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Femme Fatale by Mynuet
Written for the Fall 08 round of the D/G Fic Exchange, for Pipperstorms.
for Pipperstorms by Mynuet
Ginny Weasley looked at the smiling photograph of Draco Malfoy and shook her finger at it. "You're a naughty boy, and should get some sleep at night." As she clipped the picture and the accompanying blurb out of the newspaper, she continued, "Maybe if you stayed in on occasion, I wouldn't have to keep requisitioning new filing cabinets. I'd swear that Stevens in supply thinks I have a fetish."
Putting her scissors aside, she pasted it onto a backing sheet, made an entry in the logbook - she'd need another one of those soon, too - and then carefully placed it into the appropriate file before returning to scan the newspapers for any mention of the Malfoy family or any of the Malfoy enterprises. When she was done with that, there were three updates to the law books that needed to be put into place in all the reference books in the building, as well as in the central files, and then any time left in the afternoon would be spent re-shelving files that had been taken out and then returned.
If her family had any idea just how mind-numbingly boring and disconnected from anything important this job really was, maybe they wouldn't have had such a fit over her taking it. But, they wouldn't know, because she had signed a confidentiality agreement and so wouldn't talk about her job to anyone.
And even if they knew, there would still have been tension after she informed Ron that she had no intention of using her position to spy on the Malfoys, smuggle out evidence to use in finally trapping 'those lying evil bastards,' or planting evidence for the same reason. Oh, her mother had protested the last one, and her father had reluctantly agreed that it would be wrong, but none of them could understand why else she would work there. Especially when Harry was sure to propose, any day now.
He probably would, sooner or later. Even with her working for Pure Evil. Actually, he'd done it the day her mother had finally pried the name of her employer out of her, but it was so obviously at Ron's instigation that she hadn't even felt any excitement. And that was the only reason she wasn't excited. They hadn't been ready, and when they were, he'd know and he'd propose of his own volition, and that'd be that.
That it felt like a death knell to think of was something she'd prefer not to acknowledge. She wondered sometimes if it was because of Tom that she seemed to have developed an extra person in her head, a bad girl that had bad thoughts, ones that the real Ginny, the good girl, hated and wished she didn't think. It was the bad girl that whispered nastily that Harry would rather crawl into bed with Ron and Hermione than with her. That she made more money after three years in a largely meaningless archivist position with the Malfoys than her father did after decades with the Ministry in a job that meant a lot to him, but not to anyone else. That Draco Malfoy was more handsome than Harry Potter could ever hope to be.
Looking down at the picture she was cutting out, she frowned. Something about it was off, and she wasn't quite sure what. She finished processing the clipping, but when she finished, she pulled a magnifying glass out of her desk drawer to examine it more closely. There was a strangely familiar woman in the background staring at Draco hungrily, and the alarm bells at the back of Ginny's mind grew in volume the longer she stared. The others in the picture were reacting to Ginny's close scrutiny, with Draco's usual flirtatious glances converted to alarm and retreat, but the dark woman's attention never wavered.
Going back to the file cabinet, Ginny started pulling out photos of Draco, and close examination showed the woman was somewhere in the background of a disturbingly high percentage. Especially alarming was that she didn't just appear in photos of society functions, which tended to have the same basic set of attendees; she was also in quite a few of the candid shots of Draco that appeared on the gossip pages.
It was too much for coincidence, but not quite enough to make sure someone would take it seriously, especially if the Malfoys had to convince someone like Ron that they deserved the protection of the law as much as any other citizen. Carefully, Ginny went back through several months, finding all the pictures that the woman was in, all the way back to the picture where Draco was trying to shield her face as he escorted her into his flat.
Her name was Constance Wilton, and she'd apparently had one night with Malfoy and followed him ever since. Ginny drummed her fingers against the desktop, looking over the photos that were spread out in front of her and trying to decide what to do. One photo in particular caught her eye, and she decided that she had to bring this to someone's attention, because the look in Miss Wilton's eyes when she stared at Draco's dance partner was nothing short of murderous. Ginny could well remember what it had felt like to pine after Harry, and how much she had seethed when he was panting for Cho. If she'd had the chance to do Cho harm, she wasn't sure whether she would have taken it, and she'd definitely have taken the opportunity to smack Harry for his blindness.
Gathering the clippings together, Ginny cast the spell to have them all copied before pulling out a piece of parchment and trying to think of what to say. For that matter, who would she send it to? It's not as if the owners of the company were accustomed to receiving mail from the sole employee of the archives, kept down in the lowest sub-basement.
She picked up the stack of copies and abandoned the idea of writing a letter, instead putting a sign on the door indicating she would be back shortly and venturing forth, up to the levels where sunlight didn't have to be imported by means of charms and mirrors. The security office was on the main floor, and there was always someone assigned to monitor whether any threats had been received. She'd talk to that person and see if they thought this qualified.
It was all she could do not to turn around and go back downstairs when she saw that Harry and Ron were there, looking official in their Auror robes and talking to the head of security in his office. They didn't turn to see her through the glass wall, and someone darkened the glass for privacy in short order, which let her stiffen her spine and carry through her course of action. Despite the voice in her head jeering about her cowardice, she was really relieved not to have to deal with Ron and Harry's tantrums about her job today, not to mention her mother's grim smiles at dinner.
"Can I help you?" Ginny shook herself out of her thoughts and smiled at the security guard who'd asked.
"I hope so. I'm not sure if this is something important, but I noticed something in the files..." Handing him the stack of copies, she pointed at the top one, the one where Constance was glaring daggers at Astoria Greengrass. "This same woman, Constance Wilton, appears to have been following Mr. Malfoy around for months. Er, Draco, not Lucius."
The guard's eyes flickered as he thumbed through the stack, but otherwise he remained impassive. "I'll let today's threat officer look this over, decide whether we need to worry about it. Will you need these back?"
"No, no, those are copies." She smiled again, trying to ignore the voice telling her she'd made a fool of herself, and said, "I'm sorry to have been a bother. If you need anything, I'll be in my office."
"And your office would be?"
Blushing fiercely, she mumbled, "I'm the archivist. Just take the lift all the way down, you can't miss it."
He nodded and she scurried away, feeling comprehensively dismissed. She was a positive blur of motion as she returned to her office and re-filed all the clippings, then made her way through the building to update all the law books and collect material for archiving from all the departments. It was a bit ahead of schedule for the latter, but she wanted to be up and moving and not dwelling on the repetitive conversation she was having with her voice, which basically consisted of the voice saying, "Stupid!" and the rest of her mind protesting that she'd done the right thing.
When she finally returned to her office, she had a stack of work to do the next day and two minutes until quitting time. It wasn't until she had her cloak on that she noticed that some of the things on her desk had been moved around, but she shrugged off the vague concern over it easily enough. It wasn't as if anything confidential was kept in these archives, and if someone had needed something, they'd have left a note or would come back.
Taking the lift up to the ground level, she wished that there weren't so many restrictions on apparition these days. It was to help keep tabs on Death Eater activity and so the best thing, really, but on days like this, when her feet hurt and her back ached, she really thought they could try harder to find a way to monitor Death Eaters without restricting ordinary wizards and witches.
The Knight Bus was crowded and hot, but at least it didn't break down today, and made decent time. She stepped down and made her way to the back door of The Burrow, the voice sneering the whole time that she'd be home already if she's taken that flat when she'd wanted to, instead of giving in to her mum's cajoling. And she wouldn't have to deal with anyone if she had her own flat - it'd be peaceful and quiet, not bustling with activity and ringing with people trying to talk over each other.
But, she thought stoutly, it wouldn't have a hot meal waiting for her, or anyone to ask how her day had been. It'd be lonely. You could stand a bit of lonely, said the voice, but she pretended she hadn't thought it.
The evening progressed as usual, with a kiss from Harry to greet her, and her mum to ask her about her day. Dinner was served, and even as she ate it she couldn't quite remember what it was - some combination of potatoes and beef, with a boiled vegetable from the garden on the side, as usual.
At one point, though, something in Hermione's questioning tone caught Ginny's attention, and she focused on their conversation enough to hear Ron and Harry telling Hermione all about how they'd had to be firm with the security guards in order to make it clear they were going to speak to Draco Malfoy, no matter what.
"Why did you have to talk to him?" she asked, and everyone looked at her with surprise. Was it really that unusual for her to interrupt the trio's conversation?
Yes, probably, given that she'd thought 'interrupt' rather than 'participate in.' The thought was unbearably depressing, but Ron and Harry both started talking, a bit too fast to seem natural. "He murdered his girlfriend."
"What?" Her mother dropped the serving spoon at the shrill exclamation from her normally quiet child, but Ginny barely noticed. "He couldn't possibly have - I'd have seen it!"
Harry shook his head. "We've kept it out of the papers - we didn't want to confront Malfoy until we knew we had enough to nail the bas- er, bloke." After a quick look at Molly to make sure she hadn't retrieved the spoon in order to ding him with it for his slip in language, he said, "We've got him this time, I know we do. It's just a matter of making the boss understand that we have enough for an arrest."
With a laugh, Ron added, "Do you know, that slimy rat had someone come in while we were there to give him some papers and he tried to claim some girl did it? Like, she was so desperately in love with him that she killed his girlfriend?" Ron snorted and Harry laughed with him, although with a bit less nasal involvement. "As if anyone could be that deluded. Even Parkinson dumped him."
"So convenient for this to just happen to come up as he's facing charges," Hermione said with a roll of her eyes, prompting another round of laughter.
The conversation continued without Ginny, and no one missed her being a part of it. Part of her noticed it, where she wouldn't normally, but she didn't care; she was insulated by her sudden, total absorption in the thought that she'd been the one to come up with the evidence that Ron and Harry dismissed so easily, and it had turned out to be important. Even if they're too stupid and blind to see it, there's a good chance Draco didn't do it, the voice in her head said, and it was hard for her to remember that she wasn't supposed to agree.
She went to bed early, claiming a headache that wasn't entirely fictitious, and argued with herself until the headache was all too real. Ron was already gone by the time she went downstairs for breakfast, and usually Harry and Hermione only came over in the morning on weekends, so she was able to get through breakfast easily, pretending to listen to her mum's chatter.
The Knight Bus was standing room only, and she had to listen to one man droning on and on about the need for more busses through the whole ride. At least no one tried to grope her for once, although she was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she might not have noticed if they had. She could tell the instant that she stepped off the lift that the climate control was broken again, and so as soon as she stepped into her office, she exchanged her cloak for the thick cardigan that she kept hanging from the same hook.
It fell from her nerveless hands as she realized she wasn't alone, and she had to fight not to flinch as Draco Malfoy stooped to pick it up for her. He held it out and she slipped her arms into the cardigan before wrapping it tightly around herself and scurrying towards her desk chair. She stopped when she realized she hadn't said anything, but he didn't appear to have noticed, as he was busy blowing on his hands. "I take it that the arctic conditions down here aren't something new?"
"The climate charms malfunction a lot," she said with a shrug. "The file cabinets themselves are on a different spell system, so they're fine."
"I'll have to send someone down here to check out the problem. Can't have the heroine of the hour die in a freak indoor snowstorm." He smiled at her, and she recognized it from the newspapers as one of his most charming.
The voice in her head pointed out that with a smile like that, it was no wonder he was never short of female company. Telling it firmly to shut up, she tucked her hair behind her ear and said, "Hardly that. Harry and Ron won't even try to investigate, they think you made it all up to cover your tracks."
"Of course they do." He didn't look at all surprised, but then, he probably wouldn't be. "But, don't underestimate your contribution. At least now I know a direction to look."
He looked a bit lost, and she just barely stopped herself from reaching out to touch his hand or his shoulder, as she would one of her brothers if he was hurting. Instead she said, "I'm sorry about your girlfriend."
"You're the first person who's said that." He dropped into the battered chair that had held stacks of books when she'd gone home the night before, since she never had visitors and didn't need to keep it clear. "My mum and dad were so busy trying to figure out a way to either prove my innocence or smuggle me out of the country that they didn't think of it, and everyone else assumed I did it and so didn't need sympathy."
The voice was silent for once as her heart melted at the way he was scrubbing his shaking hands over his face. Impulsively, she said, "I'll do anything I can to help you."
"It's dangerous to say 'anything' to a Slytherin," he said, only a little shaky as he visibly pulled himself together. "I might take you up on that, if there was anything you could do. I have to admit to floundering a little in all this. One minute I was waiting for Astoria to answer the floo and the next someone told me she was dead."
Awkwardly, she twisted her hands together and said, "It must have been... I can't imagine. I'm so sorry."
He nodded and swallowed hard, pulling himself up to sit with perfect posture. Thinking that he looked like he would break if he held himself any tighter, she looked away, giving him time to compose himself. When she turned back to him, he was smiling crookedly. "You're very empathetic, aren't you?"
Not sure how to answer, she just tried to smile and wait for the voice, normally so verbose, to come up with something.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to natter on at you. I just came down here to thank you, really." He shrugged, slightly more relaxed. "Would've done it yesterday, but you were nowhere in sight."
"I was gathering archival material--" She cut off her reflexive defense and said, "I'm glad I spotted it. I wasn't sure it would be important... And I'm sorry that it is, if you know what I mean."
He tried smiling again, and it was all Ginny could do not to burst into tears at the sight. "I know. We... I probably would have married her, you know. We were talking about it. Our parents would've been thrilled, and it's about time I settled down."
"She was lovely," Ginny said quietly, and her heart felt like a stone in her chest as she thought about how much he had lost. That he could even be suspected of causing his own pain seemed obscene to her, and she resolved then and there to do everything in her power to fix everything for him, so that he could smile again without seeming even more tragic. Of course, the key phrase there is 'in your power.' Given how powerless you are in, well, just about everything...
"Yes," he said, standing up. "If you'll excuse me, I think my father has yet another addition to our legal team who needs to interview me this morning. Thank you again, and if there's anything I can do for you, don't hesitate to ask, ever."
He reached his hand out and she gave him hers, but he kissed it instead of shaking it. For several long minutes after he left, she sat there with her hands crossed in front of her, firmly telling her inner voice that she was not mooning over the poor heartbroken man.
Fiercely, she jumped to her feet and started organizing her office to absolute order, then tackling the work she'd gathered the day before. By lunchtime, everything was done and her office was sparkling clean. It was also at precisely the perfect temperature, and she gratefully left the cardigan hanging from its hook as she sat down to eat the lunch her mother had packed for her - leftovers from the night before.
It was while she was stabbing at a piece of beef that she had the terrible thought - what if Astoria wasn't the first? And what if Constance's obsession predated the night she spent with Draco? Vanishing the food and the container without giving a thought to her mother's probable reaction to losing a perfectly good lunchbox, Ginny filled out a request for time off, sent an owl to the Prophet and one to the Quibbler, and started going through the file cabinets on Draco, working backwards and noting every woman he'd so much as glanced at. It was a disturbingly long list.
At the Prophet offices, she was let into the dusty records room with no fuss, and started going backwards from the present time. She'd expected to be looking at a period of maybe a few months, but she kept finding tiny notices of harm coming to the women whose names she was looking up, and it continued as she went further and further back. Astoria's murder was by far the most horrific, but she wasn't the only one to be killed - just the only one who had an ongoing relationship with Draco Malfoy instead of just a casual fling. Ginny shuddered as she remembered the descriptions of the horrors that Astoria had to suffer - she'd practically been flayed alive, and her pretty face had been completely destroyed.
That's the common thread, whispered the voice in her head. Murder, beatings, assaults, 'accidents,' they've got two things in common: Draco Malfoy, and damage to the girl's face.
Before she'd even thought about it consciously, Ginny destroyed the copies she had made, and translated her notes into a special code that only one other living person knew before destroying the notes she'd made, as well. If Ron and Harry knew about this, they'd arrest Draco instantly. The newspapers would paint him as a lunatic who hated women, and she knew, she knew it couldn't be true. She'd spent three years looking at every photograph and article that had appeared about him in the press, and there had been a lot. She'd seen him angry and sad and horny and through it all, he'd never shown any signs of the violent hatred that would be necessary for these crimes.
The last name on her list wasn't from the clippings, which started from just after the war. She'd added Pansy Parkinson on her own, surprised that her name hadn't appeared with Draco's even once, although they'd been thick as thieves at Hogwarts, even when they weren't attached at the lips in the middle of the hallways. She wondered about that, but when she made to tackle the newspapers again to start looking for mentions of Parkinson, her stomach rumbled and she dropped the papers she was holding.
It was only then that she noticed it was dark, and so she cleaned up hurriedly while the voice sneered about how it was possible for anyone not to connect having to cast a light spell with the afternoon having passed. The door was locked, and Ginny frowned as she opened it, wandering through empty offices that had been a madhouse of activity when she'd entered to look at the archives. "They must've forgotten I was here," she said to herself, and the voice in her head noted that it was easy for them to do; everyone else seemed to forget her, too.
Luckily, a janitor was sweeping out the reception area and he was able to let her out without alarms going off or any other fuss. It was almost full dark outside, only the slightest tinge of twilight left to relieve the inky black of the sky, and she wondered what to do. Her mum would be furious that she was late, if she even noticed, and Ginny suddenly didn't think she could cope with it.
Turning, she went into the closest restaurant and despite the raised eyebrows at her dusty clothes, she was seated in a back corner, close enough to the kitchen that she could hear the chef screaming at his underlings. It was entertaining, actually, although she ordered carefully based on the items that were being screamed about.
She'd almost finished a delicious dinner when she saw Luna there, chattering excitedly to her dinner companion. Ginny smiled, because Luna didn't look all that different from how she'd looked at school, not really. Her hair was pulled up into a sleek chignon, but those were unmistakably acorns dangling from her ears, and made into a necklace that looked surprisingly chic and very Luna. It surprised her to realize that she missed Luna, because she hadn't realized how long it had been since they talked.
All you do is work and go home, of course you haven't seen her. You never see anybody who doesn't live at your house. And whose fault is that? Hers, of course. Because she was busy. It wasn't like Harry or her mother or anyone forbade her to go out, of course not. They just usually stayed home, because it was hard to go anywhere without Harry being mobbed, and it would've been unfair and unkind to leave her boyfriend at home while she went gallivanting around. And she was always tired, anyway.
Since she wasn't tired now, though, she paid for her dinner, making sure to add a generous tip, and made her way to Luna's table. She'd just intended to say hello, but Luna insisted she sit down and share dessert.
"I'd expected you to come in today, you know. I had the archive room stocked with snacks and tea and comfortable chairs so we spend some time in there and I could help you with your mystery project." Luna smiled cheerily and Ginny felt guilt weighing her down to where she felt much too low to deserve dessert. Luckily, deserved or not, there was chocolate at hand to make her feel better.
In between small bites of a sinfully rich chocolate gāteau, Ginny said, "I'm sorry, I ended up losing track of time at The Prophet. They actually forgot about me and locked me in."
"That may've been my fault, actually." Luna's dinner companion, a blandly handsome man named Richard, smiled. "Someone mentioned the last person making sure our guest left, but I had no idea what they meant - and I was the last one out."
Well, that's not awkward at all. Ginny had no idea what to say, but Luna smacked his hand. "Just for that, you get to leave now. You weren't going to get sex tonight regardless, so Ginny and I can finish our cake and go have some girl talk about whether you'll get sex next time."
Ginny couldn't help giggling, especially when the man bowed over her hand. "Nice to meet you, Miss Weasley. Feel free to put in a good word for me, since I know she'd enjoy herself."
Watching his bum as he left, Luna said a bit wistfully, "I would, you know. And I would've enjoyed him tonight, although I'd have made him sweat a bit longer before he found out." Luna gave a gusty sigh, and then her blue eyes focused with rapier intensity on Ginny. "However, not only do I miss you, every reporter's instinct I have is screaming at me that you're sitting on a bombshell story. Therefore, we're going to go back and sit in those cozy chairs while I try to get every bit of information out of you."
The fork fell out of Ginny's hand as she tried desperately to think of a way to avoid telling Luna anything. She didn't know who she could trust, and if Luna decided to splash this across the front page, it'd sell a lot of newspapers but doom Draco. "I can't tell you. Not now. It's literally a matter of life and death."
"Then don't tell me now. But when you can tell someone, tell me." Gesturing for the check, Luna stood. "Come on, I'll still let you into the archive, but I'll leave you alone to work."
Smiling, Ginny said, "Tell him I put in a very good word for him. That way if I ever need something from The Prophet, I have an in."
The chairs were indeed cozy, and there were snacks. Ginny didn't pay attention to either as she settled in for the hunt, which was surprisingly difficult. Oh, not the confirmation of her notes from the accounts in the Prophet, as those were simple to look up and flesh out. But Pansy Parkinson had been the ultimate social butterfly at Hogwarts, and now she was nowhere to be found. It was as if leaving school had made her disappear.
It was sometime between the fourth and the fifth year since the end of school that Ginny fell asleep, hunched over her notes. She woke up sprawled backwards in her chair and wiped at her chin, certain she'd drooled on herself. It took her a moment to realize where she was, and then she gathered her notes in a panicked flurry, then making sure she put away the papers she'd been looking at to make sure Luna wouldn't be able to make any connections before she left at a dead run. She hadn't been late for work once in the years she'd been at this job, and if she hurried, she might make it in time today.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.