Disclaimer: I do not own anything from the Harry Potter Universe.
I have to thank Aerileigh over and over for her beta work because she's so awesome (yes, I feed her ego daily).
Ginny stared out the glass pane window with a soft sigh. Water streamed down the window in rivulets and a crack of lightning sliced through the sky. She thought idly of the boy with the lightning scar who was waiting for her in her office. She was being interrogated today by Harry and Robards. Apparently, Harry had been sitting in on all the interrogations-or rather, "queries." They seemed to think interrogation was too harsh of a word.
She wondered what would happen if she were to close off her Floo and crawl back under the covers. She could hide away from the world in her little Muggle flat. But she wasn't the type of person to run-or hide-from her problems. She much preferred the suicidal tendency of facing things head on. Eventually, someone would come looking for her, and eventually, she would need to go in and do the query. If she didn't, they would suspect she was the mole, and though it hadn't been said, Ginny knew the mole would be facing time in Azkaban. Unhappy as she was, she wasn't suicidal enough to want to go there-there where she had placed so many of those prisoners. They would tear her to bits.
A clap of thunder caused Jax to hop on her lap as she wondered if being torn to pieces would be such a bad thing. Perhaps life was like a circle. She would go to Azkaban, and the prisoners would take out the revenge that they justly, or unjustly, deserved. It needed to happen so the cycle could be complete. Another flash of lightning broke through her inner thoughts, and she petted Jax, her hand heavy.
The alarm rang, and she shut it off, placing Jax down on the floor. "Go on and hide in the bathroom. There aren't any windows in there."
Jax, understanding her, scurried into the bathroom, where she placed his food and water. She didn't know how long the weather would last so she had to make sure he was prepared. Ginny clasped her robe around her throat and stomped her left foot to push her feet further down in her boots. It was the one thing she had allowed herself from her normal wardrobe; the rest of her outfit was demure and professional.
"Wish me luck, Jax."
She disappeared in a swirl of green flames and appeared in the Ministry. The walk to her office was short, and she spent the time analyzing what was about to occur. All the other `queries' had taken place in Robards's office, but not hers. She didn't know why she was different from the rest, but she did know that it didn't sit well with her.
As soon as she stepped on the floor, heads popped over the tops of the cubicles and peered out from behind copies of the Daily Prophet. She knew that meant that Harry and Robards were already in her office. Astoria, with whom she shared an office, was sitting on the desk of one of their coworkers, her arms crossed and eyes blank. Ginny didn't like that look at all. She took in Astoria's appearance, noticing the way she stood out against the sea of people who worked in the department. Her nails were manicured, her hair perfectly coiffed, her feet ensconced in pointed high heels. She was a delicate flower amongst a sea of overgrown bushes and untrimmed trees.
She entered their office and saw Robards sitting behind her desk, Harry standing directly to his left, and surprisingly, Marcus perched across from them on top of Astoria's desk. Suddenly, all those ill feelings resurfaced, and she had a new feeling running through her, like the world was about to come crashing down.
"Hello, Ms. Weasley," Robards greeted. He had a set of reading glasses perched on his crooked nose and his black eyes stared at her in what she assumed should have been warmth, but it only chilled her bones.
"Sir," Ginny said perfunctorily.
He motioned to Harry and Marcus. "You know Mr. Potter, of course, and work with Mr. Flint."
The way he said `of course' made Ginny have the odd urge to hex both him and Harry. Even though the folder in front of him probably held hundreds of details about her life, it made her feel ill-at-ease to remember that he was very likely aware of her short-lived relationship with Harry.
"Yes, I do," Ginny said, hanging her cloak on the rack by the door. "I was unaware that Mr. Flint would be in attendance."
Harry beamed, as if he felt that Ginny should thank him for this, and said, "Well, we don't suspect either of you of being the mole."
"Awfully nice of you, Harry," Ginny said coldly.
Robards cleared his throat, covering Marcus's snort of amusement. "Ms. Weasley, feel free to sit down."
"Thank you, sir," Ginny said, the sardonic tone in which she said it only being recognized by Marcus, who smirked softly at her. She leaned back against Astoria's desk, crossing her arms in a pose similar to Marcus's. "So is this just for the sake of appearances?"
"Sort of," Robards said offhandedly, eyes glued to the folder. "You and Mr. Flint have exemplary records. I'm sorry and a little surprised that we haven't been in touch more often. I like to commend my employees."
"Hit Wizards don't like to be coddled, especially not for a job that they were supposed to be doing right in the first place. We don't need commendation for something that was required and expected of us," Ginny said, her eyes falling to Harry, who was stoically standing by Robards, cheeks slightly pink. "But thank you."
Robards gazed up at her with a slight look of confusion before he held his hand out towards Harry, who handed him another folder. "Now, you share this office with Astoria Greengrass, am I right?"
Shoulder to shoulder with Marcus, she could feel him stiffen. "Yes, I share this office with Astoria."
"And how many times would you say you've worked with Ms. Greengrass?" Robards adjusted his glasses and dusted a strand of gray hair from the folder. "Ms. Weasley?"
Ginny didn't like the way he had asked the question, or the way Marcus had suddenly shut down. Nevertheless, she knew she was required to answer the question. "As you can see in the files, sir, I've worked with Astoria three or four dozen times."
He nodded his head and pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Right, yes, I see. Would you consider Ms. Greengrass to be a respectable Hit Wizard?"
"By that you mean?" Ginny let the end of her question fall off, knowing full well what he was asking, but wanting to delay the process.
"Does she uphold the standards that Alastor and I have set for this department?" Robards set the file down and rested his clasped hands on it. "Is she worthy of her place?"
"More worthy than others, especially those whom you send down here because they failed an Auror exam," Ginny replied.
If Robards picked up on the condescension in her tone, he didn't make it known, but forged on. "I am asking if she deserves her position when matched to some of the best like yourself and Mr. Flint."
"The two of us are the rare cases, not Astoria," Ginny replied.
She didn't like the idea that Robards was interrogating her about Astoria. Ginny and Astoria weren't the best of friends, but they were friends. Astoria was someone she could depend on to have her back when they were in the heat of a battle. To implicate Astoria as the mole would indeed break Ginny's world apart, because that was betrayal, and if there was anything that Ginny hated most in the world, it was betrayal. She was betrayed by Tom as a little girl, and she didn't plan on ever, in her life, repeating that emotional ordeal. Then there was, of course, Harry, the man standing right there in front of her. He had betrayed her in the worst way. She had given him her love, and he had tossed it back in her face. She wasn't important enough to be included in his life. He was too busy for her. Betrayal didn't sit well with Ginny.
Robards rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Ms. Weasley, I know that you understand my line of questioning, and I know that this is difficult for you. But I do need you to answer my questions honestly and without hesitation. These queries are not meant to be difficult."
"Stop with the fucking queries," Ginny snapped, her temper getting the better of her. "Let's call it for what it is, Robards, an interrogation. You haven't been having us over for tea to ask us about our day. You've been interrogating us. And now you want me to betray my friend--"
"Ginny, can she be considered your friend if she's betrayed you?" Harry butt in.
"I'm two seconds away from hexing you, Harry. I would keep my mouth shut tightly if I were you," Ginny warned. She looked down at Robards who seemed shocked at her outburst. "Clearly you didn't talk to Alastor, or even Harry, before you came in to do this particular interrogation. If there are two things I dislike, sir, the first is betrayal and the second is beating around the fucking bush. So go ahead and ask what you need to ask. Be honest with your questions and I will be honest with my answers."
Marcus bowed his head to hide his smile of approval before looking up again stoically. "I would have to agree with, Ginny, sir. If you plan on asking us to send one of our own to Azkaban for treason, at least do it openly."
"I should have known better when I saw your files." Robards snapped the two files shut, and almost instantly, his happy persona faded away. "Is Astoria Greengrass the mole?"
"It's a possibility," Marcus said.
Ginny turned to him, shocked. "You think so?"
Marcus nodded, his eyes distant. "It makes sense. You and me, we like what we do. We don't mind the fact that our achievements go unnoticed. We're the odd ones. Astoria is different. She wants to be noticed and strives to get the attention that she thinks she rightly deserves."
"So you're saying that there's a chance that Ms. Greengrass has been leaking missions to the press?" Robards stood up, his face eager. "And you didn't tell Alastor because--"
"I wanted to be certain before I started any trouble. Unlike Aurors, precision is needed in our line of work," Marcus said, shooting a smirk at Harry. "We don't have the protection of those pretty blue robes. If we do something wrong, we get blamed, not a department. So I couldn't make a snap decision unless I had proof."
"And you have proof now?" Robards pressed.
"I have speculation and a little research, which I'm assuming is the same research that you have that made you wonder about Astoria. She worked on all the missions that were leaked. At first, I didn't think much of it because she's a tracker, and we use her for almost all missions."
"Yes, the same speculation we had as well." Robards picked up the two folders and handed them to Harry. "With your insight into her character and her background, we'll be able to pull a plausible case. Hopefully, she'll confess."
"Not likely," Ginny whispered, still in awe at what had transpired.
"Right, well, that will be all. A job well done, Mr. Flint, Ms. Weasley," Robards said, stepping from behind the desk. "I will be seeing you soon."
He exited the office, Harry in tow, and Ginny whipped around to Marcus, who shook his head at her. "No."
"You wouldn't have liked it if I told you," Marcus said with a shrug. "I know you. You would have accused me of being a Slytherin and always suspecting the worst in people."
"I would not," Ginny said, though she knew it might very well be true. "I could have helped."
"You don't know Astoria as well as I do," Marcus said. He stood up at full height and gazed down at Ginny. "Don't take it too hard. She never belonged here."
"Do any of us?" Ginny stood up and sighed. "What are we really doing, except continuing a war that everyone thinks is over?"
"We're preventing another war," Marcus said. He tilted her chin up when she looked down at her black boots. "Peace and justice can't come without violence."
"No nice talks over tea, then?" Ginny smiled when Marcus chuckled, but her face fell when she thought of Astoria. "We sit in the same office every day, and I never suspected a thing."
"I'm the one who reads people, Ginny. You just kick ass," Marcus teased.
Ginny knew he was attempting to lighten the mood and decided to go along with it. "Speaking of ass, Malfoy has a very nice one."
"All our years of friendship, I don't think I've ever checked." Marcus stuck his hands in his pocket. "I might sneak a peek when I go see him at the hospital today."
"So he really does volunteer?" Ginny clucked her tongue and shook her head, missing Marcus's raised eyebrow. "Here I thought he was just trying to get in my knickers."
"When has he had a chance to get up your knickers?" asked Marcus, clearly confused.
"At the St. Mungo's gala," Ginny answered.
"He went to that? Interesting," Marcus stated quietly.
"Yes, I guess he's obligated to since he's not only a volunteer but a patron. The more money you put in the hospital the more booze you get to drink," Ginny joked. She leaned back against her desk. "Although he wasn't drinking so I don't really know why he was there."
"Volunteer," Marcus said thoughtfully.
Ginny took it as an answer to her musings. "I'm a volunteer, and I wasn't planning on going."
Marcus checked his watch. "I'm going to head out early. I don't want to be here when Astoria gets questioned."
"Me either." Ginny took her cloak off the rack and exited the office behind Marcus. "I might go and see the girls at the hospital."
"We can go together. Perhaps we can go and see Draco so he can try and get into your knickers again," Marcus said, though there was a glint of something in his eyes.
"Don't try and play matchmaker, Marcus. It doesn't suit your manly build," Ginny said, patting his arm.
As they walked around the office and to the lifts, Ginny's eyes landed on Astoria, who was leaning over one of the cubicle walls and pointing at a magazine article. Before the blonde could look up at Ginny, she ducked her head. She knew there could be a day when she could look Astoria in the eyes again without wanting to throttle her, but today was not that day. She hadn't trusted people easily since her first year, but she trusted Astoria because they worked together. If a curse was hurtled at Ginny, she trusted that Astoria would block it, which had happened time and time again. But Astoria had kept this terrible secret from her, one that could very well rip their department apart, and Ginny suddenly had the urge to hex Astoria-hit her, punch her, something.
Marcus must have guessed her line of thinking because he grabbed her arm and steered her onto the elevator. "We can't do worst than what she'll get when the truth comes out."
"It would make me feel better if we did do something though," Ginny muttered darkly.
Marcus's response was to press the button to close the doors, effectively shutting her in the lift and away from Astoria. The rest of their trip to St. Mungo's was silent, though every now and again, Ginny would glance at Marcus while they walked, and he would have a thoughtful expression on his face but not brooding. He seemed genuinely perplexed about something, and Ginny had a feeling that it had nothing to do with Astoria's betrayal.
Marcus invited her up to the Tea Room, where he would be meeting Draco, and she accepted his invitation. The girls could wait a few minutes while she tried to solve the puzzle that was Draco Malfoy. She kept thinking back to his touch on her skin and his soft, seductive voice. Whenever she thought back to that night, she wondered how she had let him walk away without a good, thorough snog, if not more.
They stepped into the Tea Room, which had returned to its usual state, and Ginny stood behind Marcus as he greeted Draco with a handshake. He didn't seem to notice she was there until Marcus moved to pull an extra chair up to the table. When he saw her, he froze, and Ginny swore that he got paler. But she told herself that she was simply imagining it and nodded at him in greeting. It was the most she could muster, since the sight of him in a casual shirt and black slacks made her feel a little lightheaded. She could outline his muscles through his shirt, and Ginny had to inwardly yell at herself to stop staring. She suddenly realized this could be a seeing-Marcus-naked situation all over again, and that she desperately needed a good shag, preferably from a well-muscled blond.
"Ginevra," he said smoothly, motioning his hand towards the chair that Marcus had pulled up.
It was then she realized they were both waiting for her to sit, and she sank down in the chair with a slight blush. "Sorry, and I prefer Ginny."
"I prefer Ginevra," Draco replied with a smug expression on his face. "I've done some thinking about it since our dance, and I've decided it suits you better. It's more exotic."
"Thank you, I guess." Ginny could see Marcus grinning from the corner of her eye. "There's nothing wrong with plain, though."
"No, but it doesn't suit you," Draco replied, sitting down.
"Draco," he corrected, leaning back in his seat, eyes flashing briefly to Marcus.
Ginny didn't miss the look but continued speaking nonetheless. "I warned you that complimenting a Weasley can ruin your reputation."
"I'll go get a tea service," Marcus said. "I'll be right back."
"I told you, Ginevra, my reputation be damned." His eyes swept over her form, and she could feel a warm heat creeping up her neck under his leer. "Yes, reputation be damned."
"You're full of surprises, Malfoy." Ginny removed her cloak, suddenly feeling hot. "So tell me, what do you do while volunteering here?"
"Nothing important," Draco said, becoming instantly guarded shut off. "You?"
"Nothing important," Ginny quipped.
"You were never this feisty back at school," Draco said, tapping his fingers against the linoleum tile of the table. "Why is that, Ginevra?"
"Finding myself, the usual adolescent drama," Ginny said offhandedly. "So what changed, Malfoy? Let's be serious here. The last time you saw me, we were on opposite sides, and you were throwing hexes at my brother and Harry."
"Good old Potter. I thought the two of you would be married and popping out a Quidditch team by now," Draco said, his head cocked to the side in a way that reminded Ginny of the inquisitive Esmerelda. "But I heard that things didn't end well in that relationship. Was Potter not satisfying those frisky needs of yours?"
"Your obsession with my sex life is almost embarrassing," Ginny commented. Marcus chose that moment to come back and set down two cups in front of Draco and Ginny as well as a platter of scones
"I just remembered that I had to meet my mother for lunch," Marcus said, a spark in his eyes as he stared between the redhead and blond. "You two look like you're getting along swimmingly. Enjoy tea, on me."
"Your mother is in Switzerland, and you hate having lunch with her. That's not even a good excuse," Ginny said, scoffing. "If you're going to lie, always make it something positive because you never know if it will come to fruition."
Marcus raised an eyebrow. "Do you have a suggestion?"
"Draco, unfortunately Marcus must go because he has to have lunch and a spot of afternoon delight with the waitress at our lunch spot." Ginny winked at Marcus, laughing after Marcus smirked at her. "You already did, didn't you?"
"Nothing to write home about, but I'll see if I can't teach her a thing or two," Marcus replied, his tone telling Ginny that he was serious. "Don't do anything that I won't be doing."
"So no talking then?" Ginny shouted after his retreating form. She shook her head when he gave her a one-fingered salute and turned her attention back to Draco. "We won't be shagging any time today, unfortunately."
"Unfortunate indeed," Draco remarked, fixing his tea.
Ginny helped herself to a scone and tried not to think of the ridiculousness of the situation. Never in her life had she imagined that she would be having tea with Draco Malfoy--or any Malfoy really. But she was currently sitting across from the blond ferret, buttering a scone and stirring sugar in her tea. It almost made her want to get up and walk away, but she couldn't. There was something about Draco that rooted her to the spot, something that made her want to have tea with him-talk to him.
"So, Draco, since you're avoiding my questions about what changed in you, and I will avoid any questions concerning the reason I'm not tossing hot tea in your face and walking away, what have you been doing with your life lately?" Ginny silently added that she didn't want to be asked that question because she didn't have an answer that didn't involve captivating eyes that could suffocate a girl. "Other from showing the altruistic side of your questionable character."
"Questionable?" Draco raised an eyebrow and sipped his tea in a delicate manner that made Ginny think that he must have been taught by his mother. "My character is refined, not questionable."
Ginny laughed. "I don't think the proper adjective would be refined."
"But it's not questionable," Draco rebuked. "I think it's quite defined, actually."
"Well, my original description involved the words despicable and evil," Ginny commented lightly. "I was being polite by choosing questionable. Let's settle on some middle ground and call it indefinable."
"Even though I think my character is definable," Draco added. "And don't you think people can change?"
"I know people can change, but you were avoiding the question earlier," Ginny said, breaking a piece of the scone off and slipping it into her mouth. She saw Draco follow the scone from the plate to her lips and gave him a smug smile. "And yes, I think people can change. I know they can change actually."
"What's your proof?" asked Draco after a moment of silence.
"Are we discussing philosophies now?" Ginny took a sip of her tea and stared at the chiseled features of Draco's face. She hid a frown behind her cup when she realized that he was quite pale, paler than he was at the gala. Then again, there was always a joke running around the Gryffindor commons that Draco was part vampire.
"Answering questions with questions again," Draco stated ruefully. "A terrible habit, Ginevra."
Ginny scoffed. "I'm all about reciprocation in every aspect of my life, Draco. Perhaps if you answer my question, I will answer yours."
He seemed to ponder the thought, and they sat in silence as the minutes ticked by. She knew she should get up and walk away, but for once, she was unsure and hesitant, a feeling she rarely had. Her actions were precise, and she couldn't help that fact. Her actions needed to be accurate and precise, always thought out and planned. Sitting and talking with Draco was spontaneous and so unlike the normality of her life. That difference made her stay seated, eating her scone and watching Draco turn the thought over in his mind.
"I've been handling my estate," Draco said as Ginny reached for her second scone. "It's a full-time job, ensuring that everything on the Malfoy properties is running smoothly."
Ginny laughed. "Really? I would think you put a few house elves in there and let them handle the upkeep."
"If only," Draco muttered. "We have a vineyard in Italy, and we're rather prolific in our wine making. I have to visit every month to make sure the numbers add up. But I also need to go to our other properties and make sure no trouble is being caused."
"Trouble?" asked Ginny, raising her hand to hide the contents of her mouth. "What kind of trouble?"
"Aren't you planning on answering any of my questions? Don't tell me you're really a selfish person?" Draco smirked and sipped his tea when Ginny glared at him. "You did say you believed in reciprocation, and I was looking forward to it."
"No, Harry wasn't suited to my tastes in shagging partners," Ginny deadpanned. She motioned for him to continue. "Now as you were saying: trouble."
He shook his head in a way that reminded her of Marcus. "You truthfully expect me not to comment on that statement?"
Ginny shrugged. "What's there to comment on? Harry likes gentle, and I like not so gentle. Two people having different tastes in bed manners isn't exactly surprising."
"Figures Potter would be soft," Draco said, a smug smile playing across his lips. "I can guarantee that I can satisfy any of your needs."
"Including my need for answers?" Ginny asked. "Or is that a need too sophisticated for you to satisfy?"
"I did say I was refined," Draco replied, taking a sip of his tea. "The trouble is usually in the form of Death Eaters or ex-Death Eaters. No one, not even our old comrades, feels favorably towards the Malfoys. Everyone hates us."
"Don't throw yourself a pity party, Draco. I don't hate you," Ginny said with a little laugh. "I may not love you or even like you, but I certainly don't hate you."
He gave her a wry smile and a small bow. "I will take the small reprieve from hatred that you give me."
"But, in all honesty, clearly not everyone hates you," Ginny pointed out. "You still have a friend in Marcus."
"Out of guilt," Draco said, and Ginny saw a brief flash of something, pain, perhaps, on his face before he was back to his smirking look. "And you? What have you been up to, my delectable Ginevra?"
"Delectable? A new adjective to describe me," Ginny said thoughtfully. "I think I like it."
"I think you're avoiding my question," Draco said, crossing his legs.
"Not on purpose," Ginny assured him.
She really hadn't been avoiding the question. Her mind had been distracted by Draco's take on his friendship with Marcus, and she desperately wanted to know why Marcus would feel guilty about something pertaining to Draco Malfoy. Her mind went into overdrive with different scenarios that would cause a guilty debt to be owed to Draco.
When Draco cleared his throat, Ginny snapped out of her thoughts. "Sorry. What have I been doing, you asked? Oh, well I would have thought Marcus would have told you by now."
"I haven't had the time to ask him. I suspect you've been keeping him busy," Draco said casually.
Ginny knew what he was implying by his tone and, for some odd reason, felt the need to correct him. "We're not shagging-Marcus and I. That's not how our friendship works."
Draco shrugged and sipped his tea, though Ginny saw a brief flash of relief on his face. "It would have been none of my business."
"But you were still curious to know," Ginny stated.
He laughed, and Ginny enjoyed seeing the laughter lines appear on his face. She imagined that if his laughter lines could make noise, they would be creaking from disuse. "You're certainly not subtle."
"No, I find it takes too much time," Ginny commented with a grin.
"So? Your life story?" prodded Draco.
"I work with Marcus. That's why we're so . . ." she trailed off and made a hand motion that hopefully signified however her relationship with Marcus appeared, and he nodded. "I'm a Hit Wizard."
"Yes, well, considering you work with Marcus, that seems the logical conclusion," Draco said.
Ginny looked at him expectantly, waiting for a sexist comment, but it never came. Whenever she went on a date and told a man her occupation, there was usually some type of disparaging remark against women in such a violent position. It often led to Ginny reminding them that she was extremely good with her wand, better than they were with theirs, and the date usually went downhill from there. Now Ginny simply resorted to random shags when she needed them and forewent the dating process altogether. It was easier, more convenient and less of a hassle. Not having to be on her best behavior made the sex that much better.
"I can assure you that I'm not about to grow another head," Draco said, breaking through her silent, expectant staring.
"You could if you'd like," Ginny said suggestively.
Draco, who had been mid sip, coughed into his cup in an unrefined manner. "Did you-"
Ginny sighed dramatically. "Here I thought you would be able to keep up with me. Now I think you'll turn out a disappointment like Harry."
Draco leaned forwards, his knees touching hers under the table. "Stick around, Ginevra, and I promise you'll get to see how gratifying I can be."
The smoldering expression he gave her made Ginny's knees feel weak, and she had a fluttery sensation in her stomach. If the old lady behind the counter hadn't been boring a hole through the back of Ginny's head, she was almost certain that she would have pounced on Draco and made him fulfill his promise. Unfortunately, she had to reign in those wild thoughts and inhale a shaky breath, leaning forward until she was mere inches away from his face.
"Don't make promises you can't keep."