Reclamation Cooperation by Persephone33
Past Featured StorySummary: Ginny is assigned to Draco's team at the Ministry.
Categories: Long and Completed Characters: Blaise Zabini (boy), Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley, Other Characters, Pansy Parkinson
Compliant with: None
Era: Post-Hogwarts
Genres: Humor, Romance
Warnings: Character Death
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 4 Completed: Yes Word count: 13087 Read: 24545 Published: Aug 03, 2007 Updated: Aug 03, 2007
Story Notes:
This story won best overall fic at the Spring 2007 dgficexchange on livejournal.

1. Chapter 1 by Persephone33

2. Chapter 2 by Persephone33

3. Chapter 3 by Persephone33

4. Chapter 4 by Persephone33

Chapter 1 by Persephone33
Author's Notes:
This was written for Muted Melody at the dgficexchange. Here were her prompts:
The tone/mood of the fic: Romance/humour, with a hint of angst.
A Theme/element/line of dialogue/object you would like in your fic: Hmm. Theme: One of stereotypes being broken, I guess. Element: No real preference. Line of dialogue: "Who else did you have 'experience' with? The giant squid?" Object I would like in my fic: A tennis racquet.

Special thanks go to Miranthridel Bloom, to whom I benevolently give Blaise, because Draco is otherwise occupied. Thanks also go to freedachickens whose usual sea of red ink was only a small pond this time. Thanks, girls.
Remus Lupin
Undisclosed Location
London
Re: Itinerary

Lupin,

I received your owl regarding your choice of personnel for the position to be filled. Please inform her of status, and that she is needed A.S.A.P.

D. Malfoy
Ministry Reclamation


*******************************************************

Ginny sat in the dilapidated sitting room at Number 12, Grimmauld Place, which, even after being lived in for years, still reeked of disuse and neglect. She stared at a worn spot on the ancient carpet and wondered fleetingly if it held any residual dark magic after the house’s thorough cleaning seven years ago. Her gaze moved up to the wallpaper that had peeled away from the plaster, which looked as if it was trying to escape the clutches of the sinister walls of the home. She sighed, resigned to the fact that she’d be leaving this odd, old house, her residence for the last four years. She didn’t feel excitement as much as a vague sense of relief for the change of scenery. She’d been pleading with her former teacher for months to allow her to leave and do actual work for the Order of the Phoenix. She was a fully qualified witch, after all, trained with a specialty in Herbology. Remus Lupin reminded her after each request that, unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of call for an expert Herbologist in the midst of war.

Ginny just wanted the war to be over, not only for the reason that there would be no more killing and evil, but mostly for the fact that she wanted to get a greenhouse of her own and be able to spend quiet hours tending some magical roses.

Remus Lupin came out of the study and regarded Ginny. She looked up at him hopefully.

“Come in, Ginny.”

She rose and brushed past him to sit in one of the armchairs by his desk. “Good news, then, Remus?”

Lupin nodded and then stopped himself and looked at the witch in front of him. There was no use in sugar-coating things for Ginny. She’d only be annoyed with him if he tried to protect her from anything. “Well, news, in any case. ‘Good’ might be pushing the envelope a bit.”

“Come on, Remus. Don’t leave me in suspense. You know how I hate that.”

“Right.” He shuffled through some parchment on his desk and pulled one out, peering at it though some spectacles. “The Order is subcontracting you out to the Ministry of Magic.”

Ginny chuckled and then stopped abruptly when she saw that her friend wasn’t joking. “I’m sorry. Subcontracting?”

Remus passed the bit of parchment to her, for her perusal. “Technically, you’ll still work for the Order of the Phoenix, but we’re lending you out to the Ministry of Magic.”

Ginny suppressed an unladylike snort. “That presupposes I ‘worked’ for the Order in the first place. Mucking about in Grimmauld Place’s back garden can hardly be called ‘work’ now can it?

Remus looked at her seriously. “You did discover some new species, didn’t you?”

Ginny shrugged. “Yeah. For all the good it’s done.” A distant cousin to Devil’s Snare and a mutated version of the Venomous Tentacula weren’t exactly going to win her the Order of Merlin or change the tide of the war, in her opinion.

“That’s where you’re wrong, Ginny,” Lupin said. “Your skills have turned out to be invaluable. The other side has resorted to using different methods to gain the advantage. They’ve been laying increasingly intricate traps, transfiguring dangerous things to look benign in order to catch wizards off their guard, basically doing all manner of evil things peripherally in addition to the regular Death Eater racket.”

Ginny raised an eyebrow. “They need other hobbies? Aren’t they all booked up with torturing and killing Muggles and protecting that horror of a thing they call their Lord? Who knew there would be time for anything else?” she asked wryly. She shook her head. “So what part of the Ministry will I be working for? Merlin knows I’m not good enough to be an Auror. I’ve heard that enough times from Ron.”

“Ah, yes, I was coming to that.” Lupin took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “The Death Eaters have been rampaging the countryside, you knew that, yes? They’ve been going to random houses, killing the occupants and leaving the Dark Mark burning above the dwelling when they’ve finished.”

Ginny shifted uncomfortably in her chair, nodding. Just like in the first war. Everyone knew this.

“Well, our beloved Ministry, which has been stretched rather thin for the past few years, has decided to profit on what it can. It’s formed a salvage team, if you will, a group of people to go to these abandoned homes and go through them after the Death Eaters have wrecked everything to see what there is that can be reused. They take anything they might be able to sell to fund the war effort.”

Ginny was horrified. “That’s disgusting!”

“The disgusting thing is that it’s been going on for the past three years without anyone knowing. Now the Ministry has decided that they’re in enough dire straits to put this team above board. To the Ministry’s credit, they only do this when there are no surviving relatives.”

“That’s very big of them,” Ginny remarked drolly.

“Mmmm. They’re a charming lot, the Ministry. Anyway, only in the past few months have the Death Eaters figured out what they’re doing. They, of course, want to stop the Ministry from benefiting in any way. That’s why they’ve been throwing up these impediments.”

“Impediments? Remus, don’t talk in code. Just tell me plainly what’s going on,” Ginny snapped.

Remus cleared his throat. “One of the tricks the Death Eaters are grown fond of is to booby trap the houses with deathly plants. It’s as if they have someone working for them with a twisted sense of humour. One of the cleanup crew went to a house last week where all of the Ministry workers had been knocked out by the cry of the Mandrake. Poor chap’s still in the intensive care ward in St. Mungo’s.”

Ginny cleared her throat, losing patience with the man’s stories. “How do I figure into this?”

“You’re our best Herbologist.”

She rolled her eyes. I’m your only Herbologist, she thought. There was one exception, but the other witch trained in Herbology killed plants just by being in the same room with them.

Remus continued. “The Death Eaters have also started leaving plants that can maim, hurt, or even kill people at the scenes of their crimes. In addition, last week they wiped out the Hogwarts greenhouses, so the Ministry’s endless supplies of plants are fast dwindling. I don’t have to tell you that not having more potion ingredients is a bad thing for our side.”

Ginny gaped. “The Hogwarts greenhouses? They’re gone? And Madam Sprout?”

“She’s fine. She’s started a new greenhouse in the Atrium of the Ministry, and no one’s happy about that. But you know Pomona. Plants have the priority over people.”

Ginny smiled, relieved not only that her old teacher was safe, but that the war hadn’t changed her indomitable love for her field.

Lupin continued. “Your new job with the Ministry will be to join this group, this salvage team, to be able to disarm any malicious plants that might keep them from doing their jobs. In addition, you will check the gardens of these homes for potential potions ingredients, gather them, and bring your findings back to the Ministry.”

“Not to you?”

“No. As I said earlier, you’ll still be a member of the Order, but will work for the Ministry of Magic. You’ll live and work there; it’s safer than here, at any rate. They pay better, too.”

“More money at the risk of my morals. Brilliant,” she quipped.

“Yes, well, war does make strange bedfellows, as it were.”

She folded the parchment and stood. “To whom will I be reporting?”

Remus looked distinctly upset. “Oh, erm--”

Ginny narrowed her eyes. “What, ‘oh, erm?’”

Lupin sighed heavily. “Third Floor, room twenty-eight, your superior’s name is Dmphmmph.”

“Is what now?”

“Draco Malfoy,” he whispered.

Ginny raised her eyebrows. “Oh. Oh, yes, yes, of course. Not only do I get a shite job which in its very best light could be termed “vaguely morally ambiguous”, but I also have to work for the biggest, most narcissistic, arrogant, self-serving, insufferable prick in all of Wizarding England.” The two years that he’d worked for the Order of the Phoenix were not a pleasant memory for Ginny. It always seemed as if he singled her out to tease and torment, and now she’d be working for him. She rolled her eyes. “Joy, thy name is the Salvage Crew.”

“That’s not the name of the group actually.”

She chuckled mirthlessly. “Oh? What is it, then?”

“The Reclamation Cooperation.”

“Perfect.”
Chapter 2 by Persephone33
Draco Malfoy
Room 28
Ministry Reclamation

Draco,

Herbologist will arrive tomorrow morning. She has been briefed and you will be pleased to know that she remembers you.

Regards,

Remus Lupin


****************************************

Ginny arrived at the Ministry early the next morning, wanting to make a good impression and trying to have a good attitude but failing miserably. Bloody Remus, sending me to the bloody Ministry of Magic, where I’ll have to work for Draco bloody Malfoy, she thought. She frowned, checking her bag that was filled with her most useful books: An Encyclopaedia of Toadstools, Flesh-Eating Trees, and, even though she’d learned it by heart, the tattered copy that had made its way through Charlie, Percy and then her own Hogwarts career, One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllidia Spore. She stood outside room twenty-eight, took a calming breath, turned the knob and walked into the office.

The first thing that she noticed was that it wasn’t a normal Ministry office. It was beautifully decorated and held several desks, but Ginny noticed that they were all much nicer than the standard issue one that her father had in his office for years. There were also several very tastefully done antique armchairs, one comfy looking sofa, and a large fireplace next to a tea station, complete with an appetising array of cakes and biscuits.

The second thing Ginny noticed was the personnel that were draped all over said furniture. A large, dark-haired man was sprawled on the sofa, one arm covering his eyes in a terrifically melodramatic gesture, while the other one was splayed out, trailing the floor. A small, blonde girl sat behind one of the desks, shuffling through some paperwork. A slim witch with a glossy, black, chin length cut and blood red lips sat cradled across the arms of one of the Queen Anne chairs repeatedly casting a pain relief spell on her head. The last wizard lounged against the other desk, calmly sipping a cup of tea, and was the only person who looked up when Ginny entered the room.

“Well, well. Look at what we have here,” he said.

The blonde girl looked up from her work and her face lit up into a brilliant smile. “Ginny! We hoped it would be you! Oh! I’m so glad you’re here!”

The dark-haired witch made a spitting sound. “Bell, if you don’t stop screeching, I’ll kill you, bury you, and dig you up all over again, just so I can kill you twice. Headache. Show some pity,” she implored, not moving or opening her eyes.

Katie Bell sniggered. She’s definitely grown up since Hogwarts, Ginny thought.

“Aren’t we thrilled to get Ginny, Blaise?” Katie asked.

“Hm? What? Oh. Yes, absolutely. We’re thrilled, aren’t we, Pansy?”

Pansy Parkinson opened one violet eye and gave Ginny a cursory glance before closing it again and casting another pain relief charm. “Ecstatic.”

Katie grinned again. “Don’t mind her. She just got pissed last night and is paying for it this morning. Blaise and Marcus did, too, but obviously Blaise handles it better.”

Blaise raised his teacup. Ginny raised her eyebrow.

“Marcus, however,” Katie continued, gesturing to the man on the sofa, does not handle liquor well and should not be allowed to drink with the big kids, ever.” She leaned down and yelled the last bit into his ear. The large man made a grab for the tiny blonde woman which she adroitly avoided, giggling.

“Katie,” Marcus began, sounding as if it pained him to speak, “stop being so bloody happy all the time, d’ya mind? It’s annoying as hell, and I’m big enough to crush you without much effort,” he growled.

“Behave, Marcus, or I’ll cast a cheering charm on you. You know how you hate that. You won’t be able to stop grinning until noon,” Katie replied in a sweet, sing-song voice.

Pansy put down her wand and looked at Katie, nonplussed. “Dear, sweet Merlin, no. I don’t want to have to look at those teeth all day.”

“Bite me, Pansy,” Marcus groaned.

“I don’t think I could keep anything down right now, thanks though, Marcus,” she replied softly, closing her eyes again.

Blaise smiled at Ginny lazily. “Don’t mind them. It’s another Firewhisky morning.”

“Evidently,” Ginny said.

Katie ruffled Marcus’ hair, ignoring his pained response. “Oh, they’ll be fine in an hour or so,” she chirruped.

Ginny looked at the petite blonde. “Did you not indulge with them?”

Katie giggled again. “Oh, sure, sure. I can drink them all under the table, and it makes them right cranky, you know.” She nudged Ginny and winked. “You can’t be friends with Fred and George as many years as I have and not come away with a few talents, eh?”

“I’ll bet that’s not the only talent you came away with,” Blaise murmured.

Ginny’s nostalgic grin quickly gave way to a slightly horrified gasp. Katie just gave the man an eerily Slytherin smirk. “Blaise. Behave, now. We have a guest.”

“She’s not a guest,” he countered. “Better to jump in to the deep end head first, right? She’s one of us, now.”

Ginny tried to smile. “Yes. She appreciates it, thanks so much.”

Pansy delicately repositioned herself on the chair. “Listen, I know it’s a lot to ask,” she said softly, “but would it be too much trouble for you all to shut the fuck up?”

“Hear, hear,” Marcus agreed.

Blaise tutted. “Manners, Pansy.”

“Sod off, Blaise,” she replied.

“You’re unbelievably sweet, you know, Parkinson.” Blaise said with a smile.

“I’m serious,” she stated, opening an eye. “I’ll kill you and make it look like an accident,” she continued placidly.

Blaise drained his teacup and set it down near the service. “Ah, it wouldn’t be a Tuesday morning without a couple of death threats from Pansy. Trust me,” he said, looking at Ginny, “in six months it will make you feel warm and fuzzy.”

Ginny opened her mouth to respond, but was interrupted by someone coming into the office.

“Blaise, you know it’s a violation of your contract to have anything to do with warm, fuzzy things,” said Draco Malfoy, striding purposefully across the room.

Blaise chuckled and nodded at Ginny. “Hey, boss, look what we found.”

Draco glanced at the redhead and sat down behind the largest desk. “Ah, yes. Our new Herbologist,” he said derisively.

Katie perched on the edge of his desk. “Come now, Draco. Be sweet.”

“Genetically impossible, you know,” Pansy whispered, not moving a muscle.

Draco looked at the pieces of parchment on his desk. “Stuff it, Parkinson,” he said calmly, “or I’ll run the rest of the meeting in Sonorous.

“I’ll be good,” she said quickly. “Bloody bastard.”

Katie fairly beamed at Ginny, who was watching all the exchanges with growing distaste. “Slytherins,” the small blonde said conspiratorially. “They like to appear to be horrible, but they have an adorable side as well,” she said, lifting Marcus’ feet and sitting down, repositioning them on her lap.

“Nonsense, Katie,” said Blaise. “We’re every bit of arsehole covered arseholes with a terrible arsehole centre. Aren’t we, Parkinson?”

“Charming, Zabini,” said Pansy.

“If you’re all quite finished,” Draco growled, clearing his throat and glaring at his staff, “I need to brief Weasley and discuss the schedule for today.”

Blaise lifted an eyebrow. “I’d like to debrief Weasley.”

“Behave, Blaise,” trilled Katie.

Ginny watched as the staff slowly righted themselves. Pansy accepted a cup of coffee from Blaise, who winked at Ginny and Katie handed Marcus a potion that he murmured his thanks for.

Draco gestured to one of the chairs. “Have a seat, Weasley. I suppose you’ve met our team, then?”

Ginny looked at the man sitting before her. She had seen him briefly off and on when he worked for the Order. She knew he’d done some mercenary work, or so she thought. The thought that kept springing into her mind was that gigantic prick or not, Draco Malfoy was all grown up, and Mother Nature had definitely been kind to him. He was every bit as tall and broad as Ron but had hair that fell artfully into his grey eyes and a voice that made her stomach quiver a little. He had a way of looking at a person when he spoke to them that Ginny found mesmerizing. Dear Merlin, she mentally chided herself. She blinked her eyes to clear her mind a few times before she realized that he had begun introductions.

“Katie, of course, you’ll know from Gryffindor. Kate’s the best witch you’ve ever met with wards and charms; anything you might want to know about disabling a ward to get into a house, Kate’s your girl. She disarms them strand by strand. Really complex magic. It’s most impressive.”

Katie blushed at the compliment.

Draco gestured to the left of Ginny. “This fellow is Blaise Zabini. He recovers art for the Ministry. He grew up with Aurora Zabini for a mother, who has one of the most complete collections of magical art in the world.”

“And husbands,” Blaise interjected.

Draco ignored him. “He knows a fair amount about sculpture as well, and has done quite well for the Ministry, collecting enough art to be sold to fund the war for another couple of years, at least.”

Blaise leaned over to Ginny and whispered in a smooth, deep voice, “I have other talents as well, you know.”

“Blaise,” Draco said sharply.

“Sorry,” he supplied, looking completely unrepentant.


Draco took a deep breath and went on. “This lovely, albeit extremely hung-over, witch is Pansy Parkinson.” Pansy produced what would have been a grimace, if she’d only had the energy. “Pansy is in charge of antiquities. She’s salvaged furniture and other antiques for the Ministry to sell or redistribute to the surviving wizarding public whose homes have been destroyed in battle. And, ironically enough, despite her condition this morning, she’s also our team medi-witch. Ergo, if you’re ill or hurt, Pansy is who you’ll see.”

Ginny nodded her understanding, glad of the knowledge but vaguely uncomfortable at the fact that she’d been assigned to a job that required its own medical officer on staff.

“Last, but clearly in no way the least, is Marcus Flint,” Draco continued, gesturing at the enormous, hulking man sitting next to Katie on the sofa. “Marcus handles magical objects, both regular and dark. He, along with Katie, disables or destroys the dark objects and returns what can be useful to the Ministry.”

Marcus nodded. “Well, most of them, anyway. It’s hard to give up a flying carpet when it comes your way.” He waved at Ginny by way of a greeting.

“I am on the team,” Draco drawled on, “for defence and security and so these people can do their jobs. And I make the odd potion or two.” He rearranged some stacks of parchment on the desk in front of him. “And this, team, is our new Herbologist,” he stated flatly, the corner of his mouth twitching slightly.

He had spoken so highly, even warmly of the other people in the room, but his last salvo was imbued with such sarcasm that she couldn’t help but feel that he thought her position was unnecessary, superfluous. He may be fantastic looking, but he’s still a prick. That’s too bad, she thought. The pretty ones are always bastards.

“Yes, I’m a Master Herbologist,” Ginny voiced. “It is my understanding that the Death Eaters are using some violent breeds of herbs, and that I am here to help identify them and collect specimens to replenish the Ministry’s stores.”

Draco collected the papers and put them in a neat pile, tapping them on the desk, straightening the edges. “Hm. Yes. Team, this is Ginny Weasley. She’ll be protecting us from all the dangerous plants.” The corners of his eyes crinkled slightly and she wasn’t sure if he was being an arse or just teasing. Or both.

Ginny glared at Malfoy. He evidently hadn’t been warned of her explosive temper. She began to retort hotly, but he continued talking. “There were several Death Eater raids last night, and we have four homes to go through today. Stay sharp, do your jobs, be at the ready and everyone watch out for Weasley here.”

“I assure you, I can take care of myself, Malfoy,” she huffed.

“I’m sure you can, Weasley, but the unexpected sometimes occurs, however, and every now and then you have to be bailed out. There’s no shame in that. I expect you to watch out for them, as well. You wielded a mean wand at Hogwarts, if I remember correctly,” he stated, holding back a smile.

She tried not to flinch as she remembered the times she’d hit him with a hex. The memory brought an equal measure of embarrassment and pride. She stuck her chin out defiantly. “I’ve worked for the Order of the Phoenix for the last four years. I can handle myself just fine.”

“Fair enough,” he said pleasantly. “The rest of you lot pull yourselves together, check your gear and meet back up to leave in an hour. We have a lot of work to do today.”

He left the room, and Pansy and Marcus immediately resumed their recumbent positions.

Blaise leaned over to Pansy. “Can I get you anything, Parkinson? A fry up? A cigar?”

Pansy lifted her now drained teacup and growled, “I could kill you nine different ways with the handle of this cup right now.”

Blaise grinned, patted her head, and picked up a pack leaving the same way as Draco.

***********************************************

Draco got to his bunk in the attached sleeping quarters before he let his expression change. Of all the people he could have assigned to his team, it had to be her. She was a problem, the only witch he’d ever come across that somehow rendered his silver tongue null and void. Whenever he was around her, he said exactly the opposite of the right thing. He’d tried to get to know her a bit when he worked for the Order, but he’d always ended up stepping on her toes and being nasty rather than clever or suave. With any other witch he was dashing and debonair, but with Ginny Weasley, with whom he’d been intrigued since Hogwarts, he came out looking the fool every time.

He put his pack on the floor, sank down on to his bed, and put his face in his hands. He didn’t have anything to offer her now, anyway, as the Death Eaters had been using his ancestral home for the last seven years, and all of his funds were tied up in the Ministry’s war efforts. He was forced to work for the bastards, forced to share a room like he was still a student, and now he was being forced to work with someone who hated him. “Life just doesn’t get better than this,” he mumbled.

Blaise entered the room in a state of giddiness. “Love the new eye candy.”

Draco lifted his head and gazed at his friend. “You’ll need to stay away from her, Blaise.”

“Oh, come on, now, mate,” Blaise said, clapping him on the shoulder. “I remember how you feel about her. You become even more of an arsehole when she’s around. You get all tongue tied. I think it’s cute, really, I do.”

“Do not. Is not.

“Yeah, you do. You always have where she’s concerned. It’s a dead giveaway. That and sounding like a petulant five year-old whose Quidditch figures got taken away.”

Blaise looked at his friend and was met with a steely glare.

“Alright, alright,” Blaise conceded. “But you might try beingnice to a Gryffindor if you’d like the favour of their attention. I’ve erm,” he coughed, “heard that works.”

Draco scoffed. “Yeah, I’ll bet you’ve heard.”

“Just try it,” Blaise suggested. “It might work.”

“Yeah, or I might get hexed,” Draco replied. “Those awful bat-things hurt.”

“Mmm,” Blaise agreed. “Fairly disgusting, as well.”

Draco stood up. “Okay. Kind.” His face twisted into a grimace. “I’ll give it a shot.”

He rose to go find Ginny. “I’m going to regret this, I’m sure,” he muttered under his breath on his way out the door.

**********************************************************


Katie watched Draco and Blaise leave, then moved over to Ginny, steering her out of the office.

The blonde linked arms with the redhead. “Let’s go for a walk, yeah?”

Ginny nodded and Katie continued, moving down the hallway. “So. What do you think?”

“Honestly? I think Remus is going to have to answer for sending me into the snake pit. How do you do it?”

“Oh, Ginny, they’re alright, really. They had a hard day yesterday and blew off steam last night, so you’re not really getting them at their best, you know. Blaise, for instance, is terribly charming.”

“Yeah,” Ginny replied. “But there’s something about him I definitely don’t trust.”

“Oh, no. You shouldn’t. He’s plotting a way to get into your knickers right now, I’m sure. And if you’re not careful, he will,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone, nodding. “Be on guard. He’s a silver tongued serpent, that one,” she said, almost nostalgically.

I wonder what went on there, Ginny thought. “Oh, okay,” she replied.

Katie chattered on. “Marcus, of course, really is an angel. There’s a lot of bluster on top, but underneath it all he’s an absolute doll, and he really, really knows his stuff. He can spot a dark object at twenty paces; he’s made a ton for the Ministry.” Katie steered Ginny back toward the main office. “Pansy’s alright, too. She fixed me up after I got a nasty curse last week. I barely feel anything now and there’s hardly a scar. And Draco’s a great leader. He’s really easy to work for.”

Ginny was surprised her eyes stayed in her head. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“No, really. He’s a sweetheart, Ginny. Well,” she paused, “maybe not a sweetheart, but he’s a fair boss, he cares about us all, he’s saved me quite a few times, and he really isn’t the bastard that he was at school,” she finished.

“Stop it Katie,” Draco interrupted, entering the office. “I’m blushing.”

Katie giggled. “Sorry, boss. I didn’t know you were there.”

“Obviously,” he returned with a raised eyebrow and the ghost of a smile. “Kate, here is the revised schedule for today. Could you give it to the rest of the team, please?” She glanced at the parchment, then at Ginny, then Draco, and left the room without question.

“Weasley? A word?”

The first one that comes to mind is ‘arsehole’, she thought. “Yes?”

“Listen, Weasley, I’ve just revised the schedule and I wanted to make sure that you’re up for the job we’re going to do today. I think you need to--”

“You don’t need to worry about me or my competence, Malfoy,” she interrupted. “I assure you I can take care of myself and your little rag tag bunch of thieves. I don’t need to ‘do’ anything, I assure you. I’m capable of handling myself no matter what happens. My hexes are as sharp as ever,” she proclaimed haughtily.

His expression never wavered, but his posture straightened. “Alright, understood.” He turned and walked toward the door. Not turning back, he said, “We leave in forty-five minutes. Be ready.”

“I will be.”

***************************
Remus,

What in the bloody hell have you done sending me here? They’re a lot of loonies who’re going to get themselves (and me, too, probably) killed because they’re too hung over to aim a wand. And Malfoy, the git, is every bit as condescending as he always was - his distaste for me is as evident as ever. I can’t work for him! I’ll just end up cursing him and no good can come of that, right? Please bring me home, Remus. I like Grimmauld Place. I enjoy the mouldy wallpaper and screaming portraits. I’ll gladly putter around in the back garden until the war is over.

Missing Mrs. Black,

Ginny


**********************************

A short while later, Draco came into the main office where the group had gathered to depart. Pansy had a medic kit and a bag with a strange collection of objects inside. Blaise carried a tube-shaped apparatus, Marcus and Katie were empty-handed, and Ginny had emptied her bag of books so that it could hold any cuttings she could scrounge from wherever they were going. She had also made room for a couple of sprays and some potions that she thought might come in handy.

Draco swept into the room and placed a Ministry of Magic paperweight on the desk they were gathered around. “Everyone accounted for? Good. Touch the paperweight, please. In thirty seconds the Portkey will take us to 145 Ivy Lane, the Longbottom’s cottage.”

Ginny’s heart felt as if it had suddenly dropped into her stomach. “L-Longbottom?” she asked, her voice wavering slightly.

“Yes,” Draco said sharply. “I was assured you could handle anything that came your way, Weasley. Was I misinformed?” he asked caustically. He saw Blaise shoot him an exasperated look out of the corner of his eye.

Ginny held the tears back that had gathered in her eyes by sheer will. “No sir,” she spat. “You were most certainly not misinformed. I can handle anything.”

With that, the Portkey activated and Ginny’s tears were masked by the swirling mass of bodies and cloaks.
Chapter 3 by Persephone33
Everyone but Ginny seemed to be familiar with travelling by Portkey and landed on their feet steadily. Ginny, however, landed sprawled on her back with the air knocked out of her. She watched noiselessly, trying to fill her lungs with air as the others stealthily scattered, intent on doing their respective jobs. She noted that Katie at least had sent her a sympathetic look as she left the room.

Some team I’m on, she thought.

She was staring up at the ceiling, drawing her first breath since falling and her gaze met a pair of amused grey eyes.

“Alright, Weasley?”

She didn’t move, she couldn’t yet, but she nodded. “I’m perfectly fine.”

“Yes, I see that.” He extended his hand down to her.

Ginny had the suspicion that if she took his hand to be helped up he’d either let her fall again or jerk it back just as her hand met his and, either way, make her look like a fool.

“Weasley, get up.”

Reluctantly, she took his hand. It was cool and dry as he applied just the right amount of pressure to her smaller one. He made it seem as if it took no effort at all to haul her up off the floor, and she met his eyes again.

“Thanks,” she murmured, and began to move away, but he squeezed her hand and kept her there.

She was forced to look at him again. “Yes?”

“Weasley, I just wanted to make sure that you were going to be alright, here,” he said, a concern etching his features that looked out of place.

“Yes,” she retorted, taking back her hand.

“Fine. Meet back here in twenty. Send up an alarm if you need help,” he said as he stalked away.

Ginny watched him go. Good riddance, she thought, and took her first look at the destruction that lay around her. The Longbottom cottage was a shambles. She was sure that the others wouldn’t be able to find anything; the snug home in which Ginny had spent so many hours with her friend was a shadow of its former loveliness. The cleanup crew had already been in, so blessedly there were no casualties to see. Tears blurred her vision as she made her way through what had been the kitchen to the greenhouses. She gingerly picked her way through the decimated back door and was horrified at the sight that met her eyes. Neville’s greenhouses, his pride and joy, where he’d spent years cultivating new and different species of magical plants, were a jumble of broken glass and stripped leaves, empty stalks and scattered earth. Her hands gripped reflexively around the handle of her bag and a sob escaped before she could stop it.

“Not now, Ginny. Do the job first. Do the job you’ve been sent to do. React later.”

For the third time that day, she was startled by the voice and presence of Draco Malfoy.

She started to form an acerbic reply, something along the lines of “Fuck off, Malfoy,” but never got the chance.

“What’s worth saving? What can we use?” he asked quickly.

He continued interrupting her thoughts, making her think less about hating him and more about the task at hand. “Tell me,” he said. “Come on, I’ll help you.”

“Erm, the aconite, there, in that pot, of course,” she replied hesitantly. “There’s some dittany in that corner, as well.” He moved to dig up the plants she’d mentioned. “Mind that Fanged Geranium; he doesn’t look happy, does he?”

She took out a pair of gardening shears as Draco produced a pocket knife and began gathering several samples to put in her bag. They worked silently until Marcus came to ask her about removing a veil of ivy covering the front door of the house. Malfoy accompanied them as they exited the greenhouse.

The larger man had his hand splayed, outstretched, to the ivy.

“Do you feel that?” he asked.

Ginny looked at Draco. “Feel what Marcus?”

“The magic,” Marcus replied simply.

Ginny frowned. “Is it dark?”

Marcus nodded. “Yup.”

“Care to expand on that?” she asked, tucking her shears into a pocket of her robe. When he didn’t answer her she thought, Yeah, impressive. He knows it’s magic and he knows it’s dark. Wow. She wondered briefly if Katie was the half that spoke for them. “I suppose this is what you need me for, then?”

Draco bowed low and swept his hand in front of him.

Ginny rolled her eyes, pushed past him and came to a stop before the curtain of ivy. She felt nothing, admittedly. It looked like a mundane species of the plant. She pulled out her wand and prodded a leaf or two.

Nothing.

Ginny frowned. Plants reacted. Even Muggle plants reacted when exposed to magic.

“Revelio.”

Nothing.

She shrugged and turned back to the two men. “It’s definitely Muggle ivy, but there’s something wrong with it.” She murmured, not noticing a tendril of the plant creeping towards her foot.

“Weasley,” Draco warned.

“What, Malfoy?” She asked, turning back around. “I’m trying to figure it out. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know. These things take time.”

Marcus pointed at her ankles which were completely entangled in ivy. “Weasley, look.”

Ginny looked down and pointed her wand quickly at the ivy. “Diffindo!” she shouted.

The plant reacted by speeding up the leaves that were enclosing her legs.

“Terminus!” roared Draco.

Evansesco! Diffindo! Impedimenta! Reducio! Finite Incantatem!” Marcus exclaimed.

After each spell the ivy only grew thicker and stronger, wrapping itself around Ginny’s waist and throat, pinning her arms to her sides. “Quit using magic!” she commanded. “It only makes it stronger!”

Marcus and Draco looked at each other for a split second and then began trying to break the stalks with their bare hands.

“Curmpt int,” Ginny snapped through the fronds wrapping themselves around her mouth.

Draco caught her as she fell to the ground and Marcus forcibly pulled the vines away from her lips. “Cut it!” she gasped. “Shears – pocket.”

Draco reached into Ginny’s robes quickly and felt around.

“That is not a pair of scissors,” she whispered fiercely, glaring at him.

His expression was unreadable as he managed to find her shears and handed them to Marcus. He pulled out his own knife and began hacking away at the ropes of ivy that held Ginny captive.

Once they freed her from the now wounded ivy, she rooted around in her bag until she found the herbicide that she’d brought. She fiercely sprayed the malicious plant thoroughly, its shoots withering and turning brown, wilting before their eyes into dead pieces on the ground. She continued spraying until her face glistened with a sheen of perspiration, and her hair came loose from its ties.

“Remind me not to cross Weasley,” Marcus muttered.

Ginny surveyed her work grimly. “They cursed it. It was just ivy,” she said, picking up a piece of it and throwing it down again in disgust. “The more we used magic the more malevolent it got.”

Draco sneered. “Not exactly ingenious.”

“It worked, though,” Marcus commented.

Blaise kicked at some of the dead plant as he exited the front door. “I guess they didn’t think we’d go in through the back way,” he said, waggling his eyebrows.

Ginny rolled her eyes and set off to the back garden where she leaned against the potting table and squeezed her eyes shut. It was a little overwhelming, this day. First getting thrown into a group of Slytherins with Malfoy leading, then her first job at the Longbottoms’ of all possible places, and finally getting attacked by something that she supposedly had control over. When she opened her eyes again, Malfoy was standing no more than a foot away, staring at her. She forced herself to remain impassive, not acknowledging much it startled her when he did that.

“Alright, Weasley?”

“Yes, I’ll be bruised. No lasting damage, though.”

He craned his neck down to look at the purple marks on her neck, bringing his hand up to gently touch them. She could feel the heat radiating from his body and his warm breath on her neck.

“You need to have Pansy look at these. Are you hurt anywhere else?”

“Yes, but you’ve already had a grope today. One per week for my boss, that’s the limit.”

She was surprised to see that his cheeks pinked, but he smirked and said, “Right. I’ll remember that. Now, what else needs to be done?”

She directed him to some more samples, and despite her earlier warning, Draco sustained quite a bad bite off the Fanged Geranium. A short while later, they sat in a corner of the demolished greenhouse, while Ginny put a spray on Draco’s hand to reduce the swelling.

“Ouch!” he hissed.

“Don’t be such a baby, Malfoy.”

“Well, it bloody well hurts.”

“You shouldn’t have called it names, then, should you?” she admonished.

“I had to,” he replied. “It was taunting me.”

“Taunting you? You made disparaging remarks about that poor geranium’s parentage. I can’t say that I blame it one bit,” she said, repressing a smile while holding the injured hand, making sure to frown sternly as she assessed his wound. “I would’ve bit you, too.”

“Really? And what would I have to do to get you to do that?”

Ginny tired to suppress a smile. Is Draco Malfoy chatting me up?

Draco craned his head down and studied her. “Are you smiling? Weasley, I’ll have you know I never tolerate levity at all. Twenty points from… something.”

Ginny gazed at him briefly and then back down at his hand again. She ran her fingers over the healed bite, satisfied at what she had done for him. “I shouldn’t be smiling,” she said. “Not in the midst of this.” She looked around. “He was my friend. And now he’s gone, and his life’s work, or what’s left of it, is being confiscated by the Ministry--”

“To help the right side of the war. He would want to help win the war, wouldn’t he?” She gave a small nod, and he put a finger under her chin to force her to look him in the eye. “We’re the good guys, right?”

“I guess.”

“We are. Know it.” He was very close to her, his grey eyes studying her carefully. This close to his face, she could see faint lines around his eyes, proof that he did indeed smile every now and then. There were even tiny lines at the corners of his mouth, not quite dimples, but definitely laugh lines. Despite everything, or perhaps because of it, she wanted to kiss that spot at the corner of his mouth very badly.

“Well, isn’t this cosy?” Pansy Parkinson crowed as she approached them. “Trying to do my job, Weasley?”

Ginny sprung away from Draco as if burned, dropping his hand. “He got bit by the plant-thing,” she sputtered. “I gave him an anti-swelling solution, that’s all. You’ll want to check it, of course, “ she continued, muttering “medi-witch”, “leader”, “geranium”, and “bastard” under her breath.

Pansy frowned as she watched Ginny join the rest of the team on the other side of the room. “Plant-thing?” she inquired. “Isn’t she a Merlin-Class Herbologist?”

Draco smirked at Pansy’s arched brow, his eyes never leaving the redhead. “Yes. I believe she is,” he said smugly.

*********************************

They spent the rest of the day at the three other residences. When she hadn’t run into Draco for the rest of the day, she found herself disappointed. Once they returned to the Ministry and debriefed the team members took their respective items to the departments they now belonged to.

Pansy had found some rather nice pieces of furniture that could be used. After Katie had disarmed some rather clever wards, Blaise had found some Late-Victorian erotica that had evidently belonged to Neville’s gran. (“Just goes to show,” Blaise said, “that you can’t judge a book by its cover, or an old woman by her vulture hat.”)

Marcus found secrecy sensors, a magical compass, and some poisonous candles that would be of benefit to the Aurors, and Ginny, with Draco’s help had gathered quite a few helpful herbs and magical plants to help to Professor Sprout. Ginny walked slowly back up to the office. She’d planned on gathering up her bags, going home and having a good cry, but when she got up to the communal office, the sight that met her eyes was distracting, to say the least.

The other five members of her team were sitting in a circle around the office, passing a bottle of Firewhisky between them, glasses raised in the air.

“To the Longbottoms.”

“Ginny!” Katie chirped. “Come and sit. We’re drinking to Neville.”

Numbly, Ginny sat in the empty seat between Blaise and Pansy. Katie spoke.

“I didn’t know him well, but he was brave and sweet, and smart. He’ll be missed. To Neville.”

Blaise continued. “I remember him as a fellow student from Potions. An abysmal student, really, but a likeable chap none the less. And hurrah for his granny, who liked pornography! To the Longbottoms!”

Pansy drank and said, “I forgive him for getting shrinking solution on my blouse in fifth year, but I’ll never forgive him for not asking me out. To Neville.”

Draco looked down. “I was horrible to him for many years, and made his life a living hell occasionally for very little reason. I realize today that he was a brilliant Herbologist and a good friend to many. To Longbottom. And the Abercrombies, the Evanses, and the Edgecombs.”

Ginny watched as all of the others turned expectant eyes on her. She raised her glass and the words caught in her throat. Faces swam in her vision through teary eyes, and fat, wet drops fell on her shirt. She put her glass down in front of her, drew her knees up to her chest, put her forehead down and sobbed.

She heard people leaving, murmured soothing words, and the rustling of cloaks. Someone had a hand on her shoulder, rubbing it back and forth, and she supposed she should be grateful that Katie had stayed to comfort her. She felt a handkerchief being forced into her hand, and after several minutes of sobbing, proceeded to dab at her eyes and blow her nose.

“Thanks for staying with me,” she hiccoughed.

“You’re welcome,” came a distinctly non-feminine voice. Her eyes flashed open and she jumped.

“What are you doing here?”

Draco sighed heavily. “I’m staying with you. Did you want to be left alone?”

“No.”

“Well, then, here I am.”

She looked up at him with a tear-stained face. “I didn’t think it would be you.”

He stiffened. “Do you want me to get someone else?”

She cocked her head to the side, looking at him, and decided that it might not be prudent to answer that particular question. She used the handkerchief he’d apparently given her to wipe the smudged makeup from underneath her eyes. “I didn’t expect it be so hard.”

“At the risk of not ingratiating myself to my newest team member, I did try to tell you where we were going, beforehand.”

She nodded. “Yes, I suppose you did.” And you helped me in the greenhouses, and you’re comforting me now, she thought. She looked up at him, utterly confused beyond measure. “Malfoy?”

“Mmm?”

“Wait.” She paused. “Is it possible that you’re not a bastard?”

“It’s possible,” he replied.

“Oh.”

“Not probable, though.”

“Right.”

“That was a joke, Weasley.”

“Of course. Sorry, I didn’t know you were capable. And I thought it wasn’t allowed.”

“Hmm. Well, I am capable on occasion. And I’ll make an exception for you.”

She gave a weak smile. “Where did everyone go?”

“Probably to a pub to finish off the evening,” he said gesturing to the empty bottle in front of them. “This job requires a certain amount of drowning one’s sorrows.”

“I see that.”

“We drink to remember the lives that were lost. We drink so we don’t remember the lives that were lost.” He shrugged as he stood. “Are you feeling better?”

“No, not really.”

“I wouldn’t have expected you to be. None of us really are. We’ve all lost good friends, and people we went to school with, and distant family. It’s hard to go into their houses and be dispassionate about rifling through their things.”

“Good Merlin,” Ginny breathed. “Not a bastard and you have a conscience?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Yes, I’m a veritable cornucopia of surprises, don’t you know,” he answered wryly.

“I guess so. Are you going to the pub with them?”

“Yes, I am.”

She stood, sniffing, and brushed off her robes. “Then let’s go.”

It didn’t even really seem odd when he offered her his arm as they left the Ministry.

Well, not that odd, she thought.
Chapter 4 by Persephone33
The next morning found her slung across an armchair much in the same fashion she’d found Pansy the day before. She vaguely remembered waking up in the quarters adjoining the office, possibly showering, and someone guiding her back into the office this morning. After the bender she’d gone on the night before; she was a little fuzzy on the details. She was actually a little fuzzy on the main points.

“I’ll be a good witch from now on,” she whispered to whatever deity was listening. “I’ll never drink Firewhisky again, I’ll donate money to charity, I’ll be kind to furry animals, and I won’t tease my brothers, only please make my head not explode.”

“Oh little Weasley,” Blaise said, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” He handed her a cup of tea which she gratefully accepted. “Furry animals are vile.”

“Blaise?”

“Yes, Ginny?”

“Would you mind terribly to stop shouting?”

“Hear, hear,” Marcus said, from his spot on the couch.

Blaise chuckled. “Certainly, my little over indulgers.”

“Blaise?” Ginny asked.

“Yes, little Weasley?”

“What’s it like to be a smug bastard?”

“I dunno,” he replied. “You’d have to ask Draco.”

“Ask me what?” interrupted their team leader as he entered the room.

“Nothing,” Blaise lied smoothly. “Just about the schedule today. Ginny was wondering about it.”

All at once, Ginny saw memories, flashes of someone whispering soft words, her name, of her own voice murmuring, of slightly calloused hands running up her sides, a fist in her hair, and thoroughly kissing someone.

“Oh, bloody hell,” she whispered.

“Problem, Weasley?” Draco inquired.

“No,” she breathed.

“Good.” Draco consulted the parchment in front of him. “Okay, we only have one residence today. The Finch-Fletchley estate. Lots of Muggle items. Anyone here familiar with them?

Katie smiled. “Muggles? Or their stuff?”

Draco raised an eyebrow. “Either, at this point. The cleanup crew said that they didn’t recognize half of the stuff in the house. So Marcus, you have your work cut out for you. Watch out for enchanted items.”

Marcus nodded, and then looked as if he thought he’d made the wrong decision by moving his head. “Yes, alright,” he rasped.

After an hour of recovery time and a headache potion from Pansy, they Portkeyed in the same manner as the day before and each member went their own way. Ginny went out to the garden and found Alihotsy, Bobotubers, and a few non-magical, but still fairly useful, herbs.

“What in Merlin’s name is that?”

Ginny jumped at the sound of Draco’s voice. “Good heavens, Malfoy. I’m going to have to put a bell around your neck. Make some noise or something, huh? You can’t keep sneaking up on people.”

“Stealth,” he replied. “It was in the Slytherin handbook.”

“Really?”

“No.” He pointed at a large rectangular piece of the back garden that the former owners had sectioned off. Draco was leaned down, looking at the chalky powder outlining the whole thing. He poked at the line gingerly with the toe of his boot. There was a net running through the middle of the space, and benches on either side, but the strangest items were the things that looked a bit like snowshoes, but weren’t quite big enough.

Ginny bent her knee and held one of the items up to her foot. “For children, perhaps?” She asked with a curious look on her face.

Draco shook his head and picked up a small, light green ball. “It must be one of those mad Muggle sports.”

Katie joined them, and Draco posed the burning question. “Do you know what this is?”

Katie smiled, rolling her eyes discreetly. “Honestly. Didn’t anyone take Muggle Studies?

The two others shook their heads. When Draco coughed, Ginny could’ve sworn that it sounded like ‘waste of time’.

“That,” Katie said, pointing to the thing in Ginny’s hand, “is a tennis racquet. You use it to hit the little green balls over the net.” She gestured to the patch of lawn.

Ginny peered at the ball in Draco’s hand, prodding it with her wand. “But the ball doesn’t do anything?”

“Nope. Not until you hit it with a racquet.”

“Really?” Ginny asked. “Mad.”

“Absolutely,” Draco agreed, dropping the ball onto the court with what may’ve been contempt.

“Yes,” Katie affirmed. “And I think there’s a lot of swearing involved too, from what I remember.”

Draco shook his head and dropped the ball. “Muggles.”

The three of them stood gazing at the rectangular piece of grass as Blaise, Pansy and Marcus came up to join them.

Blaise piped up. “Ooh, look. A tennis court.”

They all turned to look at him with unbelieving stares.

“Do I even want to know how you have this knowledge, Blaise?” Draco asked.

“Ali Hakim, Mother’s fourth husband, was obsessed with Muggle telly. I used to watch during summer vacation. This sport is just about the only thing on for about two weeks in June. The have some very fit Russian girls that play, you know.”

Ginny nodded. “Right.”

Draco started walking back towards the house, the others following. “Thank you for that fascinating dissertation, Blaise. Did you find anything useful in the house?”

“None of the paintings move. They all just sit there, totally frozen. It’s creepy.”

“Muggles,” Pansy said, shaking her head.

“Yeah,” agreed Marcus.

“Pansy?” asked Draco.

“They might be Muggles, but they had excellent taste in furniture. I got a Queen Anne secretary, a baroque vase - a little fussy, but still very nice. Also, a silver tea service, a Venetian Crystal chandelier, and there were a pair of matching Louis XIV armchairs, Draco…” she trailed off.

“Catalogue and tag it. Shrink it and get it ready for the Ministry,” he told her. Pansy pouted visibly. “Although,” he continued, “we could use another set of armchairs for the office…”

Pansy grinned and clapped her hands.

“So that’s why the office is furnished so nicely,” Ginny mused.

“Yes, well, call it a perk,” Draco said. “The Ministry doesn’t even provide us with coffee and tea. And since we are funding the war--”

“We skim a little off the top,” Marcus said, grinning. He opened his bag to show her a set of Quidditch balls, a Revealer, and a Goblin made sword. In addition, he had some Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes shield hats, as well.

“It is still at the Ministry,” Katie shrugged. “Technically, we haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Are you going to rat us out, Weasley?” Pansy asked.

Ginny looked at the group standing before her, amused. “No. But I will need some help collecting some personal samples of those Flitterbloom bushes and magical roses. Come on, you lot. Wands out.” And she led then across the yard.

*******************************************************

They sat in a pub later that night, and this time, Ginny decided that getting sloshed and engaging in a little slap and tickle that she didn’t remember wasn’t the best idea ever. She sat, looking around, primly sipping her ginger ale.

“Don’t drink that shite, little Weasley, it’ll kill you,” Blaise said, throwing back a shot of Firewhisky.

“Going slow, Weasley?” Marcus inquired. He barely moved a muscle, but she was sure he was smirking at her. She could feel it.

“Oh, yes,” she replied. I couldn’t handle another morning like today’s.”

“Yeah,” he answered. “They do tend to wear on you.” He drank deeply from a tankard that steamed suspiciously.

Katie and Pansy strolled up and sat on either side of Marcus. “So, Weasley,” Pansy ventured, “Going to sleep in your own bed tonight, then?”

“Shhh,” Katie admonished.

“What?” Ginny yelped, eyes wide in horror.

“Oh, bless her,” Blaise cooed. “She’s being coy.”

Ginny shook her head. “I am not. What are you talking about?”

Katie reached across the table and put a hand on her arm. “You and Draco left together last night.”

Ginny blanched. “We did what, now?”

The tiny blonde witch looked concerned. “Oh, dear. Wait, Gin, do you not remember?”

“I barely remember anything, myself,” Pansy interjected.

Ginny looked up, confused, as Draco joined the table with his drink. “Everyone alright?”

Ginny stood up abruptly, knocking the chair over in the process. The group looked at her expectantly. “Erm, fine,” she blurted. “So tired.” She stretched her arms, feigning a yawn as she looked from one face to another, ignoring Draco’s eyes completely. “I’ll just--” she gestured to the doors and hurried off, exiting the pub and gulping deep breaths of air once she got outside. Her face felt flushed, and she tried furiously to remember what had happened the previous night. She kept drawing a complete blank.

“What are you doing out here?”

She turned, startled and found herself face to face with Draco yet again.

“Ugh. Quit doing that!” she cried.

“Doing what?” He managed to almost look innocent, and she wondered, for a split second, if he really didn’t know that it was annoying, as well as downright creepy.

“Sneaking up on me and scaring me! It’s not in the least endearing in any way.”

“Not in any way at all?” he asked, leaning his shoulder into the wall and facing her.

“No, of course not.”

He was very near her now. She couldn’t help but notice how handsome he was and how he smelled faintly of cologne and wood smoke, and she could see just how soft his lips looked. She mentally shook her head. Get a hold of yourself, Gin.

Draco frowned. “Can I ask what is wrong?”

“Well, yes,” she sputtered. “What happened last night? I can’t remember much, but what I do recall is disturbing.”

“Disturbing?” he prompted.

“Erm, disturbing, yes. Disturbing to the effect that I don’t know who-- and Katie said I left with you--”

“Yes,” he interjected calmly.

“Oh, gods. Oh, my. Did we--?”

“No.”

“Oh, thank Merlin.”

“My, that’s flattering, Weasley.”

“No, it’s not that I don’t think you’re -- that is to say, you do have a nice-- what I meant is that I have an-- oh, my.” She stopped short.

“‘Oh, my’ what?”

She put a hand over her face. “I’ve been terribly unprofessional, haven’t I?”

“Unprofessional?” he scoffed. “Have you met the rest of that lot? They get trashed every night, Blaise is just shy of being a male whore, Katie and Marcus have been shagging for months, and Pansy’s big thrill is stealing furniture. I think you fit right in.”

“Katie and Marcus? Really?”

He nodded. “S’what Pansy says.”

“Really.”

“Mmm,” he affirmed. “So getting a little tipsy and not recalling making it back to bed isn’t such a bad thing.”

She sank down on a bench and looked up at him. “I’m so embarrassed.”

He frowned at sat next to her. “Why, Weasley?”

“For one thing,” she began, “I’m pretty sure that I snogged you silly last night and you still call me Weasley.”

“May I call you Ginny?” he asked softly.

Ginny’s stomach felt fluttery all at once. “Oh,” she said softly, “Yes. I think I’d prefer Ginny.”

“So you remember kissing me, do you?”

She nodded, glad for the knowledge that it was indeed he that she’d kissed.

“Do you remember being kissed back?”

Ginny met his eyes and shook her head.

“Shall I rectify that?” Without waiting for a response, he placed his hand on the curve of her neck and tilted her head gently, guiding her lips to his. He held her to him for a moment and she could feel the blood pulsing to every part of her body. When he deepened the kiss, she couldn’t stop the small sound that happened in the back of her throat; she felt his tongue brush hers and she knew she wanted nothing more than to throw him down right there outside the pub and have it over with.

He broke the kiss gently and looked at her.

“No,” she said, looking a little drugged. “No, I don’t remember that at all.”

“That’s because it never happened.”

“What?”

“When I walked you to your room last night, you attacked me.”

“With my wand?”

“With your mouth.”

“Oh, dear.”

“Yeah, something like that. I then put you to bed and I directed you to the shower this morning.”

“You saw me naked?” she asked, horrified at the prospect of what he might have seen.

“No, not as such. Katie and Pansy pushed me out before I could see any of your naughty bits.” He looked at her and tried to suppress a smirk.

“I really can’t decide if you’ve taken advantage of me or whether I’m the biggest slag around,” she moaned.

“I think perhaps somewhere in the middle of that,” he offered.

“Way to make a girl feel better, Malfoy.” The spellbinding moment created when he kissed her was broken. She rolled her eyes and Apparated away.

***********************************************************

Remus,

Get me out of here! I’ve been groped and almost seen naked by my boss and desperately need to leave this position. I’ve made a complete and utter fool of myself. Nothing good can come of this, Remus.
Nothing. Please help me.

Ginny


***

Ginny,

Will try to find a replacement. It may take some time. Please be patient.

Remus


***

Remus,

Who do you think you’re writing to?

Ginny


*********************************************************

Draco was at his wit’s end. He really didn’t know what to make of this girl. He had been completely noble, which truly did go against most of his better instincts. She had been drunk and offered him everything on a plate, with whipped cream and cherries (well, not really, but he was sure that the condiments could’ve been found if needed) and instead of doing what every fibre of his being screamed to do, he’d given her a glass of water and put her sweet little drunk arse to bed. He’d gotten up this morning and directed her to the shower and thought that perhaps being a gentleman would account for something in her eyes. Now, a few days later, days in which he’d been unfailingly polite, and even kind to the girl, he held the letter an owl had just delivered in his clenched hand.

She didn’t even want to be near him, obviously, because the Werewolf in charge of the Order had sent this message that their new Herbologist would arrive within the next few days. He’d tried ‘nice’. Blaise, he thought, is an idiot. Nice obviously doesn’t work. He would walk in to the morning meeting, brief everyone on where they were going to be, and dismiss her. They could do without a bloody Herbologist for a few days. And Draco supposed that he’d have to do without Ginny Weasley for life.

******************************************

Ginny laid back onto the squeaky mattress of her bed, with tears spilling down her face. This is what I wanted, she thought. Is this what I wanted? He’d told her to leave. He hadn’t even wanted to wait until her replacement showed up. He’d marched into the meeting and looked at her more coldly than anyone ever had before. He’d turned around to the rest of the group and announced that the Ministry had found a proper Herbologist, one that wouldn’t cry hysterically at each residence and get attacked by the very things she was supposed to be protecting the team from. “Collect your things and go,” he’d said, without giving her so much as a second glance.

She’d avoided the pitying glances from the other people in the room, and found it odd that Pansy was looking at Draco with something like disgust. She managed to Apparate into her old room at Grimmauld Place before the tears fell. This was what she wanted, wasn’t it? Now that she’d gotten what she asked for, she was pretty sure it was probably the one thing that would make her miserable. She curled up on her bed, hugged her pillow, and cried herself to sleep.

**************************************************************

Draco staggered into his room, bleary eyed and more than a little drunk. An entire bottle of Firewhisky later, and it still wasn’t enough to put that redheaded bint out of his mind. Her replacement had come earlier in the day, and Draco found it more than a little distasteful that they had sent a Hufflepuff. A Hufflepuff was a replacement for Ginny Weasley? Not bloody likely, he thought. Sodding Hannah Abbot, whose squeaky, girly voice drilled into his head like a chipmunk on sugar quills. Abbot hadn’t even been able to silence the Mandrakes before he’d gotten to the garden to check on her. He found her passed out on the floor, and once she’d awakened, stated that she couldn’t possibly do anything else, as she had a bump on her head and felt a bit woozy. A bit woozy? Ginny had continued to work and even healed him after she’d been attacked by a murderous plant. But she hadn’t wanted to be there, hadn’t wanted to work with him. It just wouldn’t do to keep thinking about it. He leaned back onto his bunk and fell into a fitful sleep, which featured dreams of a woman with red hair.

****************************************************************

“Draco, wake up,” Pansy said, far too loudly, in his opinion.

“Parkinson, it’s too early in the morning to be faced with you. Go away.”

“Draco, they’ve vacated Malfoy Manor.”

He rolled over and looked at Pansy, not believing what he’d heard. “Pardon?”

“We just got the reclamation list for today, and well, the Minister thought you’d like to know that you can go home,” Pansy said softly.

For the first time in several days, a smile graced the face of Draco Malfoy.

After the workday was done, he asked his crew to go with him and see what the Death Eaters had done to his home. Marcus and Katie could take care of the Dark objects and wards more easily that he could, Pansy and Blaise could help put it back to rights, having practically grown up there themselves, and perhaps Abbot could make amends for her deplorable behaviour on their past few jobs. Maybe she’d do them all a real favour and get attacked by the Harpies Draco’s paternal grandmother had bred. If not, she could round up the house elves at the very least. Loyal could talk to loyal, he thought. That makes sense.

When they arrived, they found that their work was indeed cut out for them. The Death Eaters had placed complicated wards all over the manor, and hadn’t treated anything in it with any respect at all. Draco sighed and looked at Blaise and Pansy.

“It’s not too bad,” Pansy offered.

“It looks like they picked it up, shook it and put it back down,” Blaise argued, receiving a nasty glare from Pansy. “Erm, I mean, no. Not too bad at all,” he said, correcting himself. “Come on.” He clapped Draco bracingly on the back. “We can fix it, mate.”

“Yeah.” Draco squinted at the mess that lay around him. “Yeah. Let’s get started.”

***************************************************************

Ginny found herself once again staring at the mouldy wallpaper in the sitting room of the Black family home. No one was about and she was dreadfully bored; it was pouring down rain outdoors, so she couldn’t even putter about in the garden. She cursed herself mentally for the thousandth time for requesting to be taken off Malfoy’s Ministry team. She missed them. All of them. She found, however, that she missed the grey-eyed Slytherin the most of all, which was utterly ridiculous. She walked over to the bookcase next to the fireplace and inspected the shelves, looking for a title that might not put her to sleep.

“Weasley!” a voice shouted from the fireplace.

Ginny stepped back and saw the head of Pansy Parkinson resting in the embers.

“Oh, Weasley, thank Merlin. You’ve got to get over here. We’ve run into a bit of a problem.”

Ginny frowned. “Your problems aren’t my problems anymore, Pansy.”

Pansy’s head cocked to the side. “Well that was a disturbingly un-Gryffindor thing to say, Weasley.”

Ginny wanted more than anything to go and see them all, to help them, but she didn’t want to look stupid, either. She sighed. “What’s the problem?”

“It’s Draco,” Pansy said, very concernedly, furrowing her brow. “We’re on a job, and this horrid plant with stinging fronds swiped him, and he passed out. He’s breathing, and alive, but only just. Abbot is just useless, Ginny, and I don’t know what to do for him; I never paid attention in bloody Herbology. Please,” she implored softly. “Please help him.”

Ginny picked up her bag that sat by the sofa and nodded resolutely. “Fine. Tell me where you are.”

When Pansy gave the Floo address, Ginny closed her eyes briefly. Brilliant, she thought. Into the dragon’s lair I go.

*****************************************************Chapter Five

When she arrived, she could tell that the team had been hard at work, and saw the plant that had hurt Draco immediately, recognising it from the back garden at Grimmauld Place. It was a nasty piece of work, a mutated version of the Venomous Tentacula that paralyzed its victims and waited for them to die before enclosing it in its leaves and devouring them whole. Hannah Abbot was busy hexing any tentacles that dared to creep near her, just barely managing to keep it confined to one corner of the room.

Ginny crossed over to the girl, handing her a spray. “You’re just making it angry, Hannah. Use this.”

The girl frantically took the spray from Ginny’s hand and began spraying wildly. Her hair was matted to her forehead and her eyes were wide and panicked. “Thanks, Ginny. Oh, thank Merlin you’re here. I’m rubbish at this. Just rubbish.”

Ginny rolled her eyes and moved to Pansy. “Alright, where is he?”

Pansy led her up an enormous staircase that led to one wing of the house. Ginny had to clamp down the urge to simply stand and marvel at her surroundings if she were to have any hope of keeping up with the brunette witch, who strode purposefully, leading her past remarkable works of art, down halls covered with gilt-framed portraits and through a sitting room bigger than the entire second story of the Burrow. She opened a door at the end of a corridor, revealing a room that looked like it hadn’t been used in years. Dust covered every surface, cobwebs lurked in the corners as well as out in the open, and it smelled musty and old. Ginny sneezed. The soaring glass windows, half-covered by plum-coloured, velvet curtains, heavy with dust, were grimy with years of neglect, diffusing the sunlight and making Ginny squint in an attempt to familiarise herself with the room.

“Here he is.” Pansy moved over to an enormous bed, one larger than Ginny had ever seen in her life.

Draco didn’t look pale or sick, his breathing wasn’t irregular; he just lay very, very still. He looked as if he were asleep. Ginny looked at Pansy quizzically. “He doesn’t have any of the symptoms from the plant strike.”

Pansy lazily pointed her wand at various places in the room clearing the spider webs and dust away. “I know. I’m a medi-witch, Ginny dear. After I healed him, I stunned him. He’s a real brat when you’re not around, and I know you; Weasleys are a stubborn lot as well, so here it is: No coming out of this room until you hash everything out. Got it?” In the blink of an eye, she smiled, took the spell off Draco, summoned Ginny’s wand and sealed the door behind her.

Draco blinked and groaned. “What the hell,” he moaned. He looked around, his eyes finally resting on Ginny. “What are you doing here?” he asked quietly, without malice.

“Your friends trapped me, stunned you and Pansy’s declared that she’s not letting us out until we play nicely.”

“What?” he asked, still shaking off the effects of the spell.

She sat on the corner of the bed and explained what Pansy and Blaise and the rest of them, presumably, had done. He pulled himself into a sitting position and lay back onto the pillows. “So why do I feel so horrible?”

Well, that cross-breed Death Eater creation got you. You’ll be alright after a couple of hours. Pansy took care of you.”

“Yeah,” he laughed derisively. “There’s nothing like friends.” He looked at her and smirked. “So you came back to take care of me, did you?”

“You know I did,” she said plainly.

“Ginny, can I ask you a question?”

The use of her first name out of his mouth startled her. “Yes, I suppose,” she replied.

“Why is it, do you think, that I can’t speak properly with you around?”

She looked indignant. “You speak well enough when I’m around. You always manage to be superior and unpleasant. Just like you did when we were at school. It’s like you don’t know how to talk to girls.”

“I know how to talk to girls. I have lots of experience talking to girls. I talked to Millicent in school, and Pansy. And I talk to Katie,” he went on.

“Who else did you have ‘experience’ with? The giant squid?” she asked caustically.

He frowned. “I didn’t know the giant squid was a girl.”

She looked at him and turned around, banging on the door insistently. “Pansy! Let us out!”

“I’m sorry, you know.”

Ginny turned around slowly, peering at him cautiously. “Did Pansy put you under the Imperius as well?”

He sat up and pushed off the bed with a groan. “No.”

She moved to him. “Where are you going? You shouldn’t be moving so soon.” She put her arm around his waist, propelling him back to the bed. “Lie down,” she commanded.

“Bossy,” he said, smirking.

When she pushed him towards the bed, he grabbed onto her robes and pulled her down with him. Flipping her onto her back, he used his weight to pin her down to the bed. “Listen, Weas—Ginny,” he began. “I don’t know if it’s the plant poison, or the fact that I’m weak from being Stunned, or maybe I just can’t take it anymore, but this has to stop.”

She could feel him, all of him, pressed up against her in a way that made her breath quicken and desire ignite deep inside of her. His hair was hanging in front of his face, his eyelids were heavy, and his lips were parted slightly and very close to hers.

“What,” she breathed. “What has to stop?”

“This between us. The enmity. The animosity. I don’t dislike you. In fact, I feel very, very much the opposite, Ginny.”

“Really?” she asked breathlessly.

“Really.” He lowered his head and pressed his lips to hers, kissing her softly but repeatedly, cradling her head in his hands gently. She reached around and hugged him closer to her, feeling the cords of muscles in his broad back, scratching him lightly, causing him to shudder. Arching her back slightly, she heard him groan, and he deepened the kiss, making her breathless and also making her wish that there were less layers between them.

They heard a loud click and he broke the union between them and looked at the now wide open door across the room.

Blaise and Pansy stood, identical smirks on their faces, gazing at the couple lying on the bed.

Blaise held out his hand to the brunette. “That’s twenty galleons you owe me. Pay up, you Harpy,” he said good naturedly.

Pansy tossed two wands onto the bed next to the couple. “Pay you?” she asked incredulously. “Pay you? They’re kissing! You owe me!”

“The bet was that she’d pounce on him, and you know it. Don’t welch, Pansy. Don’t be that girl. It doesn’t become you.”

“Welch my lily white arse, Blaise,” she retorted.

The two retreated down the hall, still arguing and Draco refocused his attention back on the redhead underneath him. “It appears that they had a plan.”

She smiled and nodded, looking at the open door. “Yes, I guess so.”

“So,” he prompted.

“So,” she replied softly, moving her hands to tangle in the back of his hair. “Whatever it takes, I say. Besides, I can’t wait to get my hands on your rose garden.”

“Good.” He chuckled. “You’ll come back to work, too, then? Abbot is horrific,” he whispered, tucking some hair behind her ear and placing a kiss on her neck. “I can come up with a great package of perks.”

She laughed. “You sound like Blaise. These perks, do they include seeing me nearly naked and groping me once a week?”

He laughed again. “Yes. Whether you need it or not.”

“Excellent. I accept.”

“The Reclamation Cooperation will be complete again.”

“Absolutely.” She pondered a moment, closing her eyes as he kissed the sensitive spots on her throat. “You know that’s a rubbish name.”

“I know.” He pointed his wand at the door, closing and sealing it and set about making up for years of lost time.

The end
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