco watched Blaise leave in surprise. He was more surprised at how he felt about Blaise’s suggestion than at the fact that he’d made it. He realized that he wasn’t loath to the idea. But before he had a chance to react, he heard her respond.
“I didn’t plan on dancing tonight,” Ginny declared stiffly.
“I would be happy to dance with you, Ms. Weasley,” Draco found himself saying.
Ginny blinked. She looked just as surprised at hearing his words as he felt having said them.
“I…” she began. “I’m afraid I’ll have to refuse. Excuse me.” And she swiftly walked away.
Draco watched her leave with a blank face. The brown color of her gown looked good on her; he never would have thought that brown would be a good color for redheads. Maybe it was her eyes…
“I know what you’re thinking,” a voice whispered into his ear. Draco glanced behind him and saw Pansy smiling up at him.
“I doubt it,” he replied.
“You are thinking that this party is full of despicable people – mudbloods and such – and you’re hoping you won’t have to spend many evenings in such company.” Pansy looked pleased with her assessment.
“Your guess is wrong,” Draco replied, his eyes following a figure moving to the other side of the room. “My mind was dwelling on much more pleasant things.”
“Oh?” Pansy reacted with surprise.
“Yes,” answered Draco, studying Ginny’s face. “I’ve been considering how enjoyable it is to study a pair of fine eyes in a pretty face.” He glanced back at Pansy to see her mouth drop open.
“And… who do these fine eyes and pretty face belong to, may I ask?” Pansy squeaked.
“Ginny Weasley,” Draco said plainly.
“Ginny Weasley?” Pansy choked, staring at him in horror. “Are you insane? Have you forgotten who her family is? I can’t believe you’re even considering her!”
“Considering her?” Draco turned cool eyes on Pansy. “Just what am I supposed to be considering her for? Dating? Marriage?” He raised an eyebrow at her.
“No – of course not!” Pansy said quickly.
“Then why do you feel the need to remind me about who her family is? Can’t a man admire a woman without people assuming that he’s planning a future with her?”
“Of course you can Draco,” Pansy looked slightly mollified at Draco’s response. “I was just surprised, that’s all.” She hesitated for a moment, then said, “Do you want to dance?”
“No,” Draco answered matter-of-factly.
Pansy looked furious and stormed away without a word. Draco silently congratulated himself.
As he continued to watch Ginny Weasley, he saw Harry Potter and his date approach her. Draco noticed Ginny stiffen when she came face to face with Potter. She spoke to him with an emotionless face, and looked relived when Blaise and Luna approached. Draco saw her mouth the words, “Thank you!” to Luna as Blaise shook Potter’s hand.
Draco’s mind wandered back to his own meeting with Potter earlier in the evening. His surprise at Potter wanting to make peace with him had been swiftly forgotten when Potter had mentioned his mother. Her death was not something that Draco liked to talk about, especially with a man he’d hated since he was eleven.
He watched Blaise laugh at something Potter was saying and felt his resentment rise.
“Potter’s still as pompous as ever but the little Weasley seems to be the only one not enamored with him,” he thought to himself, noticing her glaring quietly at Potter. “That’s one point in her favor.”
He pulled his gaze away from the woman abruptly. He had to stop thinking about her, even if she was surprisingly pretty.
“Pull yourself together, man!” he scolded himself. “She’s a Weasley!”
He determinedly ignored the voice in his head that was asking him:
“What if she wasn’t a Weasley?”
Ginny was reading an investment application from an owl-cage company looking to expand their line when her office door opened abruptly. Startled, she looked up and saw one of her co-workers standing in the doorway.
“Hey, Weasley, there’s an account I need to throw over to you,” he told her.
“What do you mean by, ‘throw over to me,’ Jenkins?” Ginny asked with a frown.
“The family’s been with Gringotts forever but Ragnok wants to get them to invest more of their money with us. He thinks that you should take this account because apparently their man knows you from Hogwarts and, erm,” Jenkin eyes darted down to examine a scroll he was holding as he hesitantly said, “was a great admirer of yours.”
Ginny blinked in surprise. Before she could say anything Jenkins looked back up at her with an uncomfortable expression and hurried on.
“They’re crazy rich and Ragnok really wants them to increase their investments so he said that you need to really put yourself out there for this client. Keep him happy, flatter him, flirt with him,” he said in a rushed tone.
“Flirt with him?” Ginny asked in disgust. “He’s a client! I’m not some lady off the street here to sweet-talk him into giving me his money!”
“I hear you, Weasley,” Jenkins said, scratching his creased brow. “But Ragnok made it very clear that you need to use your status as a woman he’s got the hots for to get this account.”
“Fine,” fumed Ginny. “But I’ll only go so far. Who is this fellow anyways?”
“Funny you should ask,” Jenkins said nervously. “He’s here to speak with you. I’ll just go get him.”
“But what’s his name?” Ginny called after Jenkins as he hastily slipped out the door and shut it behind him.
Jenkins didn’t reply and Ginny had to content herself with waiting for him to get back.
She knit her forehead as she tried to think of who this so-called, ‘admirer,’ might be but was shortly interrupted from her deliberations by a knock on the door.
Ginny sighed resignedly.
“Come in,” she called.
Jenkins entered the room and behind him came a tall, skinny man with a head of curly blonde hair.
“Virginia Weasley,” the blonde man said imperiously, peering down at Ginny from above a swinish nose, pushing past Jenkins and throwing his hand out to Ginny. “It’s so good to see you.”
Ginny stood up from her desk and took the man’s hand with a polite smile saying, “It’s lovely to see you too, Mister…”
“There’s no need to be formal with me, Virginia, even if I do represent an important client,” the man said, showing Ginny some teeth in a facial expression that she assumed was supposed to be a smile. “Feel free to call me Zacharias.”
“Zacharias… Smith!” Ginny said, eyes finally widening in recognition. “What a surprise!”
“Ah. I understand your surprise. I’ve heard that you only see the most prestigious clientele but you do not need to be surprised,” Zacharias said, lifting his into the air. “I come representing the great Madame Catherine De Bourgh and her estate, so you may be assured that I am perfectly in a position to be standing here before you.”
“Of course,” Ginny forced herself to say with a smile. “Please, have a seat. Jenkins,” she called, with a quick glare at the man standing near the door, “if you could get the De Bourgh portfolio for me, I’d appreciate that.”
“Yes, Ma’am, I’ll have it on your desk in a moment,” he said with an apologetic shrug.
“Well, Mr. Smith,” Ginny said, taking her seat across the desk from Zacharias, “how can I help you today?”
“Virginia, please,” Zacharias said, straightening up in his chair. “I understand that you might feel obligated to act formally with me but really, I’d like for you to call me by my name. I promise not to tell Madame De Bourgh.”
“Well then, Zacharias,” said Ginny, with a strained smile, “I must insist that you call me Ginny.”
“Oh I much prefer ‘Virginia,’” Zacharias waved her suggestion away. “It’s so much more respectable. Madame De Bourgh despises nicknames, you know.”
“I did not know,” replied Ginny, her cheeks starting to feel sore from the smile she was forcing. “My name, however, is not Virginia. It’s Ginevra, and no one calls me by that name, so I must insist that you call me Ginny.”
“No matter what others call you - I will call you Ginevra,” he said, nodding his head to her.
“Thank you,” Ginny said through her now clenched smile.
Jenkins entered the office at that moment, placed a thick portfolio on Ginny’s desk and quickly slipped back out again.
“I’m afraid I haven’t had a chance to study the De Bourgh portfolio yet,” Ginny said as she opened the folder in front of her. “Is there a particular reason for your visit to Gringotts today, Zacharias?”
“As Madame De Bourgh’s personal accountant, you must realize that I make frequent visits to Gringotts to check up on the investments she has with the Goblins,” Zacharias said, lifting his eyebrows at Ginny as though surprised she needed to ask.
“Yes, of course,” Ginny replied without looking up from the parchment she was studying. “Well, your investments seem to be doing just fine.” She looked up. “Surely you can keep up with the investments through your employer’s monthly statements, which I see here are owled directly to you, Zacharias?”
“That they are,” Zacharias said, puffing out his chest. “Madame De Bourgh trusts me implicitly. My visits to Gringotts are for the purpose of seeing to the financial future of the De Bourgh money. If I think that Gringotts is not the best place for this money, I must have it removed right away. Likewise, if Gringotts has opportunities for me to maximize the De Bourgh investments, I will gladly bring more money into the bank. Gringotts has always understood the importance of the role I play for the De Bourghs, as I’m sure you can as well, Ginevra?” Zacharias finished, tilting his head to the side, studying Ginny through his squinty eyes.
“Absolutely, Zacharias,” Ginny rushed to answer, remembering Jenkins’ words about Ragnok wanting more gold invested.
“Well then,” Zacharias said loudly, “I’m sure you would not object to discussing the matter with me over lunch?”
The last thing that Ginny wanted was to have lunch with Zacharias Smith, but he was studying her carefully with folded arms and raised eyebrows and she knew that she didn’t have a choice.
“That would be lovely, Zacharias,” said Ginny sweetly.