Ginny sat, dumfounded, looking at the scrap of parchment that Harry had just handed her, complete with the official Ministry of Magic letterhead at the top.
“You’re joking,” she prompted desperately.
Harry shook his head.
Ginny sighed, and her shoulders sagged. “Of all the former Death Eaters I could be saddled with.” She looked up hopefully. “Couldn’t I at least have Theo Nott?”
Harry shook his head again.
“Well you’re helpful, aren’t you?”
Ginny frowned at him. “What? Did Lord Voldemort rob your powers of speech before he was a stain on the moors of Scotland?”
Startled by his outburst, she waited for more, meeting his eyes in a staring contest of sorts, but apparently he was finished speaking for the day.
Ginny rolled her eyes, then scanned the parchment once more, and asked, more to herself than the mute in front of her, “They’re here then?”
Just then, Ron stuck his head around the corner. “Alright, Gin?”
Guh, Ginny thought. If he hadn’t turned noble, she would know how to deal with him. Years of hatred were barely overshadowed by saving her brother from certain death.
The two wizards entered the room. Ron studied his sister’s expression. He could tell that the littlest Weasley was displeased. “We’ve brought you your newest assignment, Ginny.” He chuckled a bit hoping to lighten the mood.
“Thank you, Ron, Harry,” she said dismissively. “I’ll be able to take it from here.”
Harry looked pityingly at Draco. Ron slapped his back bracingly. “Sometimes it helps to not look directly in her eyes,” he whispered from the corner of his mouth.
Draco smirked, and Harry and Ron turned to go. At the door, Harry turned to cast long look at Ginny and Draco before exiting.
The door closed, and Ginny murmured, “He gets weirder every day.” She shook her head and gestured to a chair. “Have a seat, Mr. Malfoy. Will your solicitor be joining us?”
Draco sat and glanced toward the door vaguely. “Yes, he was supposed to be here, but I don’t think it’s necessary for us to wait on him. He’s a bit too protective of me as it is.”
She mirrored his facial expression. “You have a lot of protection, don’t you, Mr. Malfoy?”
His smirk intensified. “Mr. Malfoy?” he asked in a teasing manner. “Surely we’re on better terms than that? Please, call me Draco.”
Oh, Merlin. No. Please, don’t bring it up, she thought.
“After all, I did save your brother from the killing curse.”
And there it was. It took the git all of thirty seconds of being in the same room before mentioning why she had to be nice to him. She gazed at him, about to tell him that she still didn’t trust him and it might take years for her to forgive what a giant arse he’d been in school when he did something she was totally unprepared for.
Her breath caught in her throat at the complete transformation of his countenance. Where moments ago he was haughty and superior, hard and unyielding, now he looked completely different. His grey eyes crinkled slightly at the corners, his lips curved up, and she noticed that he actually had a dimple in his right cheek. Her stomach did a mini-gymnastic routine. Draco Malfoy looked approachable, friendly, like someone she’d want to be friends with, spend time with, take home to meet her mother—
Stop, Ginny instructed herself. Not going to happen.
She nodded once. “Alright, D-Draco.”
“See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
She forced herself to control her own breathing. Steady, girl. In. Out. “Of course not,” she replied. She was the picture of the consummate professional. And had her voice not cracked on the last word, she would have sounded it, too. Pull it together, Gin, she thought to herself. Death Eater. Auror. Task at hand, you stupid girl. Perhaps not looking at him would be best.
She turned her attention to the papers in front of her. “I’ve read your file and understand that you want to begin visitation to Pansy Parkinson of Sussex?
His face fell. Not that she noticed. Or regretted it. “Yes, I do.”
Quill poised, she gazed at him intently, willing herself not to want him to smile again. “May I ask why?”
“I have to convince her to marry me.”
Ginny was caught by surprise and had to school her expression quickly to remain neutral. “I hadn’t realized that you were dating. Not that it’s any of my business.”
“Then, if I may be so bold?” she prompted.
“Not at all, Ginevra.”
Oh, Merlin. He called me Ginevra. Stop it. That’s enough. Listen. He’s still talking.
“It’s for the conditions of my parole. And pardon. To gain freedom, my inheritance, and my home, I have to marry.”
Ginny arched a brow. “And Parkinson said yes?”
“Not yet. But she’s the only suitable pureblood.”
Ginny stiffened. “Is she? I see.” Okay. This was more familiar ground. She chuckled to herself. Same old Malfoy. You can take the boy out of Slytherin, but you can't take the Slytherin out of the boy.
Draco cocked his head to one side. “Can you think of another pure-blooded witch who’d agree to marry me on such short notice?”
Ginny thought for a moment, running through a myriad of responses to that question and dismissing most of them as insane. “I suppose not,” she replied in clipped tones. More gently, she began, “Mr. Malfoy, you do know her activities of late, don’t you?”
“What happened to calling me 'Draco?” he asked.
Oh, Gods. Do not blush. You will NOT blush you silly –
Too late. She could feel the blood starting at her chest and moving up her neck, making her face flame. “Sorry. Right,” she breathed.
Draco shifted a bit in his chair. “I haven’t spoken to Pansy in awhile. I know she hasn’t been a model citizen. I shall endeavour to encourage her otherwise.”
Ginny studied him, noticing the differences in him. He was uncomfortable. He was frowning slightly. She raised an eyebrow. “Because you’re on the straight and narrow, now, are you?”
Oh, please, don’t smile.
He smiled charmingly. “Of course.”
At the same time, Ginny repressed a snort and forced herself not to go into a puddle of goo. Just because an attractive man smiled at her was no reason to act like a mooning schoolgirl. Merlin, how long had it been? She needed to get a date. Soon.
“Right then,” she replied, businesslike once more. “Here are the times that the Ministry will make me available to be your escort. You can owl me the times most convenient for you.” Their fingertips brushed, and both of them pulled back, feeling a shock erupt where they touched.
Draco looked at her curiously, as if he was seeing her for the first time. “Al-alright.”
“Conveniently enough, I’m Parkinson’s liaison, as well. She’s an unpleasant one, at least to me. I think you’ll have your work cut out for you, Mr. Malfoy.”
Ginny was getting a little annoyed at her stomach; its flip-flopping every time he purred his name was getting irritating. “Right. I’ll expect your owl, then.”
He left, and Ginny rested her cheek on the cool of her desk. “Well, that went well,” she mumbled.
After she calmed slightly and chastised herself for reacting like such an idiot to Draco Malfoy, of all people, Ginny furrowed her brow and studied the file on her desk. Pansy Parkinson had also narrowly escaped Azkaban, but unfortunately, Pansy had shown absolutely no remorse for her part in the war. Ginny wasn’t sure but had heard rumours that the Parkinson trust financed the whole of the Department of Mysteries. The Ministry wouldn’t let her through the door but would take her money, evidently, and keep her out of prison in exchange.
No, Pansy definitely hadn’t changed her ways. She wondered briefly if Harry and Ron weren’t wrong about Draco. It was so much easier to have that perspective about the smarmy git when he wasn’t sitting four feet in front of her smiling, though.
Smiling. Pfft. Yeah. Like I buy that, she thought.
He was the same as ever, he’d just trained the muscles in his face to do a new trick. Look at what he was trying to do! He was trying to get a pure-blood to marry him. For money. Yep, he was still the same. Harry was too trusting, and Ron had a blind spot when it came to Draco. A little noise escaped her throat, somewhere between a growl and a whimper. She’d just have to keep a close eye on them both.
She walked aimlessly down the corridor, pondering Draco’s – Malfoy’s - situation. She rounded a corner and was met by a rather dishevelled Blaise Zabini.
“Ah, Weasley. You’ve met with my client?”
“Yes,” she replied appraising him. “Our meeting just ended a few minutes ago.”
“Ah. Yes. Well. Sorry about that. Pressing Ministry business. Do let me know if there is anything I can do, Weasley.”
Ginny made vague affirmative noises and continued around the corner to Hermione’s office, only to find the girl looking suspiciously flushed.
Hermione straightened quickly and gathered a sheaf of parchment, stacking and restacking them, making sure that the edges were even.
“Busy day?” Ginny inquired.
Hermione looked up and blushed. “Erm, no. Not really.”
“Was Blaise just in here?”
“What? Oh, Zabini? Yes, he was in here, briefly.”
“Department of Mysteries stuff. Pressing business.”
Ginny smirked at the number of times she’d heard that euphemism in as many minutes. That must be what the kids are calling it these days, she thought. I could do with some ‘pressing ministry business.’
Hermione cleared her throat. “How was your meeting with Malfoy?” she squeaked.
Ginny filled her in on the particulars, and Hermione winced. “Marry her? Of course I can’t say much, but I know that Parkinson’s untouchable. There would be parts of the Ministry that couldn’t function without her. Or rather, her money.”
“Well,” Ginny replied, “I’m just there to prohibit collusion, not to save Malfoy from marrying her. There’s only so much I can be responsible for.”
“Hermione?” Ginny began, “the next time the Ministry has ‘pressing business,’ you may want to make sure you re-button your shirt right, after the meeting’s over,” she said seriously, leaving the other woman’s office with a smirk.
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