The Art of Deception by Persephone33
Summary: Draco and Ginny compete to be the highest bidder for a portrait of a little-known Italian potions apprentice.

**Winner of Funniest Fic Overall and Favorite Line in the 2008 dgficexchange.**
Categories: Completed Short Stories Characters: Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley
Compliant with: GoF and below
Era: Post-Hogwarts
Genres: Humor, Romance
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 3 Completed: Yes Word count: 7817 Read: 9292 Published: Mar 20, 2009 Updated: Mar 20, 2009
Story Notes:
I’d like to give a big thank you and a couple of handfuls of Jensen Ackles to my beta, Miranthridel Bloom, and another thank you to the mods of the dgficexchange on livejournal, seegrim and jandjsalmon. I appreciate the hard work, you two.

*****

1. Chapter 1 by Persephone33

2. Chapter 2 by Persephone33

3. Chapter 3 by Persephone33

Chapter 1 by Persephone33
~~CHAPTER ONE~~


Draco lounged against the polished, oak-paneled wall of the auction house, watching in amusement as the wealthy and privileged of the Wizarding world threw away their Galleons on rubbish. The post-war economy didn't seem to be as bad as all the politicians would have the average wizard believe, though most of the pieces that had moved on and off the dais that night were worth roughly a quarter of what they sold for, if that. He shook his head. People were always looking for the biggest - what they thought looked like the obvious best. Experience had taught Draco long ago that the shiniest jewels were not always the most valuable.

For instance, the reason that Draco had deigned to grace this particular auction hall with his presence was that the entire estate of renowned Italian Potions master, Vitorre Giordano, was up for bid. Draco wasn't interested in a bunch of rusty scales, potions vials that had the remains of Merlin knew what in them and cauldrons that had definitely seen better days, but he was focused on only one item: a portrait that the old man had kept in his private quarters. A magical portrait that everyone seemed to think was mute.

Draco had done his research on Giordano. The man was certifiably insane, but like so many of the truly crazy, the old Italian was also terrifically brilliant. He'd invented hundreds of potions that Draco's counterparts in magic took for granted every day: Beautification Potion, Blood-Replenishing Potion, and Everlasting Elixir. But the one that intrigued Draco was not the Draught of Living Death, it was the one that everyone else thought was a myth, a mere rumor which people surmised that Giordano had begun himself, to keep people from interfering with his real work of the time, Amortentia.

Draco Malfoy, however, cared nothing for a love potion. He wanted to get his hands on the myth. The potion to make gold.

Why? It wasn't as if the Malfoy vaults were suffering. In fact, the war and rebuilding Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley had done wonders for the family's finances. The Malfoys had more money than ever they'd had.

And that was saying something.

And yet Draco found having merely adequate wealth terribly unsatisfying. He'd watched during the war as his father drained the family's coffers for the whims of a madman, and he vowed that when he was in charge, such a thing would not happen again, at least not while he was running things. He wanted the gold potion for one reason and one reason alone: to be incredibly, insanely, more money than Merlin, filthy rich. He was not interested in philanthropy, boosting the economy or helping the blind learn how to play Quidditch. Draco wanted to be on top. He wanted to be looked up to. And his father had all but ruined the family name before following the leadership of the Dark Lord had killed him. After clawing his way back to the top, he decided that this was how he could achieve his goals. He needed the instructions for the potion to make gold.

After months and months of reading, where his eyes glazed over and crossed, Draco had discovered that Giordano had imparted the knowledge of the components and steps with his apprentice, a man named Paolo Marconi. With a little more research and a few well placed bribes, he found out that after the younger man had died, that the old master kept a portrait of his apprentice in his living quarters. Even Draco, who was as open-minded as the next bloke, found that to be a bit... odd. However, if the portrait had lived and worked with the master he would have definitely known exactly how it was done.

And Draco was going to get it. He'd do just about anything to assure that portrait made its way into his possession and stayed there. To do that, he had to make sure that he won the portrait at this auction.

Draco just managed to hold back a sneer as he looked around the room. There was some old money, wizards only interested in objects d'art that would add to the aesthetics of their homes, new money, who certainly wouldn't be interested in the shabby looking portrait that he had his eye on, and then there were the 'collectors,' an older woman whose devotion to late Victorian erotica Draco found to be at the very least disturbing, and an odd looking fellow who snapped up every blade, sword, dagger, knife and sabre at every auction he went to. Draco always made sure to give him a wide berth.

He was about to go find a seat in the gallery when he noticed a familiar face attached to other familiar bits walk through the door. Ginny Weasley stopped in the entrance as if trying to get a feel of the room; he watched as her eyes moved about the crowd speculatively, and he wondered idly if she'd come into some money. Surely she couldn't afford anything in the auction.

But Draco pushed himself off the wall and strode toward her. Ginny Weasley was one of those rare exceptions to his rule about dating only the wealthy, privileged and monied; the time he'd spent with her was unforgettable; her indefinable allure was what held his attention at school and even for a time after he left Hogwarts. The corner of his lips turned up in the barest smile imaginable as his memory drifted to slim, toned legs wrapped around his hips, and the white column of her throat arched backward, the pale expanse of skin a contrast to the dark auburn tresses, her arms encircling his neck as she cried out his name.

"Draco Malfoy."

His eyebrow rose a fraction of an inch as what ran through his imagination didn't exactly match up with reality at the moment. Her tone was far from welcoming and the glare that graced her visage told him right away that Ginny Weasley would not be making a trip down memory lane with him, tonight, or any other night in the foreseeable future.

Ginny raised her eyebrows as she pursed her lips. "What are you doing here?" she hissed, angry at feeling a flush creep up her cheeks under his scrutiny. She lowered her voice a touch so as not to be heard by the older witches and wizards around them. "Kitschy potions memorabilia and the artwork collection of a man who preferred robust nudes hardly seems your style."

"That just goes to show that you may not know as much about me as you seem to think," Draco answered, leaning back and smoothing the lapel of his suit-coat, trying to maintain an air of mystery.

Ginny snorted, much to the dismay of the pigeon-breasted woman to her right. "You're a lot of things, Draco Malfoy, but an enigma is definitely not one of them," she said. "You're here to a gather more fussy 'things' to put in that mouldering ruin you call a house."

"I resent that," Draco said testily. "It called a manor."

"It's stuffy, though. Just like it's master," she challenged.

Draco leaned close to the redhead, a lazy smile replacing the irritated demeanor of just a moment before. "You didn't always find me stuffy, Ginny," he said, with added emphasis on her given name as he draped an arm on the back of her chair.

Ginny gazed steadily back at him. "Seriously, Draco," she said with a practiced expression. "Do you really think I'm that easy?"

He shrugged. "I haven't completely given up hope," he said, flashing a charming grin.

"It's time, then," she retorted, stiffening in her chair. After a moment she peeked at him out of the corner of her eye. "Why are you here, anyway?" she asked.

"I might ask you the same question."

Ginny rolled her eyes at the familiar back and forth that always happened between them. It was futile, though; he was clever and handsome, but it never went anywhere, any of the times they tried. It didn't mean she wasn't attracted to him, but she wasn't going to give in to her body's urges. Not this time. Subconsciously, she leaned in the tiniest bit. Her eyes drifted to his lips briefly, and she wondered if they were still as soft as she remembered.

Shaking her head to clear it, she stiffened. "I'm here for St. Mungo's," she replied. "In an official capacity."

"Ah, yes." Draco leaned back into his chair. "The hospital." He met her unwavering, challenging gaze. St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, or more specifically, Ginny's employment there, had been a bone of contention for him during their short lived relationship, if you could call what they had a relationship. The physical part had never been a problem; that had worked perfectly fine. It was Draco's reluctance to share her time with all the people - children, no less - in that disease-infested building. Draco didn't settle for being second to anything, much less ill children. He'd asked her repeatedly to quit, told her that working was unseemly for a lady, but she'd steadfastly refused.

"Still there, are you?" he asked, not quite able to conceal his disdainful tone.

"Still making the magical world a better place by touching the lives of sick children?" she replied haughtily. "Yes."

Draco continued to remain unimpressed. "It must be a chore to be a martyr. I wouldn't have the strength," he replied blandly.

"I am not a martyr!" she exclaimed.

"If you say so." He paused, a line marring the smooth skin on his forehead. "So St. Mungo's has sent you here to buy used potions vials, then? Are straits really all that dire?" He'd heard things were bad in some areas of the wizarding community, but he hadn't heard that Mungo's had been hit hard by the post-war economy.

"Not exactly," she answered evasively, smoothing her skirt over her knees.

"Why, then?"

Ginny looked genuinely interested. "Why the twenty questions?"

"Curious, is all."

"Curiosity killed the cat."

A lone eyebrow raised in question. "Did it? Well I don't believe that anyone ever died from being inquisitive."

"I should be so lucky," she quipped. "Why are you here, then?"

Draco smiled enigmatically. It couldn't hurt to tell her. After all, no one else had the knowledge that he did about Marconi. He's paid a hefty price for that information.

"I'm here to buy a portrait," he said smoothly.

"So am I," Ginny said cautiously. No way. No bloody way, she thought desperately. There is no way on Merlin's green giddy Earth that my luck is that bad.

"A portrait of a distant relative," Draco amended, the lie rolling off his tongue easily.

"Oh," she said, audibly breathing a sigh of relief. "I've been sent to buy a portrait for the children's wing. Giordano's apprentice, actually. He invented the cure for Kneazle Pox," she said, smiling tentatively.

Draco swore a blue streak inwardly. Of all the people to have to bid against, it would have to be the most stubborn woman on the planet.

The lights dimmed, signaling the start of the new session, and the auctioneer started his quick, cadenced speech, the lots moving so slowly that Draco thought his patience might snap. He thought Ginny seemed very collected sitting next to him, intently watching the items move across the dais.

When the portrait of Paolo Marconi, apprentice of the esteemed Potions master Vitorre Giordano came up of the block, the relief Draco felt that the majority of the people in the room turned their attention away from the shabby, ill-framed portrait was short-lived, in that Ginny's back straightened, and her complete and total attention was riveted to the painting.

The painting he wanted.

The painting he needed, if you wanted to get right down to it. There was no way he was going to let her have it, only to have it hang in a sticky children's ward, not when the bloody thing had the instructions to what could be the most lucrative potion that had ever been created. She wasn't going to get it. It didn't matter how great her arse was; that portrait was going to be his.

The auctioneer started the bidding at a ridiculously low price, and Draco raised his marker. Ginny shot him a meaningful look and raised the bid by a hundred galleons.

Draco tried for a bland expression, and nodded at the auctioneer. The price increased another hundred galleons.

"Listen," she said as she raised her marker again. "I know it's your ancestor or whatever, but St. Mungos needs this painting, Draco. Back off."

"Like hell I will. What do a bunch of children need with a portrait? It's rather poor motivation for them to get better, I'd think," Draco retorted, nodding to raise the bid five hundred galleons.

"Buying this portrait is part of a plan to help raise money for the pediatric wing," Ginny whispered desperately. Please. We need this." She gave a curt nod to the auctioneer, her expression tense.

Draco upped the amount again. "Sorry, Ginny. I'm going to walk out of here with this portrait. And I'll make a donation to your wing, maybe."

"Maybe?" she said incredulously. "There's more at stake here than you think."

Draco and the auctioneer, along with all of the most of the other eyes in the room, looked intently at the redhead who in turn glared at Draco. She raised her marker stubbornly, her jaw jutting in his direction.

"You don't have enough," Draco warned with a bid increasing nod.

"You don't know that. You can't."

"You think you can outbid a Malfoy?"

"I can out-anything a Malfoy, you supercilious prat."

"I sincerely doubt that, Ginny," he said, his gaze drifting appreciatively to her heaving chest. "I always win."

"Not today."

The argumentative conversation stopped and the bidding started in earnest. With the exception of the bloke who usually reserved his money for weaponry, Draco and Ginny were the only bidders for the shabby, unrestored painting, its gilded frame scuffed and dirty, the colors faded. Much to the amusement of the crowd, they out bid each other for nearly twenty minutes, until finally, Ginny rested her marker in her lap, defeated.

For a split second, Draco wished that he wasn't so single-minded, that he could let things go, that he could be more easygoing and relaxed. She looked so very sad, almost as if she were fighting back tears, and he nearly berated himself for being such an arse.

Nearly. He really, really wanted it, after all. A potion to make unlimited amounts of gold? He could buy her some happy with that.

Draco glanced at her a few more times during the remaining lots, but instead of crying or getting hotheaded and letting her temper get the better of her as he expected, she merely sat back and watched the rest of the auction. She looked relaxed. Carefree. Smug, even.

It did not give Draco a good feeling.

After the auctioneer had banged the gavel one final time, he rose as the people around him began milling about, the winners going to the claim window to get their prizes. He extended a hand to Ginny, giving her a jaunty smile. "It was a well-fought contest."

She took his hand, that same, self-satisfied smile on her face. "Mmmhm," she replied noncommittally. "It was good to see you again, Draco."

Of course! he thought to himself. Even though I outbid her, she still wants me.. The Malfoy charm wins again. He leaned in close and murmured, "We definitely shouldn't let it go so long before we see each other again."

To his surprise, Ginny let out a snort of laughter. "Oh, it won't be," she predicted. "I expect your owl before the week is out."

Draco's eyebrow rose involuntarily. Thinks a lot of herself, doesn't she? He leered, bringing her hand to his lips. "Will it now?"

Ginny rolled her eyes and nodded her head in the affirmative, taking back her hand and slinging her bag over her shoulder. "Undoubtedly. Talk to you soon, Draco." she said breezily, leaving the tall, blond man looking uncharacteristically dumbfounded as his gaze followed her out the door.
Chapter 2 by Persephone33
~~CHAPTER TWO~~


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Get off, you."

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

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

Artemis shot him an unimpressed look.

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

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

Unrolling the scroll, he read:

***

Draco,

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

Interested in a trade?

Get your mind out of the gutter.

Ginny


***
Unable to stop himself; he penned a reply:

***

Ginny,

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

What have you got, Red?

Draco


***

Draco,

Apparently nothing you need.

Ginny


***
Draco stewed for a bit before replying.

***
Ginny,

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

Draco


***

Draco,

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

Ginny


***

Miss Ginevra Weasley
London

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

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

Cordially,

Mr. Draco Malfoy
Wiltshire


***

Draco,

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

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

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

See you for tea, then?

Ginevra


***

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

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

"It looks like you're winning."

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

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

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

"I'm not normal people."

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

"Are you talking to yourself?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Good for you."

"Yes, Thank you."

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

"Ready to see the portrait?"

"Of course."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The portrait grinned at her enigmatically.

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

The painting gave a humble shrug and glanced at Draco.

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

Marconi shook his head vehemently and glared pointedly at Draco.

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

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

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

"I will not," Draco said sourly.

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

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

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

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

"Yeah, well. When in Malfoy Manor."

"Touche."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Him, not you," Draco clarified.

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

"Beautiful, actually," the portrait interjected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draco kicked the portrait so that it was face down, its stream of Italian muffled, and swept her into his arms. "Ginny, I can't think of anything I'd like to do more."
Chapter 3 by Persephone33
~~CHAPTER THREE~~


Ginny looked down at the letter in her hands. It wasn't possible. It just was not possible. There was absolutely no way that Draco Malfoy, the same Draco Malfoy that had reduced her to a quivering mass of nerve endings just days before, was the man that had just sent this letter. Or at the very least the man who authorized its being sent. She read through it once more, her tears only held back by the wave of anger that threatened to overwhelm her.

Ginevra Weasley
London

Ms. Weasley,

This letter is to inform you that your verbal contract with one Draco Malfoy is null and void, according to Goblin subcontract 405H, in conjunction with Magical Agreement 16g. There was no written receipt for your claim on the half of said portrait. Any claim you may have had is now defunct.

Thank you for your inquiry,

Whitehead, Boyett and Blacksten, Attorneys at Law


He'd used her.

Used her. In the worst way possible. He'd taken what she had to offer, duped her and then seduced her, all in a completely premeditated manner. And the worst thing about the entire debacle was not what he'd done to her personally, but what he'd done to the children in the youth ward at Mungos. Ginny looked out the glass window from her office that overlooked the ward and felt a wrenching in her stomach. She'd failed them. All of them. And all because she'd trusted the wrong man.

She'd thought that she'd meant something to him. That this project would be something that they could work on together, that it could be something that they'd share. The fact that she'd put all of her trust in something that he'd said and then slept with him, like the sort of scarlet woman that Ron was always going on about, was inexcusable. So inexcusable that she was going to have to go into her superior's office and explain to her why the plan in which she'd sunk all of the pediatric wing's capital had indeed, not come to fruition, like she'd promised.

Clenching her jaw, she took out quill and parchment and scribbled a missive, then charmed the entire envelope red, and said the incantation to turn it into a howler.

DRACO MALFOY,

YOU SELFISH, SELF-RIGHTEOUS, SUPERCILIOUS BASTARD. THE LOATHING I FEEL FOR YOU IS BUT A DROP IN THE OCEAN COMPARED TO WHAT AN ARSE YOU ARE FOR TAKING MONEY OUT OF THE HANDS OF SICK CHILDREN. SOME OF THEM MIGHT DIE WITHOUT TREATMENT, TREATMENT WE NO LONGER HAVE THE MONEY FOR BECAUSE YOU ARE A CHEATING, CONNIVING SHITE-FACED PIG.

I HOPE ALL THAT MONEY KEEPS YOU WARM AT NIGHT, BECAUSE NO GOOD WOMAN WILL EVER HAVE YOU, AND I'M CERTAINLY NOT GOING TO BE STUPID ENOUGH TO FALL FOR YOUR LIES EVER, EVER AGAIN. YOU CAN ROT, DRACO ORION MALFOY. YOU'D BETTER HOPE THAT YOU NEVER NEED TREATMENT WHEN I'M ON CALL, BECAUSE I'D PROBABLY LET YOU DIE.

HATE FILLED AND BEYOND ANGRY,

GINEVRA MOLLY WEASLEY
CHIEF OF PEDIATRICS
ST. MUNGOS
LONDON

***

Draco closed his eyes, ears still ringing due to the magically magnified and completely brassed off voice of Ginny Weasley echoing off the stone walls of the dungeon. He opened his eyes enough to see the red enveloped letter rip itself into tiny pieces, and frowned.

He decided to pen a reply.

Ginny,

Whatever happened to the old saying, 'Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far?''

Draco


***

Her reply came swiftly.

Malfoy,

Speaking softly is overrated. And if you come around again, I'll show you that my 'stick' (or wand, I'm assuming is what you meant) is exactly the right size, you piece of shite. TRY ME.

Ginevra Weasley


***

He stood in the laboratory as he read her latest missive, taking a break from his cauldron. Draco had decided on doing the bulk of the work himself on the gold potion, as he really didn't feel that he could trust anyone else.

And he'd told his solicitors as much when they'd advised him not to cut Ginny Weasley out of their would-be contract. They'd told him of the legal ramifications of his decision, but he'd known that she wouldn't try to retaliate, that she'd accept the letter from his legal representation as truth. What he hadn't expected was the complete and all-encompassing anger from her. He'd supposed that she'd be hurt that he'd used her knowledge to get what he wanted, and Draco did feel a twinge of guilt about the way things had ended. He hadn't really intended to invite Ginny Weasley into his bed, but she'd initiated it, and he'd never really been one to say 'no' in that instance, no matter the circumstances.

He sat heavily on one of the wooden chairs that surrounded the work table, and frowned more deeply. A battle was raging inside him; he knew that this money, this power that he'd gain from the gold potion was what he needed to earn back respect the respect of the Wizarding community, but there was also the unexpected wrinkle of Ginevra Weasley. He remembered their time together at Hogwarts fondly, but knew at the time that nothing could come from that particular relationship. When she'd ended it, he'd thought, no harm, no foul. But after having spent time with her again, having had a taste of her once more, Draco really fought with himself over his decision to cut her out of the potion.

He'd give charitably to St. Mungos.

He would.

And he didn't need the redhead. There were plenty of other girls who fit the bill. Who were beautiful and smart, and who gave as good as they got.

Well, no, damn it all, there weren't.

Draco exhaled heavily and got up from his chair to have another go at the potion. He'd get this right. The potion, the family name, Ginny. All of it. He was a Malfoy, after all. And the Malfoys didn't make mistakes. Well, not mistakes that couldn't be easily corrected.

Unfortunately for Draco, any attempt over the next six months that he made to get near Ginny were met with a stiff arm and a thrown hex, some that hit their mark, he was sad to say. In that time, he'd perfected the gold potion and boosted the European magical economy, earning a place in the hearts of the people for the Malfoy name. He made the cover of magazines, was asked to sit on the board of directors for several companies, and had an endless supply of leggy blondes that accompanied him to various charity events, to which he gave generously.

Yet each time he tried to attempt to come close to Ginny Weasley to make amends, he only got hexes thrown at him for his trouble, a few of which, to his dismay, landed on their intended target. He tried letters that came back jinxed, flowers, which came back as mulch, and chocolates, which he could only assume she kept, but he never heard a word back from her.

Even when he donated 50 million galleons to the pediatric wing of St. Mungo's, Ginny hadn't even given him as much as a glance at the ceremony. It was if he didn't even exist for her. He decided that getting hexed was worth it. He had to see her, and he had to see her now.

Casting his very best shield charm, he entered the hospital and marched straight to her office, and gave a cursory knock before entering.

"Ginny, " he began, "I have to see you--"

"You supercilious bastard!" she shrieked. "Get the hell out of my office!"

"Wait!" he shouted as a stinging hex barely grazed his shoulder. "I come in peace!"

"I don't care if you've come in the whole bloody thing, I want you out of my hospital." Ginny threw a burning jinx at a toe that happened to be peeking out from behind one of her chairs.

"Ouch!" he shouted again. "Truce! Truce!"

She put down her wand and looked at him expectantly. "You have one minute."

"Good," Draco said, an air of relief about him as he stood properly. He smoothed his robes and cleared his throat. "I'm glad to see you've come to your senses and decided to listen for once."

"Tick tock, Malfoy," Ginny said, narrowing her eyes. "Forty-five seconds."

"Right," Draco said with a short nod, deciding that he'd do better to simply get on with it. "I wanted to tell you that... well, that I was-" He closed his eyes and swallowed hard. "Wrong."

Ginny sniffed, unimpressed. "Wow," she said, sinking into her chair and folding her arms over her chest. "That sounded like it hurt."

"I mean it. I made a poor decision in that... whole... area."

"Mmhm. You slept with me to get what you wanted, Malfoy."

He frowned and raised a finger. "No, technically, I got what I wanted and then I slept with you."

Ginny's eyebrows nearly reached her hairline. "And this is supposed to endear you to me somehow?"

He exhaled heavily and glared. "You're not making this very easy, you know."

"Why should I make this easy?" she asked. "You were an arse. You admitted you were wrong. I'm simply waiting for the rest of it."

"The rest of what?"

"She shook her head in disbelief. "You're such a- a Malfoy. Two words. Just two little words.

"I regret what I did," he offered.

Ginny pursed her lips. "That's five."

"I truly wish I'd made a different decision regarding you and the entire potion situation."

Ginny stood slowly and picked up her wand.

"Alright!" he said, putting his hands up in surrender. "I'm sorry. I'm very, very sorry. I shouldn't have done it. I'm an arse."

Taking her seat again, she put down her wand and directed her attention to the pieces of parchment that littered her desk. "That's what I've been saying for months." Giving him a cursory glance, she bit out, "You can go, now."

Draco's disappointment showed on his face, and he approached her desk. "I can't stop thinking about you, Ginny," he said softly. "What can I do? How can I make this right?"

"You can't fix this," she replied. "You can't fix me. And you can't always have whatever you want, despite your upbringing."

Draco's lips pressed together in a line and he involuntarily bowed his head. He'd ruined it. His chance with her, a chance for them to be together. Really together. Reaching in his pocket, he pulled out a single piece of parchment, re-sized a rather bulky package, and left a vial with the silvery fluid of Pensieve thoughts.

"Of course," he said, his voice hoarse. "I'll go."

From the corner of her eye, Ginny peeked at his retreating back, part of her gleeful that she'd finally bested him, and the other part sad to see him give up so easily. She thought about him, too. It had just been easier to channel those feelings into hate than admit what they really were.

She found herself staring at the closed door through which he'd left for several minutes, thinking about all the ways they'd gone wrong. Finally, her eyes drifted down to what he left on her desk. Unfolding the familiar looking piece of parchment, her eyes widened as she saw that it was the potion that Draco had pulled out of the frame surrounding Paolo Marconi's portrait. She hurried around the desk and quickly unwrapped the brown paper from the package to find Paolo's soft brown eyes gazing back at her.

"Ah, cara," Paolo said. "Malfoy, he is gone, no?"

"Yes," she replied, picking up the vial. "He's gone."

"He was sorry, cara mia. He asked what he could do, and I told him that no amount of money was worth sacrificing the love of a beautiful woman."

Ginny nodded, not quite believing what she thought she saw.

Paolo continued. "I suggested that if he were truly sorry, he would give it all to the one who made it possible. To bare himself to her, and let her decide his fate." The portrait's canvas eyes drifted down to the vial in her hands. I see he did just that. I watched him removed those," he said, nodding at the silvery liquid. "His memories of making the potion. All of them."

Ginny dropped the vial on the desk and let the parchment flutter to the floor as she rushed to the door, yanking it open only to stop short, as Draco was filling the doorway.

He tried unsuccessfully to look smug as he said, "I knew you didn't really hate me."

She glared and turned to move away, but he caught her by the wrist, and pulled her close, threading his hand into her hair and placing the other at her lower back. His voice was husky as he murmured, "If you tell me you don't feel anything at all, that you don't think about me as well, I'll go, Ginny. Say the word."

She opened her mouth to form a rebuttal, but the words were lost as his lips claimed hers, and she was paralyzed in the feeling of the moment. Draco held her close and kissed her until she was breathless, and her eyes closed as he moved to whisper apologies and promises in her ear, as the portrait that started it all looked on in approval.

***The End***
End Notes:
I hope you enjoyed it, or at the very least that it gave you a few chuckles. Reviews are always appreciated!
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