Ginny stood outside the front gates of the Malfoy townhome, her brand new Ministry robes stiff against her body. She felt a bit as if her stomach was going to give up her breakfast, but remained steadfastly rooted to the spot. As far as first assignments went, this could not have been a worse one for her. The prospect of seeing Lucius Malfoy filled her with dread, and her lips pursed involuntarily as she endeavored to push away thoughts from her first year, and of the man who was the cause of so much of her pain.
Before she was able to raise a hand to knock on the door, the wards on the house chimed, a pretentious noise if she'd ever heard one.
A house elf stood on the doorstep, somehow managing to look down its nose at her despite being three feet shorter. "Tradesmen's entrance is to rear."
Ginny frowned deeply at the little thing and raised a brow, going against her instinctive urge to cuddle all elves in general. "I am not a tradesman. I am a Ministry of Magic Employee with the Reclamation Cooperation, and I have an appointment with your master. You will tell him I'm here."
"Let her in, Bunty." Draco had been watching the entire time, and recognized the Ministry flunky as someone who might be fun to taunt. "There's no sense making your inferiors sit out in the cold. They already know their place."
Ginny's eyes closed briefly at the sound of the drawl, and when her eyes followed the sound, she was met with the sight of Draco Malfoy instead of his father.
Which was only marginally better, in her opinion.
At least with the younger Malfoy, there was nothing to be afraid of. Unless you were scared of being a self-righteous, pure-blooded, pig-headed snob. Which Ginny was not.
"Charming as ever, Malfoy," Ginny replied, just barely refraining from rolling her eyes. "I've an appointment with your father to search your Estate in Wiltshire, but Marcus Flint said to come here first, as it's Unplottable."
"And you're willing to listen to reason? And from a Slytherin?" Draco mimed surprise. "Are you sure you're actually a Weasley?"
"Some people are able to get past childhood prejudices and actually mature, Malfoy," Ginny returned, her brown eyes gazing at him steadily. "And of course I'm a Weasley," she said, pointing at her hair and giving him the barest smile possible. "This color's unmistakable."
Draco looked her over with amusement, enjoying that she wasn't too intimidated to fire back. "Did you know there's spells to ensure the children look like any given person whose hair you can get a hold of? It's an ancient tradition where inheritances are involved to use it while pregnant to make sure the baby comes out looking like who it's supposed to belong to."
"How utterly optimistic of the user," Ginny said, shaking her head. "Thanks so much for sharing that tidbit of information, but I'm unlikely to need any such spell." She looked over his shoulder, into the interior of the home. "Will your father be much longer? I'm on a schedule."
"You won't be seeing my father, or my mother. If this is a problem for you, have your solicitors contact our solicitors." Draco smiled pleasantly, but his words had an air of command.
"I have an official scroll from the Ministry, Malfoy," she said, pulling the scroll from her robes, her thumb brushing over the bright blue seal. "And I have an appointment with Mr. Malfoy for two o' clock. And it will be kept," she said, her tone polite but firm.
Draco tossed the scroll carelessly on a table. "It has been kept."
I won't curse him. It's unprofessional, it's unprofessional, it's unprofessional, she thought over and over, until the urge passed. Mostly. "Listen," she said through almost clenched teeth, "There's no need for solicitors. The Ministry has sent me to search Malfoy Manor. This," she said, waving her hand around, "your bachelor's den of iniquity or whatever it is, is not Malfoy Manor. I can't get there without Mister Malfoy, and," she said closing her eyes briefly, "I'm beginning to lose my patience. If that makes any difference to you in the least." She looked at him meaningfully, and waited.
"Miss Weasley," Draco said, exaggerated patience masking his urge to laugh. "What's my name?"
She thought for a moment and frowned. "Draco? Isn't it?"
"I take it back, you really are a Weasley." Holding out his hand for her to shake he added, "Pleasure to meet you, Miss Weasley. I'm Mister Malfoy."
"You?" she asked stupidly, before recovering a bit and shaking his hand absently. "Oh, yes, I suppose you are a Mister Malfoy, aren't you? I read that on the memorandum and my mind automatically went to your father. I suppose I still think of you as merely 'Malfoy.'"
She cocked her head to the side and studied him. "I see it, now. You do have an air of 'Mister' about you, don't you?"
"I always thought I was more lordly, but, alas, my ancestors thought titles were for the nouveau riche." Draco sighed theatrically but decided it was time to get down to business. "Since you and I both know that they're not going to stop at searching just the once, I'll give you a choice. I can cooperate if you do."
"I'm as cooperative as the next Ministry employee," she offered. "What choices are you referring to?"
It occurred to him belatedly that if he was trying to get her to work with him, it would probably be good if he showed at least a modicum of hospitality. "Would you like to have a seat while we have our discussion?"
What the hell? she thought, shooting him a distrustful glance before schooling her features and giving a wary nod. "Alright," she agreed. "I'm smarter than my brother and I'm not easily tricked, just so you know."
"It is my sincere belief that there are sea mammals that are smarter than your brother, but in the spirit of cooperation, I'll assume for the moment that you set a higher bar." Sitting across from her in one of the chair groupings, he steepled his fingers together and said, "Your predecessor seemed to believe that it was necessary to indulge in petty power struggle games with me."
Her lips twitched at his comment about Ron until she remembered that she was the only one she let tease him like that. "If I engage in power struggles, they aren't petty ones," she informed him. "But I'm all for making this go as smoothly as possible. I'm just here to do my job, not make your or your family's life any harder than it has to be."
"Excellent." Maybe it was possible that a Ministry employee had a brain - who'd have guessed it was possible, and in a Weasley at that? "As you may know, I'm the seeker for the Falmouth Falcons. I would appreciate consideration being shown for my desire to properly do my job, although I can show some flexibility in terms of practice times. Game days are off limits."
"Are you the seeker for the Falcons?" Ginny asked innocently. "I must've missed your picture on every newspaper and magazine for the last two years." Professional, Ginny, she reprimanded herself. Pressing her lips firmly together, she nodded. "That seems fair. No searches on game days. Fine," she agreed. "If you'll owl me the team schedule, I'll make sure that your home is put in the correct rotation."
He nodded. "I will otherwise make myself available as needed to conduct you to and from the Manor safely, as well as anywhere in the house and grounds that you specify."
Ginny merely looked at him, waiting for the other shoe to drop. When he only returned her gaze in a bored fashion, she asked, "That's it? You don't want me to interrupt your work, but other than that, you have no issues with this?"
"Could you stop the inspections if you wanted?" Draco raised an eyebrow and couldn't resist the urge to try to needle her. "I was under the impression you were just a functionary following orders."
Thank God; I thought he'd changed since school. "Why would I want to stop the inspections? I'm a faithful Ministry employee," you bastard,. "Shall we go? I know your time is valuable," she said mumbling something that sounded like 'millionaire' and 'playboy' under her breath.
"Of course." He stood gracefully and offered her his arm. "We'll be apparating, as the floo connection at the Manor is rather difficult for the uninitiated."
"You realize I'll have to actually touch you?" she asked, before shrugging and taking his arm wrapping her hand firmly around his upper arm. She didn't remember ever being this close to him before. He was much taller than Harry. Broader shoulders, too she thought, sneaking a look. He wore cologne that made her want to bury her face in his robes to inhale it more fully. Stiffening at the thought, she said, "I'm ready when you are."
He smiled down at her and momentarily considered whether he could seduce her away from Potter, but decided it would be a bad idea. The girl showed a distinct tendency for steadfastness, and he wasn't sufficiently interested in her to interfere with a trait that was already rare enough. Not to mention he'd much rather have a reasonable and entertaining Ministry inspector than any number of lovers.
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