Disclaimer: I do not own anything from the Potter Universe.
Thanks so much to my beta: Aerileigh.
The sun shone brightly into the one room apartment and the sound of the hustle and bustle on the Muggle street below came through the thin material of the walls and the windows. Â A blaring car horn caused the sleeping redhead to jump out of her sleep, eyes wild and hair in disarray. Â She wiped a little drool from the side of her mouth, wrinkling her nose in disgust at both the saliva and her body odor. Â She smelled more than a little ripe, and beads of sweat were shimmering along her arms. Â It wasn't until she looked up and saw the still blades of the fan that she realized her power was out.
"Damn these stupid Muggle bills," she muttered, throwing her covers off and getting out of bed. Â Jax made a mewling sound as he hopped off the bed and arched his back, his lion-like tail sweeping against the floor. Â "I bet you're hungry."
Ginny padded across the room and into the kitchen, opening one of the drawers and the cabinet underneath it. Â She took a small green book out of the drawer and closed it before taking Jax's food from under the counter. Â He seemed to enjoy Muggle cat food more than any other food, especially more than anything she bought at the Magical Menagerie. Â She filled his bowl and put some fresh water down before flipping open the green book and grabbing the phone from the counter. Â Ginny dialed one of the numbers in the book and hopped on the counter to wait on hold.
When she had first decided to take up her position in the Department of Law Enforcement, she had assumed it would be a glamorous job. Â Hermione had once made Ginny watch a Muggle movie about a man who lived his life as a secret agent. Â For some reason, Ginny assumed that Aurors had secret aliases and caught all the bad guys. Â It was the reason why she had gotten a Muggle apartment. Â She could easily connect the fireplace to the Floo network in order to feel connected to the Wizarding world, but she also had somewhere to escape when things got `rough' during work.
Of course, when she went through the Auror trainee program and became an Auror, she found that the reality was much different from her imagined world. Â Aurors weren't doing anything important. Â The public was fed up with war times and tired of hearing about deaths and prisoners in the Daily Prophet. Â There was an outcry for peace which Ginny understood on some level, but she didn't understand why the public thought peace would simply fall into their hands. Â For some reason, the fact that Aurors kept searching for Death Eaters had become a big political problem, and the government was accused of preferring to stay in a war-state. Â The continued pressure from the public and the constant threats that the Ministry and anyone wearing an Auror badge received, became too much for the Minister. Â So, in secret, the Hit Wizards began to do the job of Aurors.
In essence, the Hit Wizards were told to find and capture the dark wizards. Â They had to track down the ex-Death Eaters, capture them and bring them into the Aurors, who then told the press that the villains were turning themselves in. Â The public gobbled up the lie and thought that the notion of peace was winning over even the darkest, most dangerous wizards. Â They seemed to be under the impression that these ex-Death Eaters wanted peace as well and were turning themselves in for the `cause.' Â Ginny snorted at the idea.
Ginny jumped when the voice sounded on the other line. Â "Er, sorry. Â Hi, my name is Ginevra Weasley. Â I'm calling because my electricity was shut off."
She waited for the lady to pull up her account information and cut the woman off before she could lecture her on paying her bills on time. Â Ginny reminded the lady that she was set up for an auto-payment, curbing her urge to color her speech with a few well-placed curses. Â It wasn't her fault that they didn't take the money out of her bank account as she requested them to do from the moment she had started living in her flat one year prior. Â Hanging up the phone, she lifted her arm, took a whiff, and gagged.
"I need a shower," she said to Jax. Â She swore he mewled in agreement. Â "What do I need a boyfriend for when I have you?"
She stripped her shirt off as she left the kitchen, tossing it onto a pile of clothes that she assumed was dirty. Â Shimmying out of her knickers and hanging her bra on the doorknob, she stepped into her darkened bathroom. Â The lady had assured her that the power would be back on within the next two hours, but that didn't help her now. Â Naked, she walked back into the main room and grabbed her wand, letting out a small yelp when a male voice sounded behind her.
"You might want to put some clothes on, Weasley. Â Gumboil wants to talk to you."
"Fuck, Marcus," Ginny said, yanking her covers from off the bed and covering herself. Â "How long have you been there?"
"Long enough to see your ass wiggle," Marcus said, coal eyes glancing up and down her blanket covered form. Â "You've seen mine, now I've seen yours."
Ginny laughed. Â "I suppose."
"Gumboil wants to talk to you," Marcus repeated, his voice becoming grave.
"I need a shower first," Ginny said. Â "He can yell at me when I'm clean."
Marcus's disembodied head bobbed in the fireplace. Â "I'll let him know you'll be in as soon as possible."
"Tell him whatever you want," Ginny said disinterestedly. Â She dropped the blanket and sashayed to the bathroom door. Â "I am going to take a shower."
"You're one of a kind, Weasley," Marcus muttered before the green flames disappeared.
Ginny shook her head and whispered, "Lumos."
Her wand lit up the bathroom, and she turned the tap on, stepping into the shower. Â When she had first started working with Marcus, he was still the unattractive boy he used to be when they attended Hogwarts together. Â He had an amazing physique though, something which had not changed. Â They began working together instantly, and Ginny found the once aggressive boy to be a man with a good sense of humor. Â Perhaps it was because they had to build up trust in order to work in their field together, or maybe it was because they simply got along well, but she was at ease with him. Â Still, she couldn't bring herself to think about shagging him.
She shut the shower off and wrung out her wet hair. Â Jax was lying in the doorway waiting for her, and she grabbed her fluffy blue towel from the rack, then dried off and wrapped it around her torso. Â With a wave of her wand, the bathroom became dim again, and she recited a drying spell for her hair before exiting the bathroom. Â Within minutes, her hair was pulled back in a semi-neat ponytail, and she had dressed herself in a pair of slim, gray trousers and a fitted black shirt.
"Wish me luck, Jax," Ginny muttered.
She slipped on her boots, tucking the hem of her trousers them. Â She threw on a pair of regular black robes, grabbed her wand and cast a cooling charm in the room, in case the power didn't come back before she came home. Â Walking over to the fireplace, she grabbed some Floo powder, tossed it into the flames and said, "Ministry of Magic."
"How could you not have picked this up? Â I have two of my best working on this assignment, and you fail to pick up a photographer."
Ginny rarely spoke to Alastor Gumboil, her supervisor. Â He had said upon her arrival that if he saw too much of her, it wasn't a good thing. Â The only time that any of the Hit Wizards saw Alastor was if they were in trouble. Â The man had a profound ability to make anyone feel like they were cockroaches stuck beneath his shiny black boot, even though he looked more friendly than mean. Â His soft gray hair and kind eyes were deceiving because he acted more like a hard-ass than like a friendly old man. Â Â Right now was no different, and Ginny shrank back in her chair as Marcus sat stoically by her side.
"As if I didn't have the Auror department breathing down my neck already," Alastor spat, his palms resting against his desk, head bent forward. Â "The younger bunch were getting sloppy with their work, bringing in the criminals injured, and as you know, there's been speculation in the press that there's a secret war going on."
"Isn't there?" Marcus asked, the side of his lip turning up.
Alastor growled and slammed his hands down on the desk. Â "Do you think this is funny? Â We're going under investigation, Flint, an internal investigation. Â Do you have any clue-"
"Alastor, with all due respect, yelling and getting your blood pressure up isn't going to change anything," Ginny interrupted, glancing sideways at Marcus's clenched fists. Â "Everyone in this room is here by choice, and everyone outside this room is not."
"What are you getting at, Weasley?" Alastor asked, arms folded.
"That perhaps there is a mole in our department," Ginny said nonchalantly. Â "Who out there really signed up for this job? Â What's stopping anyone out there from leaking to the press so they can get out of this hell hole? Â They all wanted to be Aurors, strutting around in fancy, blue robes and getting some attention for their good deeds. Â None of them wanted to be the silent, masked hero."
Marcus scoffed at her side. Â "The robes are bloody ugly if you ask me."
Alastor sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Â "You're only repeating ugly truths I'm already aware of, Weasley."
"Then why are we the ones being scolded?" asked Ginny, sounding only slightly petulant.
"For not picking up on this," Alastor said moodily, tossing the Daily Prophet to the ground. Â Â "I didn't want the Aurors investigating our department and feeling that they were better than us."
Ginny sighed. Â "We can't do anything about it, Alastor. Â Nothing we do will change their minds, and if there really is a mole, maybe it's time for an investigation. Â How can we do our jobs if we can't trust our coworkers?"
"That isn't the point," Alastor said agitatedly. Â "I would have rather done the investigation on my own, in a way that I see fit. Â When word gets out, the little respect that people held for Hit Wizards will be gone. Â People don't understand the pressure and the stress we're under with the current politics."
"But that isn't anything new," Ginny hedged. Â She knew she was treading on dangerous territory, and Alastor looked ready to spontaneously combust. Â "Even before our job description changed, Hit Wizards weren't exactly the most well-respected group in the bunch. Not that I'm saying that as an excuse."
"We didn't get any recruits," Alastor said, shaking his head and letting out a resigned sigh. Â "Usually, we get at least one or two unlucky fellows straying down here after failing the Auror exams, but they all decided to refuse the offer. Â No recruits and a possible mole in the department reflect badly on me, and I'm afraid they won't keep me on too long."
"You've been head of this department since some of us were in diapers. Â They can't fire you," Ginny said.
Alastor smiled sentimentally and sat down. Â "Go find something to do while I deal with cleaning up this mess."
"I'm taking a personal day," Flint said.
"He has to go get a manicure, Alastor. Â His nails look bloody awful," Ginny teased.
Alastor chuckled. Â "Leave it to you to make me laugh at a time like this, Weasley."
"I do what I can," Ginny said with a smile.
"You're looking a bit peaky too, Weasley. Â You could do with a day off," Alastor said, waving his hand. Â "I've got some people working on new leads for us, so you might as well leave."
"You could use some beauty rest," Marcus said with a wink.
Ginny stuck her tongue out at him as they left Alastor's office. Â As they passed by, people popped their heads out of their cubicles to stare at them, and Astoria leaned against the door jamb of their shared office, her eyes following their walk towards the lift. Â Ginny looped her arm through Marcus's much larger one, furrowing her brows when she realized that his gaze was on Astoria, his arms tense. Â But when he caught her looking, he quickly looked away and led her onto the lift.
"Alright there, Marcus?" Ginny queried, touching the button for the Atrium.
"Fine," Marcus said, his eyes thoughtful.
"What did you need a personal day for? Â I'm assuming it isn't for a manicure," Ginny said with a teasing lilt.
"I'm visiting a friend," Marcus said cryptically. Â "Going home to sleep?"
"I should, but I'm going to St. Mungos." Â Ginny saw him stiffen out of the corner of her eye and wondered why. Â She didn't bother to ask, knowing that Marcus would not be forthcoming. Â "I like to visit and bring the kids treats every now and again."
"Trying to match Potter's sainthood?" Marcus asked when they stepped off the lifts.
"Funny," Ginny said, slightly bitter at the mention of Harry. Â She knew he wasn't personally responsible for the investigation or the trouble the department would undergo, but she also didn't feel like giving him a reprieve, since he represented what she hated about the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Â "I'll see you in the morning, Marcus."
"Bye, Weasley," Marcus said with a wave.
An hour later, Ginny ascended the stairs that would take her to the first floor of St. Mungo's. Â She had started her rounds at the hospital after her first injury on the job. Â Her leg had broken in a few different places, and during recovery, she was required to walk around to help her leg get back into shape. Â While walking through the hospital, she had spotted two little girls playing in the hallway. Â The mediwizard had informed her that they were twins, bound to the hospital because they had been bitten by a werewolf. Â That in itself was sad, but the fact that the werewolf had killed their parents was heart-wrenching. Â In her own way, she felt that playing with them that day, and the days after, was her way of giving back to them, helping to recompense the loss of their parents. Â But she knew it would never make up for it.
Ginny pushed open the door to the ward and stepped back as a Healer came rushing past her. Â Ginny recalled a time when she went around the ward to bring cookies to the patients and got yelled at by a Healer for being in the way. Â Ginny shook herself out of her thoughts when one of the Trainee Healers approached her.
"Hi, Romilda," Ginny greeted. Â It had come as a shock when she had first seen Romilda working at St. Mungo's. Â She seemed too glamorous for such a job. Â In all truths, Ginny had expected her to be on some rich bachelor's arm, but instead she was training to become a Healer, and she had turned out to be rather friendly and polite, a complete turnaround from her persona at school. Â "How are you?"
"Hello, Ginny. Â We haven't seen you around here in a while." Â Romilda took a quill out of her bun and scribbled a note on her chart. Â "I'm doing well. Â How about yourself? Â I take it you haven't been getting yourself injured lately."
"Work has been busy, but not dangerous," Ginny replied, eyes flitting to the room behind Romilda.
Romilda nodded. Â "Well, the girls will be happy to see you. Â They asked if they could send you a letter, but I wasn't sure if that was alright with you."
"They can write me whenever they'd like," Ginny replied with a pang of guilt. Â It had been weeks since she last visited. Â "I'm sorry I didn't come sooner. Â Work has been keeping me away."
"Go on in," Romilda said, pointing to an open room door. Â "They just finished having their blood taken, and will do well with some cheering up."
"Can I take them to the courtyard?" asked Ginny, brow furrowed in worry. Â "Are they alright?"
"It's a nice day outside. Â I don't see why not." Â Romilda tapped her chin thoughtfully. Â "I'll run and ask Healer Smethwyck, and I'll let you know."
"Thanks, Romilda," Ginny said sincerely. Â "I would love to take them out to make up for me being away so long."
"I'll make sure to put in a good word," she said with a wink before disappearing down the hallway.
Ginny walked to the doorway and stood in the entrance, observing the twins. Â Evelyn and Esmerelda were both nine years old and identical in looks: shoulder length black hair, enchanting blue eyes and bright smiles. Â Ginny visited all the kids in the hospital and brought them cookies, but she had a special place in her heart for the twins. Â She felt protective of them, and at one point she had wondered what it would have been like to have them as her own children. Â Ginny had even researched adoption. Â But when she ended up in the hospital two weeks later after a duel with an ex-Death Eater, she realized that she couldn't possibly take them on as her wards. Â If something were to happen to her, they would be forced to suffer the loss of another parent figure.
She watched from the doorway as Esmerelda, who was the bossy one, tugged on her sister's plait and told her that her ribbons didn't match. Â Ginny couldn't help but to smile, knowing that these twins would grow up and be like her brothers. Â Perhaps that's what made her feel so connected to the girls; they reminded her of what Fred and George used to be and now could never be. Â Her heart felt heavy as she wished upon all things good that these girls would never have to suffer the heartache that she knew George felt.
Evelyn spotted her first and jumped to her feet in excitement. Â "Ms. Ginny! Â Ms. Ginny!"
"Evie, what have I told you?" asked Ginny, giving the girl a mock stern look.
Evelyn looked down, deep in thought. Â "Um-"
"Not to call her Ms. Ginny, silly" Esmerelda chimed in, wrapping her arms around Ginny's legs. Â "Where've you been, Ginny?"
"Doing boring grown up stuff," Ginny said, wrinkling her nose and kneeling down. Â "It's been awful."
"You should come and stay here with us," Esmerelda said. Â Evelyn nodded vigorously behind her. Â "You can help us with our painting project."
"Painting project? Â That sounds exciting," Ginny said, kneeling down by the child-sized table. Â "What is it about?"
Esmerelda launched into a tale about the new art project that their tutor, hired by the hospital, had assigned them. Â Ginny listened intently, nodding when appropriate and glancing about the room. Â In her three week absence, they had taken the hospital beds out of the room and turned it into a regular room. Â Two small beds sat on one side of the room, and a wardrobe and an activities table occupied the opposite side. Â Signs of the hospital remained, including a prominent basket with their potions next to the bed.
Ginny turned around and saw Romilda at the doorway. Â "Yes?"
"Healer Smethwyck said that's fine," Romilda said with a nod. Â "Only for an hour though. Â They have to get a treatment this afternoon."
"Thanks, Romilda," Ginny replied.
"No problem." Â Romilda waved at the girls. Â "Have fun."
"Ginny, what's she talking about?" asked Evelyn, cocking her head to the side.
"I have a surprise for you girls," Ginny said conspiratorially. Â "We're going outside."
Esmerelda screamed in delight. Â "We get to go outside?"
"Yes, but you have to promise to be good this afternoon when you get your treatment," Ginny warned. Â "If you don't, we can't go outside ever again."
"We'll be good," Evelyn promised, eyes wide.
"No biting the Healer when he gives you your potion," Ginny said, biting back the laughter that threatened to bubble forth upon remembering Romilda telling her the story. Â "Now, let's go up to the Tea Room and get some biscuits and juice. Â We can have a picnic."
"This is so awesome," Esmerelda said, grabbing onto Ginny's hand.
Ginny held out her other hand for Evelyn and led the two girls out in the hallway, where they took the lift up to the fifth floor. Â The girls immediately ran over to the display of treats, and Ginny laughed when they pressed their noses up against the glass casing. Â When she moved to join them, she spotted a head of black hair out of the corner of her eye and turned to see Marcus Flint sitting with none other than Draco Malfoy.
"Marcus?" Â Ginny didn't gape, but she was close to it. Â "What are you-"
"Ginny!" Â Esmerelda ran over to her and tugged her hand. Â "Can I have one of the big cookies? Â Please?"
Ginny smiled at her and ruffled her hair. Â "Sure you can."
When she looked up, Marcus and his companion were staring at her. Â Ginny hadn't seen Draco Malfoy since the final battle at Hogwarts, when he'd been huddled in a corner with his mother and father, every bit the outcast. Â She really hadn't given him much thought over the six years since the war had ended and could only remember seeing a small article about him being free from all charges. Â She knew that Lucius went to Azkaban, though she couldn't recall for how long, and Narcissa was also acquitted, due to the help she'd given Harry. Â She didn't know why he was in the hospital, but she wanted to find out, if only to abate her curiosity. Â More importantly, she wanted to know what Marcus was doing with him. Â She tried to remember the two of them interacting at school and could only dredge up memories of Quidditch. Â They weren't ever seen together.
"Ginny," Esmerelda said, her voice perilously close to a whine.
"Right, your cookie," Ginny said, shrugging her shoulders when Marcus raised an eyebrow. Â She grabbed Esmerelda's hand and led her over to the counter where Evelyn stood. Â "Evie, do you know what you want?"
"A cupcake," Evelyn said, pointing at the large cupcake in the window. Â "Can I have it?"
"Sure," Ginny said. Â She smiled at the old lady behind the counter. Â "I'll have a chocolate chip cookie, a cupcake, a cherry scone and two apple juices."
She moved to retrieve her coin purse from inside her robe pocket but a hand on her arm stopped her. Â Ginny looked up and saw Marcus removing a Galleon and putting it down on the counter. Â The old lady smiled and handed over their treats, giving the girls two small pieces of chocolate as well.
"So these are the kids?" asked Marcus, looking at Evelyn and Esmerelda, who were staring at him curiously.
"I was going to leave you to your friend," Ginny said lightly, eyeing Draco with a bit of curiosity. Â "You didn't have to come over, or pay, for that matter."
"You could always give me back the money," Marcus said, placing his hands in his pocket.
"Not a chance," Ginny said, ushering the girls towards the door.
"Wait," Esmerelda said. Â She turned to Marcus and stuck out her hand. Â "I'm Esmerelda Bobbins. Â Who are you?"
"Marcus Flint," Marcus replied, shaking her hand gently, an unsure look on his face.
"Evelyn, don't you want to say hi?" Â Ginny barely concealed a chuckle when Evelyn's cheeks turned pink. Â "Evie?"
"Hi, Mr. Flint," she said shyly.
Marcus held out his hand. Â "Hello."
When Evelyn didn't reach out to shake it, Ginny smiled at him, whispering, "I think she likes you."
"Are you Ginny's boyfriend?" asked Esmerelda loudly.
Marcus's eyebrows shot up, and Ginny turned to look at Draco, who had suddenly started coughing violently. Â There was a hint of amusement dancing in his eyes, even as he tried to control his cough. Â Ginny shook her head and looked down at Esmerelda, who had also turned her attention to Draco. Â He didn't seem bothered that they were all staring at him, nor that his face was red from exertion.
"No, Esmerelda, Mr. Flint is not my boyfriend," Ginny answered. Â She glanced at Draco and said, "Does that satisfy your curiosity as well, Malfoy?"
"Who is he?" asked Esmerelda. Â "He has pretty hair like my doll."
Ginny bit her lip to restrain her laughter. Â "Yes, it's very pretty. Â Now let's get moving. Â We're taking up precious time. Â Everybody say goodbye to Mr. Flint and Mr. Malfoy."
"Bye," Esmerelda said with a large, flourishing wave.
Evelyn gave a small wave and a whispered, "Goodbye."
"I'll see you at work, Marcus." Â Ginny walked towards the door and gave Draco a small smile. Â "Bye, Malfoy. Â It was good to see you in non-ferret form again."
She didn't see the scowl he shot her, but she did hear Marcus' laughter. Â She spent the next hour playing outside with the girls, her mind constantly drifting to Draco Malfoy. Â There had been no hatred in those steely gray eyes when she had stared into them. Â He hadn't sneered at her as was his custom at school. Â He simply looked at her as if her were observing her, his eyes calculating. Â She wondered once more what he was doing in the hospital, and what Marcus was doing with him, the curiosity almost overwhelming.
"Sorry, Evie. Â What were you saying?"
Ginny tuned herself back into the conversation and banished all thoughts of Draco Malfoy from her mind-for the moment.