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.”
“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.”
“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?”
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--?”
“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.”
“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.”
“When I walked you to your room last night, you attacked me.”
“With my wand?”
“With your mouth.”
“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.
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.
Will try to find a replacement. It may take some time. Please be patient.
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.
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.
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