A/N: Sorry for the delay... I've had this chapter on my harddrive for a long time. I was hoping to get the next chapter written before I posted, but it seems that I don't have the time I would like. However, I'm hoping I'll find some time in the next few days in order to get some writing done. Special thanks to Cyn for being the best beta a girl could ask for. And to those of you who took the time to reply to chapter 1, this is for you.
(Un)Happily Ever After – Chapter 2
Harry was dead, which wasn’t as shocking as I thought it would be. I think some part of me always knew he wouldn’t survive the war. I’m not even sure he wanted to survive the war. Maybe that’s what he was trying to tell me when he broke up with me all of those years ago. He was letting me go then, so I wouldn’t have to let him go now. What I did find shocking was the way he died. Not at the hand of Voldemort. But several weeks after his defeat of Voldemort, apparently Harry lay down to take a nap and simply never woke up. I’d like to think he knew it was his time to go. Since Voldemort was dead the Death Eaters were falling on a daily basis, the war would end in a matter of weeks, and Harry must have been exhausted.
What I did find a little shocking was that Ron and Hermione weren’t married, or even dating. In fact, Hermione was married to Viktor Krum. From what Mum told me, the two of them had a falling out when they were searching for the last Horcrux and ended their relationship. Even though they remained friends, neither of them brought up the idea of dating again. Hermione said that Viktor was working as a liaison between the Bulgarian and British governments when they met each other again. Surprisingly, she said it was like no time had passed. I can’t help but be happy for her. Every time she talks about him her entire face lights up and it’s obvious to anyone that she is genuinely happy with Viktor.
As for me, I can’t really say. I’ve been home for a month, and I’m not sure if I’ve adjusted or not. Ron and I are both living at Grimmauld Place with Mum and Dad. Bill and Fleur have started building a house on the land where the Burrow used to be. Fleur is expecting their first baby in a few months. Mum is so excited at the idea of being a grandmother that she has been helping them nearly every day. Dad is back at work at the Ministry. They gave him a promotion and he’s now the Deputy Minister of Muggle Relations. Basically, he is in charge of any decision dealing with Muggles, including his old job in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office. He seems very content with the work, and it doesn’t keep him at work as late as it did before the war.
Last week the twins reopened Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley. Fred is living in the flat above the shop, but George married Luna and they live in a more residential neighbourhood. At first I thought they hadn’t moved on, but the more time I spend with them, the more maturity I see. Even though it’s still technically a “joke shop” they’ve stopped trying to kill their customers and seem to really care about providing quality products. It must be working, too. Every time I go by there, the store is busy. Luna says that the true test will be the last week of August when Diagon Alley is full of new Hogwarts students for the first time in seven years. I happen to agree with her.
Having Luna as a sister-in-law was a bit weird. Yes, she was one of my best friends at Hogwarts. But I also hadn’t seen her in nearly a decade. Some days I can’t wrap my head around the fact that she married George (even though they dated for years, apparently). Her father died during the war, and she inherited The Quibbler, which was now a respectable newspaper. Under Luna’s leadership, they focused on honest war reporting instead of various yeti sightings. I was more than a little shocked to learn that The Daily Prophet was now nothing more than a gossip rag. They ran sensational headlines, such as the one from that morning: MURDERER! over a picture of Draco Malfoy. Of course, they were alleging that he had murdered Harry while he slept.
“Good morning, Ginny.”
I looked up to find Mum standing there. I swallowed the last bite of my croissant and smiled. “Mum. You’re up early.”
“You know I’m always up this early.” Mum glanced up at the clock and frowned. “But it is a bit early for you. Are you going somewhere?”
“First day, remember? I wanted to get there early.” I flipped to the second page of the story about Draco. “Can you believe this? They’re accusing Malfoy of murder.”
“That sweet boy?” she asked. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
“Dear,” she interrupted, “I know you and your brother didn’t get along with him well at school, but he was very helpful during the war. If not for him, I’m not sure we would have won.”
I nodded because I didn’t know what else to say. “Do you want to know who they say he murdered?”
Mum’s head snapped up. “What? Let me see that paper.” She took it from me and scanned the front page, reading the details. “That’s impossible. Harry died in his sleep.”
I shrugged. “They must have some proof, Mum. Or else they’re opening themselves up for a libel suit. I wouldn’t put it past Malfoy to go visit his barrister this morning and see if he has a case.”
Mum smiled at me. “You sound smart, Ginny. I’m so proud of you.”
I couldn’t help but smile back. “Thanks Mum.”
“Yes sir?” I slipped my shoes back on and went to Mr. Mincy’s office. “What do you need?”
“We have an important client coming in. You’re needed to take notes for the meeting in the conference room in ten minutes.”
I nodded. “Yes sir.”
I’d only been working for two hours and already I was being called in for an ‘important’ client. That was pretty impressive. Yes, I would be taking notes in the meeting, not actually participating. But at least they wouldn’t expect me to fetch them tea and biscuits.
I went back to my desk and grabbed my wand before going to the loo. I performed a refreshing spell on my robes to get rid of the wrinkles and a straightening charm on my hair. I checked my teeth for any leftovers from breakfast this morning. After I was satisfied with how I looked, I returned to my desk for a roll of parchment and quill and made my way to the conference room.
There were already some secretaries setting up and one of them looked up at me and smiled. “Ms. Weasley?”
She pointed to a chair at the end. “That’s your seat. We use a Quick-Quotes Quill to record the minutes in the meeting, but the partners prefer if there is someone else also taking notes. I’m not sure how long the meeting will be. Mr. Malfoy called first thing this morning, rather upset about the headline in the Prophet.”
“Malfoy?” I questioned. “You mean Draco Malfoy?”
“The one and only,” a masculine voice from the door answered.
I turned to find him studying me carefully. It was obvious he recognized me, but couldn’t place from where. I couldn’t help but blush when his eyes ran down my body, lingering on my chest and hips. It had been eight years since I’d last seen him and I was no longer the scrawny little girl I’d been at Hogwarts. Finally he asked, “Have we met?”
I nodded, amused. “We have. In fact, we attended Hogwarts together.”
Draco crossed the room and took my hand in his. “That’s not possible. I’m sure I would remember you.” He leaned down and pressed his lips to my hand. “Would you remind me, then?”
“Ah, Mr. Malfoy I see you’ve met Ms. Weasley.”
The blond immediately dropped my hand and took a step back. “Weasley?”
“Yes,” Mr. Mincy continued. “She’ll be here taking notes today and if all goes well, she will join your legal team.” For the first time, Mr. Mincy looked up from the paper he was holding and noticed the expression on Malfoy’s face. “Is that a problem Mr. Malfoy?”
I could see him thinking about it, but he shook his head. “No. Ms. Weasley and I know each other from Hogwarts. This will be an excellent time for us to catch up.”
I released the breath I hadn’t known I was holding. And then a second later, I realized I had a reason to be grateful to Draco Malfoy.
“Let’s get down to business, shall we?” I nodded and sat down in the sat the secretary had pointed out to me earlier. I was a little surprised when Malfoy sat down next to me. Mr. Mincy sat across from me.
I wrote “In Attendance: D. Malfoy, J. Mincy, G. Weasley” at the top of my parchment and looked up. “Will anyone else be here?”
“No, it’s just the three of us. Ms. Weasley, the purpose of you being at this meeting is to pick up things that the Quick Quill won’t, okay? Don’t focus so much on what we say, but how it is said and what we agree upon. Any questions?” Mr. Mincy spread the newspaper out on the table between us. “Mr. Malfoy, I’m assuming this is the reason you’re here today.”
“Yes. Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to this trash.”
“Okay. So you’re here to explore your legal options?”
Malfoy nodded. “Yes. I want to sue them.”
“Mr. Malfoy, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The first step would be to contact them and ask that they print a retraction. They have to know they’ve opened themselves up to a libel suit. I would assume they have some kind of proof.”
“Proof?” Malfoy questioned. “There is no proof. Harry Potter and I fought on the same side during that damn war. Besides, I wasn’t anywhere around when his body was found. I was kilometers away. And all of the sudden they come up with this rubbish that I poisoned him, and I have to defend myself against it?”
“Mr. Malfoy, I’m not accusing you of doing what they said. I’m only saying that this newspaper must feel like they have something in order to print this story.”
“Mr. Mincy,” Malfoy interrupted him. “Your firm has represented my family for decades. You have managed to get my father out of more trouble than one man should ever get himself into, surely you can handle a simple libel suit. If you cannot, I will take my business elsewhere. Is that clear?”
The older barrister nodded once. “Mr. Malfoy, I need you to understand if there is even the smallest grain of truth in these allegations, I need to know so I can incorporate it into plans for your defense. I do not want any surprises.”
Before my eyes I watched as Draco Malfoy became a block of ice. “This story is incorrect. It’s your responsibility to either have them print a retraction or I will sue them. If that doesn’t work, I will buy the damn newspaper and force them to print a retraction before I shut it down for good. You can tell them that, if you want. If you don’t want to, then I will find a barrister who will.”
Mr. Mincy pressed his lips together to stop his smile. “Yes, sir.”
Malfoy put his hands on the conference table. “Very well then. I have a lunch engagement I must get to. I’ll be in touch later this week to see how things are going. I don’t expect to see any more stories like that one in the paper.” He didn’t wait for a response before he stalked out of the room.
Once the door was shut behind him, I turned to my boss and offered him a weak smile. “What do you need me to do?”
He gave me a kind smile back. “You still want the case?”
I nodded eagerly. “I learned a long time ago that Draco Malfoy is all bark and no bite. He doesn’t scare me.”
The older man laughed. “Ms. Weasley, I knew I liked you for some reason. Right now, I need you to start researching. Find whatever libel cases you can. I still think the Prophet must have some proof, given what they printed. See if you can’t find out what it is.”
I made myself a note. “My sister-in-law is the editor of the Quibbler. I’ll see if she knows anything about this story. I’ll also look into other cases. I would think this might be very hard to prove, considering Harry is dead.”
“Yet they printed it anyway.”
I knew he was right. “If you need anything else, let me know. Right now I’m going to go see Luna and then to the archives for some research. I should be back at my desk later this afternoon.”
Mr. Mincy nodded. “Good work, Ms. Weasley.”
By the time I returned to the office, it was long after dark and the house elves were cleaning up for the night. I went to my desk to retrieve my purse and keys when I noticed a white envelope lying on top of my calendar. I frowned. That hadn’t been there when I left. The outside simply read G. Weasley, and when I pulled the slip of parchment from inside I couldn’t stop my smile.
Who would have guessed a Weasley would run off to Paris to avoid the war, so a Malfoy could fight their battles for them? It was nice to see you again. –D.M.
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