“I’m going to kill her. I really think that this is the straw that broke the hippogriff’s back.”

“Aw, buck up, mate. It’s not all bad. It could be a lot worse than it actually is.”

“I’m not going to bloody ‘buck up’! If my mother expects me to trot downstairs and be happy with this whole situation, she’s off her fucking rocker.”

“Yes, yes. I understand that you’re perturbed about this experience, but think of it this way: you’re spending the entire night surrounded by gorgeous women - and the best part? They’re all here to see you.”

A clearing of the throat. “I see your point.”

“I knew you would.”

* * * * * * * * * *

“I can’t believe you conned me into this.”

“Oh, Ginny dear, it’s not all bad. I believe that this will be a great opportunity for you to meet a nice young lad.”

“They could at least tell us who each party is supposed to be for.”

“Yes, well, these matchmakers pride themselves on having a certain sense of anonymity when it comes to having their potential matches meet for the first time.”

The younger woman sighed. “Which explains the whole masquerade bit of all these festivities.”

“Don’t worry, dear. You’ll be just fine.”

* * * * * * * * * *

When Molly Weasley asked her daughter Ginny if she would do her a favour about three weeks ago, Ginny hadn’t the faintest idea that it would involve her getting sussed up almost every night to attend these matchmaking parties for the males in the wizarding world’s crème de la crème.

Ginny would later claim that it was an elaborate con pulled off by Molly to get her daughter out of the house and out into the world in order to find a suitable husband. Had Ginny known that instead of signing off on to the adding of her name to her parents’ Gringotts account, she was actually signing a contract with some dating agency, she might’ve looked at the fine print a bit more closely.

Yet here she was, bound to that godforsaken agency until they matched her with a potential husband (Merlin knows how long that’d take), and forced to spend her evenings in the company of trophy wives in the making as she feigned interest in whatever they were yammering on about.

She reported to the agency’s check-in table outside the Ministry’s ballroom, fiddling around with her nails and the non-existent bits of lint on her dress. The woman sitting at the table asked for Ginny’s name before giving her the once over — she cross-referenced Ginny’s profile sheet with the Ginny standing before her, making sure that none of her physical features would give her away.

Ginny decided she was feeling like an icy blonde that night, Glamouring her hair platinum and her eyes a crystal clear blue. Her freckles were gone, but it really shouldn’t have mattered since her nose and cheeks were partially covered by the black mask she wore.

The agency also liked a certain sense of decorum to their events and instructed all of their guests to wear their best dress robes when in attendance. Ginny’s black dress was slinky, but not the kind to show off every single god-given asset; maybe she liked the air of mystery these masquerades had more than she let on.

Satisfied with how she looked, the woman at the table gave Ginny the nod of approval and the now-blonde Ginny walked through the open double doors into the ballroom.

It was never announced who the male guest of honour was at these events. Or, at least, he was never announced by name. But it’s a small world in wizarding England, and Ginny happened to figure out three times who she was theoretically supposed to be set up with.

She wandered around the perimeter of the ballroom, trying to stay away from the other women at the event. It was only when one of the agency’s employees stumbled upon her that she’d be forced to mingle with the other guests.

Truth be told, Ginny never really made much of an effort at these events. And she knew that, but something about the whole process didn’t incite any sort of interest with her. Molly felt bad after the first week and tried to get Ginny out of the contract, but her hands were tied. Short of Ginny making a run for it, or worse, dying, there was little Molly could do to get her daughter out of such a bind.

Ginny was making her second pass around the bar when she felt someone bump into her, jarring her from her daydreaming.

“Watch where you’re bloody going,” she mumbled under her breath.

“Excuse me?” The man who had bumped into her paused as he gave the bartender his drink order, turning to face a blonde Ginny.

“You knocked into me in your rush to get sloshed at this place. So watch where you’re bloody going.” She gritted her teeth as she spoke the last few words.

He leaned against the bar frame, tall and lean, but his wide shoulders made his frame look like an upside-down triangle as it tapered down to his waist. His skin was dark and looked smooth to the touch, and the look he gave Ginny suggested that he was entirely too amused by everything around him.

“Interesting,” he began, “because I clearly remember thinking that you looked too preoccupied with your own thoughts to even consider the fact that you might go arse over tea kettle at some table in an attempt to make yourself seem as inconspicuous as possible.”

Ginny scoffed. “Please. I’ve been at these things for three weeks now. I know the setup of this event more than I would like to admit to. The possibility of me ramming myself into one of those dinner tables is slim to none.”

Ginny could barely see the man narrow his eyes behind his mask. He finished giving his drink order before continuing his conversation with Ginny.

“What’s your drink order?”

Ginny blinked rapidly several times, tilting her head slightly to the right.

“Ex-excuse me?”

“Did I stutter? What is your drink order?” The last question was especially staccato as the man enunciated every single syllable.

“Oh, I dunno. I guess give me a screwdriver?”

The man nodded to the bartender, who whipped up their drinks in no time.

“Come with me. There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

As soon as Ginny was handed her drink, she was dragged away from the bar by the masked man, who weaved them through the myriad groups of single witches to the other side of the ballroom where another man stood surrounded by a small group of women.

Upon seeing Ginny with her newfound friend from the bar, the other man said his goodbyes to the group of women before meeting up with the pair. His nostrils flared and his eyes bulged slightly as he walked away from his previous group.

This new masked man was a blond. Just as tall and lean as his friend, but his shoulders weren’t quite as broad. Like Ginny, he wore all black, except for the silver accent details on his mask. Taking into account the group of women that were surrounding him when she walked up, she assumed that this was the man she was supposed to be wooing tonight.

“Thank fucking Merlin. You arrived just in time.” The blond man exhaled as his friend handed him a drink. He took a sip before continuing. “Oh, this tastes brilliant right about now. I thought I was about to go out of my bloody mind with all these women clamouring to talk to me. Are they really all this insipid?” He paused again to take another sip before he noticed Ginny. “Who’s she?” he asked with a nod toward her.

“Oh, well, she’s...well...I don’t know who she is, but I have a feeling that you’ll like her.” With that, Ginny was pushed toward the blond man.

In her attempt to steady herself after the rather forceful push, Ginny stumbled and was caught by the blond man, who quickly righted her.

He leaned in and sniffed her, grimacing as he did so. “You’re not drunk are you?”

Ginny snorted, using her free hand to flatten the front of her dress. “Like I’d be so desperate at one of these things to resort to doing that. Although, to be honest, I have considered it as a way to keep my sanity in check throughout the night.”

The tiniest of smirks developed on the blond man’s lips as he tried to hold back a chuckle. “I know the feeling.”

Ginny forced a smile before taking a sip from her drink.

The other man flicked his eyes between the two and placed his free hand over his mouth to stifle a cough. “So. Why don’t you tell us how you got involved with these events, Mystery Woman?”

Ginny quickly exhaled through her nose, the look on her face growing darker with each passing second. “My mother,” she growled.

The blond man tried to stifle another laugh before he spoke. “Interesting. Care to elaborate on that?”

“A little over three weeks ago my mum called me into the kitchen, saying she had a favour to ask of me. When I asked her what it was, she explained that she wanted me to sign off on these forms which would add my name to the account my parents have at Gringotts. It was still a bit early for me and I wasn’t fully awake, plus it’s not uncommon for parents to have their children sign off on something like that as they age, and maybe I’m a bit too trusting, so I signed the forms. The next thing I know, I got an owl telling me that I was to report to this agency so they could help me find a husband.”

Both men tried their hardest not to laugh, but the dark-skinned one cracked first, leaning his head back to laugh in earnest.

“What? It’s not funny! I was conned by my own mother; the manipulative woman she truly is.” Ginny glared at the two men as best she could behind a mask.

The blond man calmed down first. “I’m sorry. We really shouldn’t have laughed at your...predicament,” he said in between chuckles.

Before Ginny could get a word in, she was tapped on the shoulder by one of the agency’s employees, the only people at the event without masks on.

“I’m sorry, miss, but our guest of honour must leave for the night.”

The dark-skinned man pouted, grabbing a hold of Ginny by the shoulders and pulling her in for a hug. “Aw, but we were having so much fun with her.”

The agency employee smiled. “Yes, well, we’re terribly sorry, sir, but should you wish to see her again, your friend simply needs to pick her as his choice from the evening.” Ginny felt herself being pulled away from the dark-skinned man’s grasp and led toward the ballroom’s exit by the agency employee.

As soon as Ginny was out of earshot, the dark-skinned man turned to his friend. “So what’d you think?”

“I dunno, Blaise. She looked fit, but I dunno.”

“Oh, come on, Draco. Not only was she fit, but she sounded better than all of the other women you spoke with tonight. I say if you have to be stuck with someone, at least pick a girl who doesn’t sound like your mum’s tea friends.”

“I suppose you’re right. It’s better to have someone interesting to talk to than feel like I’m talking to a brick wall.”

Blaise clapped his friend on the back. “That’s the spirit! Just remember, that blonde hair is just for tonight, but everything else will be all yours.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Ginny awoke the next morning to the sound of her mother screaming.

“GINNY! GINNY!”

As the youngest Weasley slowly roused herself from sleep, she heard her mother’s hurried shuffle up the stairs of the Burrow.

Molly knocked once out of propriety before bounding into her daughter’s room, pulling the comforter off of Ginny’s semi-awake form. Ginny instinctively curled up into the foetal position and slammed her pillow over her head.

Molly stopped in front of her daughter’s bed, fists on her hips. “Ginny, wake up.”

“What?” Ginny whinged. “It’s too early in the morning.”

Molly huffed. “Ginevra Molly Weasley, it is ten o’clock in the morning and you are twenty-four years old. You should’ve been up at this point.”

“But it’s the weekend. And I went out last night,” Ginny continued to whinge.

“Nonsense. You going out last night was a business venture and I got the results of that venture this morning.”

Ginny plopped her pillow to the side and sat up. “For all of your wanting for me to find love through this scheme of yours, I’m concerned that you’ve decided to call this a business venture.”

Molly flippantly waved her daughter off. “Yes, yes. Whatever you say, dear. But more importantly, whoever that guest of honour was last night, you certainly did something to impress him, and you’ve been asked to meet him today!”

Ginny’s eyes went wide, like a deer in the headlights.

“Isn’t this exciting?” Molly asked.

Ginny just kept staring straight ahead, the same look plastered on her face.

“Ginny? Gin-bug?”

“Well, shit,” was all Ginny could think to say.

“Ginevra!” Molly admonished, scandalized.

Ginny pursed her lips, swerving her legs around to the side of her bed to get up. She slowly started to walk across the hallway to her bathroom, scratching her back as she walked.

“What am I supposed to do?”

Molly followed her daughter to the bathroom door, raising her voice to account for her daughter’s stepping into the shower.

“According to this letter from the agency, you’re supposed to meet him at the address written below for lunch. They didn’t give his name, but I’d assume you’d know him when you saw him. The letter also says that you don’t have to alter anything like your hair or eye colour, but they suggest that you wear a nice dress. ‘Casual, but still presentable,’ are the exact words written in the letter.”

Molly paused to fold up the letter and place it back in its envelope for her daughter to take once she was ready to leave.

“Just think, Ginny. You’ll be off and married by the end of the year!”

“Yeah, Mum. That’s great,” Ginny yelled over the roar of the shower.

“Come see me downstairs before you leave so I can give you the letter with the address on it.”

Ginny nodded despite her mother being unable to see it. She stood under the showerhead, letting the water fall onto the top of her head and down the rest of her body.

She knew what this meeting meant. Once she was officially introduced to this man that she was supposed to meet today, she’d be as good as married to him. The agency prided itself on being a resource for rich wizards who wanted a simple, professional arrangement out of their marriages. Ginny knew that from the moment she stepped into her first agency party that she’d be lucky if she got picked after a year.
While she was happy that someone liked her enough to want to be with her for the rest of his life, she wasn’t sure if she was ready to be married in a month.

Ginny half-heartedly washed her hair and the rest of her body, taking her time drying herself once out of the shower.

“Ginny!” Molly called from downstairs. “You have to be there in 15 minutes!”

“Fuck.”

“I heard that, Ginny!”

The redhead ran out of her bathroom into her room with nothing but a towel wrapped around her. She grabbed her wand from her nightstand as she skidded to a halt in front of her closet. She charmed her hair dry as she flicked through the dresses she had. She decided on a royal blue, just below the knee dress. The skirt was an a-line cut and the top half had thick straps that ended in a semi-sweetheart neckline. Ginny finished the look with a thin, white waist belt and white peep-toe heels.

Before heading downstairs, she stopped in front of the full-length mirror hanging from the back of her bedroom door to give herself the once over. She grabbed a purse from one of the hooks hanging beside her door and placed her wand inside, turning around in a slow circle before deciding that she was satisfied with how she looked.

Ginny ran downstairs as best as she could in her heels and made her way to the kitchen where her mum had the letter waiting for her on the table. She scanned it, recognizing the Diagon Alley address she’d been told to go to.

“I dunno when I’ll be back, Mum, so try not wait for me for dinner tonight.”

“Good luck!” Molly exclaimed as her daughter Apparated out of the kitchen with an audible whoosh.

* * * * * * * * * *

Ginny landed outside one of many rows of brownstone flats in Diagon Alley. She recognized the area as one of the ones remodelled after the Second War. They were not uncommon and she rather liked the style of the buildings in front of her.

She walked up the stairs of the brownstone directly before her, took a deep breath, and then rang the doorbell.

A small female house elf answered the door wearing a brightly coloured, floral print tee shirt. She bowed quickly and asked Ginny to step inside the house.

“Are you the woman from the agency?” the house elf squeaked.

“Yes,” Ginny replied, leaning down to hand the house elf the letter.

The house elf seemed satisfied with what she saw on the piece of parchment and handed it back to Ginny.

“Follow me. The Young Master is waiting for you in the kitchen.”

The elf turned and strolled along in front of Ginny, leading her down a short hallway to a white swinging door.

The house elf abruptly stopped in front of the door, causing Ginny to bump into her. Ginny wobbled slightly as she tried to regain her balance.

“If you need anything, please call out my name and I will do my best to assist you.”

Ginny looked down at the small elf, asking her what her name was.

“Fizzy.”

“Okay, Fizzy. Am I just supposed to walk in by myself?”

“Yes. The Young Master knows that you’re supposed to arrive around this time. Please don’t keep him waiting any longer; he’s nervous.” Fizzy immediately clamped her two tiny hands over her mouth.

Ginny laughed at the elf’s reaction. “Don’t worry, Fizzy. I won’t tell your master what you said.”

Fizzy visibly relaxed and lowered her hands from her mouth. “Thank you, miss,” she squeaked before disappearing from Ginny’s sight.

Alone, Ginny took a deep breath and shook her hands at her sides. She closed her eyes and took another deep breath, steeling her nerves for whoever was waiting for her on the other side of the door.

Ginny slowly opened the door to find the blond man from last night at the stovetop; his back turned to her.

She watched him as he reached to the side to get two teacups. Off to one side of the stovetop was a saucer with slices of lemon on it and a small pitcher of milk. He placed his left hand on the counter and let his weight go off to that side, leaning as he waited for the water to boil. The tell-tale whistle blew from the teapot and the blond man turned off the heat, setting the teapot on a small mat that had been placed on the counter.

Ginny took this moment to clear her throat, alerting the blond man to her presence.

He jumped slightly before turning around.

“Balls,” was the only thing Draco Malfoy remembered Ginny Weasley saying before she bolted from his kitchen.

* * * * * * * * * *

Draco ran after her, guided by the sound of her heels against the wood floors of his apartment.

He chased her for a couple of minutes before stopping in his living room and yelling, “Fizzy!”

Immediately, the house elf popped up in front of him. “Yes, Young Master, how can I help you?”

“Find the woman that was here just now. Her name is Ginny Weasley.”

Fizzy bowed in acquiescence before she popped back out of the room.

Draco allowed himself time to gather his thoughts before Fizzy came back with the female Weasley.

Damn that agency and damn them having the women change their physical appearances for those stupid masquerades. “It’s so you like them for their personalities, not their looks.” Bollocks. If Narcissa forced Draco into this, he might as well choose someone who was nice to look at.

She must’ve known that he was the guest of honour last night. How else would she have known to show up looking the way she did? That blonde hair, those blue eyes, that dress... Plus she sounded better than all of the other women there. He was obviously conned by the youngest Weasley as a way to get his money. Wasn’t she still living with her parents? Yes, it all made sense to Draco now.

About five minutes later, Fizzy popped back in with Ginny, who was struggling to break free of the elf’s vice-like grip. Draco instructed Fizzy to follow him into the kitchen where he could try to pry Weasley on whatever her scheme was.

Fizzy forced Ginny onto one of the pub stools at the kitchen’s island as Draco fixed cups of tea for the two of them.

“Thank you, Fizzy. I’ll call you should I need your help again,” he told the house elf as he set the cups onto the island’s counter.

Fizzy bowed and popped out of the kitchen.

Draco pushed over Ginny’s cup of tea and turned around to grab the saucer of lemons and the pitcher of milk. Ginny eyed her cup wearily as Draco set the other two items onto the counter.

“What would you like in your tea?” he asked her, sitting down on another one of the pub stools to fix his own cup.

“What did you put in this?” she replied, glaring at him.

He sighed before pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. “For fuck’s sake, Weasley. I didn’t put anything in your damn tea. I made the tea because I thought it would be a nice gesture toward the person I was supposed to be meeting today —”

“So you wouldn’t have made tea if you knew it was me meeting you today?” Ginny interrupted, still glaring at the blond man opposite her.

“What? No! I would never do something like that. I still would’ve made tea because—” Draco stopped himself short. He took a deep breath before continuing. “I still would’ve made tea because I wanted to make a good impression on whoever I was meeting today, regardless of who that person turned out to be.”

“So you didn’t put anything in my tea?” Ginny asked for clarification.

“No, I didn’t put anything in your tea,” Draco replied resignedly.

Ginny crept a hand over to the saucer of lemon wedges and began to slide it toward her side of the island. As Ginny squeezed the contents of a wedge into her tea, Draco reached behind him for the container of sugar he left by the stovetop. Upon placing the sugar container on the island, Ginny’s hand crept forward again to grab a hold of the container to slide it over to her. After two spoonfuls, Ginny stirred the deep amber liquid around in its cup before taking a sip.

Draco watched the scene before him with a smirk on his face, entirely too amused by the whole situation than he thought he would be.

Ginny set her cup down and looked up to find Draco watching her with that damn smirk on his face.

“What? What’s so funny?” she asked.

“You, or more specifically, the way you slid the saucer and container over to you.”

Ginny slowly nodded a couple of times. She licked her lips and took another sip of her tea. She didn’t know what to say to Draco’s comment, so she decided to leave it and continued to drink her tea. She looked up every so often to see him sneaking peeks at her over the rim of his teacup.

He was remaining strategically silent throughout the whole thing lest he send her running throughout his house again. He was in no mood to go through that scenario again.

After five minutes, Ginny finished her tea. She was getting tired of just sitting there and decided that if she was relegated to marrying the guy, she might as well learn to be civil to him.

“So, Draco,” she paused when she saw him perk up at the sound of his first name. “You know how I got into this situation. Care to explain how you got involved in all of this?”

Draco pursed his lips, set his left elbow on the island and began to tap his fingers on his mouth. He continued that same motion for a good minute or two, causing Ginny to fidget even more in her seat.

He paused and opened his mouth as if to say something before snapping it shut and continuing the finger tapping motion.

By that point, Ginny was perturbed that he wasn’t keen on divulging anything and she scraped her chair back on the tile to leave the kitchen.

“Wait! Where do you think you’re going?” Draco leap off of his chair to walk after her, grabbing her by the wrist as she pushed open the kitchen door.

“Obviously you’re not going to tell me anything, and I don’t particularly enjoy just sitting here while you fiddle with your fingers, so I’m going to go home.”

“To be honest, I don’t feel all that comfortable telling you how I got into this situation. How am I supposed to know that you didn’t know ahead of time that the party was for me? Someone like you surely has an angle,” he replied off-handedly, waving around his free hand.

Ginny wrung her hand free and spun around to face Draco. “Are you out of your fucking mind? I must ‘surely have an angle’? I’ve told you twice now that my mother conned me into signing up for this mess and I’m obviously unhappy about this arrangement, but I must surely have an angle despite all of that. You’re either incredibly stupid or more self-deluded about your own reputation than I thought you were.”

Draco didn’t know what to say in reply. The only thing he could think to do was stare at Ginny, eyes narrowed as he tried to form an opinion on her.

While she certainly wasn’t the best looking girl he had ever dated, he liked that she at least knew how to look presentable and moderately attractive for any social setting. His face scrunched up as he thought about how right Blaise was about her — Narcissa might have a field day upon finding out that her son happened to have chosen a Weasley to spend the rest of his life with, but she’d like the fact that Ginny wouldn’t put up with any of his ‘moods’, as it were.

And, if things didn’t work out, he could always divorce Ginny and have his lawyers make sure that she never got a cent from him.

He was shaken from his thoughts at the sound of Ginny’s voice.

“I don’t know if I like the look on your face.”

“Excuse me?”

“That look.” She paused to try to imitate his scrunched face. “You look like you just ate something rather nasty. It looks awkward on you.”

“I was just thinking, is all.”

“And that’s lovely, but I’d rather not stand here and watch you think, so, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll be heading home.” She patted Draco on the chest for good measure and walked out of the kitchen.

Ginny was halfway down the hall before she heard Draco call after her.

“Weasley! Wait! Wait!” He ran ahead of her to stop her in her tracks.

“Can I help you?” she asked when he blocked her path.

“I want you to meet my mother.”

“While I’m flattered that your love for me has already blossomed, don’t you think it’s a little too early for me to be meeting your mother?”

Draco raised an eyebrow. “We’re getting married in a month. I’d say that there really is no time like the present for you to meet her.”

“So you want me to meet her now?” Ginny was aghast at the thought of meeting Draco’s mother so soon.

“Of course not! You’ll meet her tomorrow. Meet me here at the same time you first came over today and we’ll go over to the Manor. Okay?”

He waited for Ginny to dumbly nod in acquiescence before continuing.

“Alright. Well, I shouldn’t keep you from returning home, so I’ll see you tomorrow.” He moved out of Ginny’s way and started walking back toward the kitchen.

“You know,” she waited for Draco to stop at the kitchen door. “If we’re going to get married in a month, you should really start calling me by my first name, Draco.”

“See you tomorrow, Ginny.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Ginny found herself waiting in the living room of Draco’s apartment with Fizzy the house elf.

The small elf was waiting at the door for the youngest Weasley, informing her that the Young Master was running a couple minutes late in getting ready after being called to the Manor earlier that morning.

After being asked by Fizzy if she wanted anything to eat or drink, Ginny went from standing near the elf, to sitting on a sofa, to standing up again in the span of 10 minutes.

Another five minutes and she heard the quick click-click of Draco running down the stairs from the second storey of his apartment. As he ran down, he flattened down the front of his shirt and fastened the buckle of his belt.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said, slowing down at the last few steps. “My mother woke me up this morning and forced me to come to the Manor right away.”

“The Manor?” Ginny asked.

“Malfoy Manor. It’s my family’s ancestral home and where I grew up. My parents still live there and that’s where we’ll be going today.”

“To meet your mother, right?” Ginny looked down at her dress, nervously smoothing down the front of it. She felt her palms starting to sweat and she rubbed them against her sides in case she had to do something like touch Draco’s hand.

Draco nodded. “Yes. My father is currently on the mainland trying to get more shareholders for the family business.”

Ginny took a deep breath as she remembered telling her parents about yesterday. They’d been upset, of course. Not quite as furious as Ginny hoped they would be, but definitely upset that Ginny ended up in such a situation. Molly began blaming herself even more for her daughter’s predicament. It was only after an hour of Arthur consoling his wife and Ginny assuring Molly that she wasn’t planning on having the marriage last more than a year that Molly was finally able to calm down.

Ginny only bothered to tell her dad where she was going today lest she whip Molly up into another emotional frenzy.

Draco looked up from fixing his clothes to see Ginny frantically wiping her hands all over her dress. He laughed at this manifestation of her nerves and went over to her, clasping both of her shoulders.

“Don’t worry. My parents really aren’t all that bad. My father can be a right pain in the arse, but we all have those moments. And besides, you’re only meeting my mother today.”

Ginny brushed his hands off of her shoulders. “Why are you being so nice to me?”

“I’m supposed to be marrying you in a matter of weeks. I’d hate for the person I’m to marry not like me. Now, come. We musn’t keep my mother waiting.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Draco and Ginny were welcomed in the foyer of Malfoy Manor by a house elf very similar to Draco’s elf, Fizzy — small and lanky with the same high-pitched squeak of a voice, but with a polka dot shirtdress instead of Fizzy’s floral one.

She bowed quickly at the appearance of Draco and Ginny. “Mistress is waiting for the Young Master and Young Miss in the atrium.”

“Thank you, Dizzy,” Draco replied, causing the elf to pop out of sight.

“Dizzy?” Ginny asked.

“Fizzy’s sister.”

“House elves have siblings?”

“Of course,” Draco stated coolly. “But enough about house elf lineage, my mother is waiting.”

Draco led Ginny down several long corridors toward the back of the house. Ginny couldn’t help but wring her hands the entire time, nervous to meet Draco’s mum.

They stopped in front of a pair of French double doors, the sunlight seeping through the panes, spreading light throughout most of the hallway they were in.

Draco looked down at Ginny’s hands, then her face, before looking back down at her hands.

“Should I hold your hand or something?” he asked.

Ginny scrunched her nose in distaste. “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

Draco shrugged in response before reaching out to open the door.

“Mum!” he called out as he and Ginny stepped inside the atrium.

Ginny immediately heard the shuffle of gloves being taken off and the clanging of garden tools being placed back into their container.

Narcissa appeared from between a rose bush and a clump of tentaculas.

To Ginny’s surprise, Narcissa was very practical when it came to her gardening attire: comfortable white flats, khaki capri pants, and a light pink striped cotton blouse with the first few buttons left undone to reveal a plain white camisole. The more Ginny stared at Draco’s mother, the more she noticed little details to show that Narcissa had, in fact, been gardening — her skin was slightly tanner than Draco’s incredibly fair complexion with small, very faint freckles on her forearms; grass stains on her shoes; and thin streaks of brown from where Narcissa had wiped her hands on her pants.

The Malfoy matriarch first approached her son to give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

She smirked before addressing Ginny. “Were you expecting someone else, Miss Weasley?”

Ginny shook her head at Narcissa’s words. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Malfoy. I had no idea that you were so fond of gardening.”

“Would you like to help me sometime? I could always use a second opinion on what I plant.”

Ginny once again stood dumbfound at the older woman’s unexpected charm and warmth. Draco had to poke her in the ribs to snap her out of her thoughts.

“Um, yes. That sounds lovely, Mrs. Malfoy.” Ginny smiled in an attempt to make the situation less awkward than she felt it was.

Narcissa smiled and beckoned the couple to follow her to the back of the atrium, where a circular table waited them on a patch of grass surrounded by smooth stone rocks.

Draco rushed ahead of them to pull out chairs for his mother and Ginny, waiting for the two women to sit down before he sat down in between them.

Dizzy popped up again from nowhere to supply the trio with tea sandwiches and other small pastries as Narcissa poured tea for Ginny and her son.

“I’m sure you and your family are less than pleased by this situation,” Narcissa announced as she handed Ginny a cup and saucer.

Ginny couldn’t help but stare again at the other woman’s blunt statement.

“I-I suppose you could say that.”

Narcissa took a sip of her tea and smiled. “My husband and I are not stupid. We are well aware of you and your family’s feelings toward the matter. From what Draco has told me, he is upset, but not entirely unwilling to work with you.”

“I was never implying that you and your husband —”

“No, of course not, Ginny.” The redhead noticed the switch from using pleasantries to using her nickname. “And Lucius and I understand why you and your family would feel as such. In fact, we don’t fault you at all for wanting nothing more than to nullify your contract with the agency.

“Be that as it may, though, I, personally, am quite pleased with this situation. I cannot speak for my husband, but from what I know from Draco about your behaviour at Hogwarts, I think this could turn out rather well.”

Ginny glanced at Draco to see him nibbling on a cookie, face impassive to everything his mother was saying.

“Excuse me?”

“I know this may surprise you, Ginny, but my husband and I are not all mean as we’re made out to be. I think a better way to describe us is misguided and impressionable, especially as children and teenagers. Not quite as extreme as my late sister, but Lucius and I are definitely products of our respective environments.

“You won’t believe me when I tell you this and, frankly, I don’t care, but Lucius’s time in Azkaban really changed us as a family. We became more aware and conscious of our environment and the people we chose to surround ourselves with. To say that we were wrong in pledging our allegiance to who we did during that Second War would be an understatement. And to simply apologize would not even begin to make up for the crimes and trespasses we, as a family, have committed over the course of a decade or so.

“We’re not expecting complete forgiveness, Ginny, and we do not expect you to forgive us so willingly. We’re just hoping for an understanding of the fact that we acknowledged our crimes and are doing the best we can to change and do right by the wizarding community.”

Ginny was acutely aware that Draco drank his tea and ate in absolute silence as his mother spoke, his head slightly down the entire time.

She didn’t know how to proceed in the conversation and settled to follow suit -- drinking the rest of her tea and partaking in the food set out in front of her. The longer she sat there, the more she realized that Narcissa wasn’t expecting her to reply. Ginny felt as though Narcissa had been wanting to tell someone what she just told Ginny for quite a while, but no one was willing to listen.

Ginny mulled over Narcissa’s words in between bites of a raspberry torte. She couldn’t help but respect the dignity the older woman retained throughout her speech of sorts. And, in a way, Ginny felt that Narcissa was apologizing for her entire family, not just herself; Draco’s silence throughout caused Ginny to believe that he really wasn’t putting on a show for her when he tried to his best to respect her and be nice to her. Ginny felt he was still slightly stuck in the old habit of hating her family, but at least he was making an active effort to let bygones be bygones.

“Thank you,” was all Ginny could think to say to Narcissa.
The blonde jumped slightly at Ginny’s words. “For what, dear?”

“For what you said just now. I really appreciate hearing that. And thank you for being so welcoming.” Ginny bit the inside of her mouth instead of wincing. She sounded arrogant for being appreciative of getting some sort of apology out of Narcissa and she hated herself for it, especially when the blonde woman had personally done nothing to harm Ginny.

“It’s no trouble at all, Ginny.” Narcissa smiled.

Draco’s mother asked the couple if either of them wanted any more tea. When both Draco and Ginny replied that they had had enough, Narcissa snapped her fingers, causing Dizzy to appear before the group.

The elf immediately cleared away the food and tea set then disappeared to the kitchen.

Narcissa laid her elbows on the table, lacing her hands together before resting her chin on top.

“So, Ginny; let’s get down to business.”

“Excuse me?”

The blonde leaned back in her chair. “You are marrying my son in less than a month, are you not?”

Ginny nodded.

“Well then. We have a lot of planning to do in such a short period of time.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Ginny was less than enthused at having to deal with another one of her mother’s episodes after telling her about meeting Narcissa.

Their chat had started well enough. Molly was pleased to hear that Narcissa was cordial and ever the charming hostess that she expected the Malfoy matriarch to be. She was also pleased with the apology of sorts Narcissa said to Ginny.

What did, however, get Molly’s knickers in a twist was the command Narcissa decided to have over Ginny and Draco’s wedding.

“I’d like to see that woman try to plan a better wedding than the one I put on for Bill and Fleur! In the middle of a war, no less!” was the phrase Molly was fond of shouting as she stomped up and down her kitchen while her daughter tried to calm her down.

As always, it took the tranquil presence of Mr. Weasley to smooth everything out and let Ginny explain that Narcissa wanted to meet with Molly so they could plan the wedding together, and the other woman was simply listing off all of the things Ginny needed to do before the big day.

Molly’s yells were reduced to grumblings in the living room, which Ginny interpreted into a letter sent to Narcissa explaining that Molly would be more than happy to meet with her to ensure the best possible wedding for their children.

Or something like that.

Ginny left out the parts where Molly used “sodding” or “bloody” every time she said Narcissa’s name.

* * * * * * * * * *

In between work (on his part) and planning for the wedding (her, mostly), Draco and Ginny didn’t have much time to talk about anything other than their wedding until a week after their tea with Narcissa.

At the encouragement of his mother, Draco decided to meet with Ginny for dinner in a public location. Both were loathe to meet at a nicer restaurant, until Narcissa reminded them that they were getting married in two weeks.

“There’s no use in hiding since Molly and I already sent out the wedding invitations,” she had told Draco via owl. He could practically see the radiant smile his mother used when she was feeling particularly cheeky.

And so, huffing and grumbling as he wrote the letter, Draco invited Ginny to meet him at a restaurant near his flat.

He looked down at his watch as he stood outside the restaurant. She was late.

He scowled and regretted asking her to meet him. He should have picked a different restaurant, he thought. This place might be a little too fancy, and leave it to a girl to take their dear sweet time when getting ready to go to a fancy dinner.

He made a mental note to never plan something like this again.

Draco was about to go inside when he felt a tap on his shoulder.

He turned to see Ginny in an emerald green cocktail dress.

“Sorry I’m late. I forgot the spell to do my hair and Hermione didn’t answer my —”

“You look great,” Draco blurted out, interrupting Ginny’s rambling.

Ginny looked down at the ground. She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “Thanks,” she mumbled.

Draco reached over and took one of Ginny’s hands. Ginny tensed at the contact, but reminded herself that he was trying to make this arrangement work. She relaxed and Draco led her into the restaurant.

Ginny sat in relative silence as Draco order for the two of them. She had never been to the place before and wasn’t up for being any more adventurous than she had already been by letting Draco hold her hand.

It was weird holding his hand. It was more calloused than she expected it to be. It took Ginny a moment to remember that not only did he play Quidditch at Hogwarts, but he still liked to play for fun. And his hand was warm; as warm as her own nervous hands. She said a silent thanks when they got to their table for she could feel her palm start to sweat.

He kept the conversation topics relatively neutral as they sat through their appetizer, much to Ginny’s relief. It was only when their dinner arrived that she remembered something.

“You never did tell me why you signed up with the agency.”

Draco finished off the rest of his drink before he continued.

“I was conned into it by my mother.”

Ginny lifted an eyebrow. She moved her plate to the side and rested her elbows on the table before placing her chin on top of her hands.

“You don’t say. Please; continue.”

“My mother and father both agreed that I should at least try out the agency. In case you haven’t noticed, people still hate us and we were hoping that by having me get involved with the agency, I could find a girl that was well-enough liked to at least get people to be civil to us.

To be honest, I’m just relieved that you’re willing to go through with this marriage.”

“Well, to be honest, you can thank your mother for that.”

Draco mimicked Ginny’s actions of earlier, causing her to laugh as he placed his chin on his hands.

“You don’t say. Please; continue,” he said with a smile.

“I really did appreciate what she said to me when we had tea with her.” Ginny became rather quiet as she said the next part, shy to be telling Draco that she was sneaking peeks at him throughout tea. “I also noticed how you looked as your mother was speaking to me. You agree with her, don’t you?”

“I do —”

“You don’t have to talk about this right now if you don’t want to,” Ginny blurted out.

Draco leaned back in his seat. “This may sound strange, but I don’t mind talking to you about it. I just have this feeling, for lack of a better word, that you’re someone I can talk to. But do you mind if we continue our discussion back at my flat?”

“Not at all.”

Draco paid for their meal and decided to hold Ginny’s hand as they walked out of the restaurant. He expected her to let go once they left the place, but was surprised by the fact that she kept a tight grasp as they walked to his home.

He led her to the kitchen, where he immediately began preparing tea for the two of them.

“Do you mind if I make tea while we talk?”

Ginny shook her head and motioned for Draco to continue.
He turned around and leaned against the counter as he waited for the kettle to whistle.

“I knew everything changed once my father was arrested. People I had spent my entire childhood with no longer wanted to be near me. It only got worse once I received my mission the summer before my sixth year. I began to distance myself from everyone. Blaise thought I was depressed, and I probably was. Pansy stopped speaking to me halfway through the year. I just pushed everyone I cared about away because I didn’t want them to get involved in all that nastiness.

Believe it or not, not every single Slytherin took the mark. In fact, I could’ve counted those of us who did on one hand. Pansy never got involved because he saw no use for her, and she liked it that way. Fuck, if anyone save for myself had ever met Mrs. Zabini, so good luck trying to get her equally guarded son to join ranks."

Blaise figured out around Christmas what I was planning on doing at the end of our sixth year. He tried to talk me out of it, of course, but we were only 16. I was scared shitless and thought I would be lucky if I made it to my seventeenth birthday. But it’s like my mum said: we know we screwed up royally and we know that people are essentially assholes who think that we should feel fucking blessed or some shit to be begrudgingly welcomed back into society.”

The kettle went off at this point and Draco turned to take it off the burner. He placed everything he and Ginny would need for tea on the kitchen island and poured a cup full of hot water for Ginny.

He heard a mumbled “thanks” from Ginny as he sat down to enjoy his tea.

They didn’t say anything as they drank their tea and simply marvelled in the silence of Draco’s flat. If she focused hard enough, Ginny could hear faint pops as Fizzy went from room to room, checking that everything was okay in her master’s home.

After ten minutes, she looked behind Draco to the clock on the wall.

“Oh, sweet Merlin. Is it really that late?” She yawned as she got up from her chair.

Draco sprung up from his seat and grabbed Ginny’s cup to place in the sink.

“Can you at least let me clean up?” she asked.

“Nope. You’re a guest here and I forbid you from helping me clear the table — island — whatever.”

Ginny smiled and began to make her way to the front door. Draco met her there to hold it open for her when she left.

“Thanks for dinner. I very much enjoyed it.” She smiled to punctuate the thought.

“Anytime. You make for wonderful company,” he replied, realising that he wasn’t just talking out of his ass with that last statement.

Ginny turned to leave, but stopped herself. She turned back around and quickly gave Draco a peck on the cheek. She exhaled and nodded once before leaving the threshold of his apartment.

She smiled as she walked down the steps and onto the street. Her mother would not be hearing about that last little bit.

Draco slowly closed the front door, eyes wide as his brain muddled through what had just transpired.

He needed to make more tea.

* * * * * * * * * *

“I’m not going through with this.”

“Everything’s already been prepared and I mean, shit. You saw the ad your mum took out in the Prophet.”

“Quarter page ad, my arse. Did she honestly think that unless she took out a full page ad people wouldn’t fucking get the memo that I’m marrying a Weasley?”

“You know how your mum is.”

“Does she bloody know what they tried to do to me? Does she not remember that one of the brothers owns a sodding prank store? There is no way in hell I am leaving this kitchen.”

The two men heard a knock on the kitchen door.

“Draco! It’s me, Ginny! Can we talk?”

Ginny slowly opened the door, peeking around to make sure it was okay for her to enter. When Draco didn’t protest, she walked in to find Blaise in the kitchen as well.

The blond man immediately covered up his eyes with both hands.

“What are you doing here? I’m not supposed to see you in your dress.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Yes, well, it doesn’t really matter if you’re too scared to even set foot down the aisle.”

She forced Draco’s hands onto the island, only to see that he scrunched his eyes shut.

The bride turned around to face her future husband’s best man. “Blaise, do you think you could let Draco and I speak in private?”

“Not a problem,” Blaise replied before leaving the kitchen.

“Look. I’ve spoken to all of my brothers and Harry. We obviously know that they’re less than pleased by this whole situation, but all of their respective wives or girlfriends have threatened to withhold sex should this nonsense continue, and Hermione’s threatened to hex anyone who tries to mess with you.”

He cracked open an eye. “Granger’s on my side?”

Ginny sighed. “Yes, Hermione’s on your side. For now. She said she’s only doing this for me and has the right to pass judgment on you at a later date.”

Draco fully opened both eyes. “Fair enough.”

He moved to the stovetop and turned on the burner his kettle was on.

“Why is it that you make tea whenever I’m with you?”

Draco tapped his fingers on the counter. “It’s nothing, really.”

Ginny was unconvinced. “That’s a load of bullshit and you know it.”

He mumbled his reply, making sure to keep his back turned.

“What was that?” Ginny asked. She moved to stand next to him and leaned back against the counter.

“I make tea whenever I’m nervous.”

Ginny clamped her lips to keep from giggling. She put a hand on her mouth, feeling the smile forming against it.

Draco glanced at her. “Go on; laugh. Everyone else does when they find out.”

Ginny allowed herself a small chuckle before placing her hand on Draco’s shoulder. “I think that’s rather adorable of you, actually.”

Draco scrunched his nose in distaste, causing Ginny to laugh even more. “I don’t think I’ve ever been called ‘adorable’ before.”

She shrugged. “First time for everything.”

“I suppose you’re going to tell all your family now,” he sulked.

Ginny reached over to grab a teacup and poured in some hot water. She placed a tea bag in to let it steep, stirring it every so often to speed up the process.

“I’m not going to because they don’t need to know that you’re just a big softie. Got to keep up appearances and all that.”

Draco huffed as Ginny began to laugh, but joined her at the island.

They found themselves sitting in the relative silence once again; the only sounds coming from the faint slurp of them drinking tea or the clanging of ceramic against the marble countertop.

“Why did you give me a kiss good night?”

Ginny looked up from her tea, eyebrows scrunched in confusion. “I kissed you?”

Draco clutched his teacup with both hands. “Yeah, when you were leaving my apartment after we had dinner that one night.”

“That was a kiss?”

“I do believe that you puckering your lips and placing them on my person constitutes a kiss.”

“That was hardly a kiss compared to what we have to do today.”

Draco let his shoulders droop. “We might as well tell our parents to reschedule for tomorrow or something.”

“Oh, no we’re not. I’m in this fucking dress and I am going to look stunning as I walk down the aisle and everyone will confirm how gorgeous I look before I struggle to dance in it during our reception. This wedding is happening; even if I have to drag to you there.”

The groom looked aghast at his future wife. “Should we practice our kiss then?”

Ginny scooted away from him. “I-I guess we should.”

“Why are you protesting now? You’re the one that kissed me on the cheek!”

“If it’s really that big of a deal to you, then I won’t bloody kiss you ever again!”

Draco scoffed. “I’d like to see how long that lasts.”

“You really think you’re that fantastic —”

She was cut off by Draco leaning in to kiss her.

And it was nice. There was no other way to describe it. He knew better than to be too aggressive, which Ginny definitely appreciated. His lips were soft and smooth, and she could smell a mix of earl grey and sugar on his breath.

He lifted his left hand to bring to her face, but he just let it hover to the side, as though he were afraid to touch her. The longer he left his hand there, the more it aggravated Ginny, and she grabbed it to press against her cheek.

Draco was the first to let go, pressing his lips on the corner of Ginny’s mouth before leaning back.

“That was...that was...oh.” Ginny tried to think of something smarmy to say, but found that she would be dishonest in doing so.

“Oh?” Draco raised an eyebrow to what Ginny thought was an even more impossible height than she had ever seen from him.

“Look, it was good, alright? Is that what you wanted me to say?”

Draco shrugged. “I guess I’ll accept ‘good’ for now.”

Ginny rolled her eyes and headed over to the kitchen door.

“Do you think Blaise waited for us this entire time?”

“I doubt it. He’s smart enough to realize that you talking to me wasn’t going to take two minutes.”

Ginny nodded a couple of times and propped the door open. “Are you ready?”

“To get married?”

“No, to meet the Muggle Queen of England.”

“What?”

“Nevermind. Just get a bloody move on before either one of our mums decide to hunt us down.”

Draco made his way over to the door and was pushed out into the hallway by Ginny.

“You’re not going to kiss me like that in front of everyone, right?” she mumbled, walking next to Draco.

“I might.”

“My family might kill you then.”

“We’re going to be married in a couple of hours. Being threatened by your brothers is the least of my worries.”

They were at the front door. Draco held out a hand, turning to Ginny with a small smile.

Ginny looked down at the hand, then back up at him. She grinned and placed her hand in his. He squeezed it briefly and opened the door with his free hand.

It was a start.

The dinner, the kiss, the occasional hand-holding. And, really, that’s all she wanted and all he was expecting.

Author notes: Thanks for reading! Please review. :)

Original Prompt that we sent you:
Briefly describe what you'd like to receive in your fic: I constantly fall in love with arranged/forced marriage fics—even though I know people disagree. For my fic, I would love to see an arranged marriage between Draco and Ginny. The story doesn't have to start from the beginning. It could be a glimpse into their life or maybe even the end. As long as the strong element in there is that Draco and Ginny were forced into a marriage.
The tone/mood of the fic: Nothing too dark and angsty. And not all fluff. There can be fluffy moments but not throughout the entire story.
An element/line of dialogue/object you would specifically like in your fic: Draco making tea is necessary. Bonus points if Ginny calls him domesticated.
Preferred rating of the the fic you want: T-M
Canon or AU? Either one.
Deal Breakers (anything you don't want?): No abuse or non-consensual sex. No love triangles either.

The End.
Alexandria Malfoy is the author of 16 other stories.
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