Schedules were arranged, appointments were made, and a little less than a week later, Ginny found herself escorting Draco Malfoy up the rough hewn steps of the Parkinson estate. There had been very little conversation between the two as they walked from the apparition point in the village, and it was a few moments before Ginny realized that she was several steps ahead of Draco. She turned back and found him standing still, face inscrutable, hands shoved down into the pockets of his robes, staring at the imposing front door of the manor before him.

Ginny simply waited. This was his sickle, and he could spend it as he saw fit as far as she was concerned.

His gaze wavered to Ginny, and his eyes held hers for a moment. All at once, his face fell into an expression that was, for Malfoy, almost apologetic.

Ginny smiled. “It’s not as if you are walking to your death, Mr. Malfoy. Only marriage.”

“Draco,” he said absently, then chuckled mirthlessly. “Yes. It’s not as if she’s some misandristic soul-sucking harpy that will try to emasculate me at any given opportunity. He paused. “No, wait. Yes, she is.”

Ginny giggled involuntarily.

Feeling pleased with himself for having made her laugh, he sighed deeply, ducking his head and looking at her through his fringe. “I don’t know if I can do this,” he murmured.

“Sure you can,” Ginny said bracingly. “Be charming. Smile.” That’s what works on me, anyway. “Down on one knee, ring, question, done.”

“Right, of course,” he said, retrieving the pompous air that usually hung about him like a cloud. “Although, it may take a bit longer than that, even for me,” he added with a wink. He brushed by her and rang the bell authoritatively with an air of impatience.

After several moments, a house elf answered the door, took their coats, and showed them to a solarium where the lady of the house sat lounging in a high backed chair. Her expression was frightening, like a predator about to toy with its prey. She didn’t even so much as glance at Draco.

“Weasley. What a surprise. Here to check for Dark objects? To pry up the floorboards in the drawing room? To look behind the family portrait for a safe filled with Galleons that the Ministry knows nothing about?” she asked with a snarl. “Bloody parasitic government,” she muttered.

“Lovely to see you, as well, Parkinson,” Ginny replied evenly.

Pansy blew a raspberry and rolled her eyes.

“Charming, as always,” Ginny murmured under her breath. She moved past Draco. “She’s all yours.”

“What,” Pansy asked, with an air of distaste, waving a perfectly manicured hand in Draco’s general direction, “is this about?”

Ginny looked at Draco, who shrugged and focused on the girl in front of her. “Why don’t I let you two discuss that?” Ginny retreated to the far end of the room to give the others the illusion of privacy and busied herself with inspecting some hanging ferns.

“Pansy,” Draco intoned, by way of greeting.

“Filth,” she retorted.

His shoulders sagged. “Pansy, don’t.”

Whatever restraint that Pansy had broke with a rush of emotion. “How could you?” she asked, screeching. “How could you leave us all? You abandoned us. We were your friends, your family, you traitor! You abandoned us! You’re no better than Weasley, over there. A blood traitor.”

Pansy continued on for a few more minutes, railing, berating, and condemning, while Draco sat silent, not moving.

When she got tired of calling him every foul name she could think of, her conversation took a new turn. “Do you think it’s not possible that I don’t know why you’re here? Now that I can be useful to you, you’re here to ask me for a favour. Well, I won’t do it, Draco Malfoy. I won’t help you because you certainly didn’t consider me when you jumped ship to help the speccy fuckhead ruin our way of life, did you?”

“That isn’t true,” Draco said quietly, so quietly Ginny had to strain – unobtrusively, of course, as she was supposed to be giving them privacy – to make out his words. “That isn’t the way it happened at all.”

“What?” she shrieked. “Are you saying that you didn’t leave your friends, your classmates, the people that you had lived with for seven years hanging out to dry?”

“I asked you to come,” he continued in the same quiet voice.

She rounded on him. “I had responsibilities, Draco. Just like you did. People depended on me. Lives were at stake. Or don’t you remember?”

Draco sat heavily on a chair next to Pansy, his head in his hands. “Please stop.”

“No,” she said cruelly. “I don’t think I will. You need to hear what you did. You left, and people died. People depended on you to know what to do, and they died. They're gone, and they’ll never come back. They were my friends, Draco,” Pansy said with a catch in her throat. “They’re gone because of you.”

Draco raised his head out of his hands and looked at Pansy through bleary eyes, looking thoroughly miserable. “I—I’m sorry Pansy. I am. If there had been any way I could have done it differently, I—”

“Time’s up,” Ginny interrupted. “Sorry, but I’ve got to get back to the Ministry. We’ll be back next Tuesday, Parkinson.”

“Looking forward to it, as ever, Weasley,” she replied sarcastically. “Do us all a favour and leave the traitor at home next week. I have no desire to have him infect my home ever again.”

Ginny gazed at the woman, pale face devoid of any emotion. “If you don’t like how the Ministry is handling things, make sure you fill out the questionnaire that comes in the mail. Check the ‘My Auror Liaison is a Bitch’ box, and your complaint will be handled in the order in which it was received, with all the priority it deserves. Good day, Parkinson,” she said pleasantly.

She hauled Draco out of the chair he’d collapsed into and steered him to the entrance hall, grabbing their cloaks from an overloaded elf and exiting the house quickly to the silence of the front lawn.

They were halfway to the Apparition point when Draco spoke. “You might’ve told me beforehand that I only get fifteen minutes at a time.”

Ginny frowned at him. “Why did you let her talk to you like that?”

He shrugged. “Why not?” he asked. “She was right.”

“She most certainly was not right,” Ginny retorted indignantly. “You did the right thing during the war, Malfoy. It wasn’t easy, what you did, turning your back on everything you knew. I’m sure there were repercussions. I’m certainly sorry for that. But you saved lives as well.” She stepped more closely to him and touched his arm lightly. “I’m personally more grateful to you than you’ll ever know.” Her eyes met his and held them, willing her words to undo the visible damage done by Pansy’s acerbic rant.

He said nothing, and they began to walk towards the Apparition point again.

Ginny exhaled heavily. “I still don’t know why you let her talk to you like that. I would have hexed her good and proper several times over.”

Draco smiled softly, watching the ground as he walked. “Ah, with Pansy, you just have to let her go until she runs out of steam. She was almost finished. It’ll be better next time.”

“Next time?” Ginny asked incredulously. “You’re really going back?”

“I don’t have much of a choice, do I?”

Ginny frowned. “There are always other choices, Draco. They just may not be ones that you’re willing to make right now.”

He looked startled and confused, a dead sexy combination in Ginny’s opinion.

“So what choice would you make, were you in my position, Ginny?” he asked, gazing at her intently.

She shook her head. “Oh, no. I couldn’t begin to know how to handle this situation. Lets face it. With my family, I’d never be put in this position, would I?”

He frowned and began walking past her. “No. No, your family never made any bad decisions that culminated in a Ministry inquiry and consequent judgement, you’re right.”

She caught his sleeve. “I meant the money, Mal-Draco. I have no reason to marry for any other reason than love.”

He looked as if the idea had never occurred to him. “Marry for love?” he asked.

She laughed. “Yes, people do it all the time.”

By looking at him, she could tell that he was thinking very hard, his expressions were changing so quickly that she couldn’t keep up with them.

He had just begun to speak when Ginny interrupted him. “You’ll want to go next Tuesday, then? I’ll owl you with the times that are best for me.”

“Yes, of course,” he replied softly, studying her curiously.

“Well, then. Goodbye,” she replied and left him with only the sound of her abrupt Apparition.
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