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gossip

(n) what makes others’ lives seem more interesting than they really are




There are situations in which being famous is a bad thing. These situations include, but are not limited to, getting caught punching a foreign diplomat in the face for being a sexist pig or drinking an entire Quidditch team under the table to show the new generation how it was done in the ‘good ole days’.

These situations also include those rare but embarrassing occasions when you run into other famous people at work (it’s bound to happen when you’re an Auror working for the Ministry) and certain rumours end up spreading like wildfire. However, by far the worst of these occasions is when you’re caught in the middle of an open hallway straddling the infamous Draco Malfoy with your lips planted firmly on his.

In a situation such as that, fame (or infamy) becomes a definite burden. Especially when your fellow co-workers decide that it’s imperative of them to start ridiculous rumours about some torrid love affair between you and said Draco Malfoy—who is, unfortunately, your supervisor—and the ‘accidental kiss’ ends up ballooning into some elicit romp that you’re sure you’ve read somewhere in PlayWitch (not that you own any . . . anymore).

Of course the incident in question was purely accidental. It wasn’t like Ginny Weasley knew that there was a malfunctioning mail trolley barrelling off the lift and gunning for the back of her knees like a heat-seeking missile. And there was no way she could have anticipated that the impact would have propelled her forward into Malfoy, who just happened to be heading towards the lift that launched the aforementioned mail trolley from hell. But what really shocked Ginny were the lengths to which the infernal gossips went to besmirch her good name, and how the accidental kiss ended up bothering her a lot more than she would have liked . . .

 

i. denial

 

So when the rumours flew, they flew fast and furious and right into Ginny’s ear. There was no way she could ignore their insistence. Ginny had assumed that they would die down by the end of the day, but when she came into work the following morning she had been sadly mistaken. The rumours had not only intensified in absurdity but had somehow multiplied like an unholy brood of tribbles.

 

“Did you hear about Ginny Weasley and Draco Malfoy?”

“Snogging in the hallway?”

“It was definitely deliberate.”

“She was right on top of him!”

“How desperate of her.”

“Well, she is single. I’m not sure about him, though. He’s always with some girl.”

“How shameful! Young people have no decency these days.”

“It’s a pity that inter-office romances rarely work.”

“All I’m saying is that they don’t have to be so blatantly obvious about it.”

 

Ginny had done her best to ignore them and go about her work, business as usual. But as the rumour mill continued to churn, Ginny’s coping mechanisms had begun to kick in. By midday not only had she ignored the insipid gossip but she had convinced herself that the entire event hadn’t even taken place. This ignorant, self-indulgent bliss would not last long as the whispered laughter and pointed stares accompanied with self-righteous grins only grew more flagrant. By the end of the day it had become increasing difficult for Ginny to convince herself that there was no merit to the rumours.

Thus Ginny’s denial rose to new levels, taking on a much more creative form. The “hallway incident”, in which it was currently dubbed, was now a klutz attack on Ginny’s part. She had simply tripped and fallen into some guy’s lap—arms! his arms!—and that was that. It was just her and some complete stranger alone in the hallway—a stranger with strong hands and a firm chest and warm, soft lips—

Wait, no! Where did that come from? No, no lips were involved! Nothing else was involved. At all. This mysterious stranger, who didn’t at all smell of agarwood and leather nor bear an uncanny resemblance to Draco Malfoy, had simply prevented her from falling flat on her face.

End of story.

 

ii. anger

 

By the second day Ginny’s carefully woven jumper of self-disillusionment had already begun to unravel and her tenuous hold on her temper was also about to slip. Someone was going to pay for her unwarranted humiliation, and by reason of Murphy’s Law alone that person would be the first idiot who dared to cross her path.

 

“Weasley,” a familiar voice drawled. “I need you and Smith to finish Malloy and Hartley’s paperwork for the next few weeks here at the office. It seems that their Dark Artefacts case will have them detained in Egypt longer than expected.”

At the sound of Malfoy’s voice, Ginny had immediately tensed; her entire body had gone rigid with her arms glued to her sides and her hands balled into tight fists. She didn’t even need to turn around to see the look of arrogance that would obviously be plastered across his face or note the hint of condescension in his tone—even though the current topic of conversation warranted no such analysis. No, Malfoy hadn’t even insulted her. It was strictly business. And yet Ginny felt this insatiable need to slug him right in his pointy little chin.

“Weasley?”

“Right. We’re on it.” She gritted her teeth and picked up some files from her desk so that her hands weren’t free to connect with his face. “I’ll tell Smith when he gets back from lunch.”

She still hadn’t bothered to turn around to face him, but she could feel him standing behind her. Her grip on the files tightened. If he said one word—any word—she was going to hit him. She didn’t care if he was her boss. She didn’t care if she got sacked. Someone had to pay for her humiliation, remember, so why not him? After all, it was his fault for being the stupid git she landed on.

But Malfoy didn’t say a word. A moment later she could hear him walk away, and her shoulders slumped forward in relief. When she set the files back down on the desk she noted that her hands were actually trembling. Why had he left without saying anything to her? Where was his typical Weasley insult, his need to lord his higher position over her, his excuse to engage her in snarky banter? Why had he given up so easily? And why was she so angry that he hadn’t done any of those things? Why was she angry with him at all?

The next few hours hadn’t fared much better for Ginny and the redhead’s infamous temper had finally reached a boiling point. So when Malfoy came to see her at her cubicle before the end of the day, she wasn’t confident that gripping empty file folders would keep her angry fists at bay.

“Weasley, you didn’t sign your TRs.”

He was standing close to her—too close—with the tip of his right shoe touching hers. Ginny found herself staring down at the glossy black wing-tip, looking at anything but his face. What expression would he be sporting—arrogance, annoyance, or sadistic amusement? She could smell his cologne, agarwood and leather. It was the same scent she had tried desperately to forget the other day. Had he always smelt this good? Had he ever stood this close to her before?

“Not so close,” she whispered in a voice that she almost didn’t recognise as her own.

“Pardon me?”

Ginny glanced up (big mistake) and met his eyes for the first time. She was almost taken aback by how soft they were—not just the colour but the shape. She had expected his grey eyes to be cold and mocking, but instead they were alert and intelligent. That was when she began to notice that the rest of his face was equally inviting, less severe and arrogant than she had presumed. The more she studied his face the more she came to realise how symmetrical it was—from the hard slant of his cheekbones to the soft bow of his mouth and the narrow but strong point of his chin. Even the slight raise of his eyebrows, which seemed to ask her why the bloody hell she was staring at him so intently, were perfectly in sync with the rest of his face.

“I said not so close.” She could feel her cheeks flush a hot angry red of embarrassment. “You’re breathing down my neck.”

“No,” Malfoy amusingly corrected with a smirk, lowering his head so that his lips grazed against her throat, “this would be breathing down your neck.”

Ginny could not resist her body’s natural inclination to shiver as his hot breath fanned against her neck. It wasn’t fair that he could affect her in this way—or at all. He was an arrogant, domineering prat who stood for everything she was against (even if he did now work for the Ministry). She was supposed to loathe him entirely. And yet after some stupid incident in the hallway only a few days ago she was starting to see him in ways she had never dreamt of before: she was seeing him for the attractive man that he was.

How dare he be so attractive! And how dare he be so calm about everything all the bloody time! How could he act like nothing had happened, like nothing was being whispered about them within his earshot at all hours of the workday? How could he be so cool about it while she was frothing at the mouth, ready to take a swing at the next gabby goose who’d dare to open her mouth?

“Get off me, Malfoy!” She shoved hard, reacting the only way she knew how.

Quiet murmurs rumbled through the office, and Ginny winced. Those same gossips were huddled around their cubicles, watching the entire scene unfold. She could feel their eyes on her, see them sniggering at their desk with her peripheral vision. If whispers could be recorded on the seismic scale, they’d be off the charts right now.

Ginny blushed a scarlet red, bringing a free hand to her warm cheek. This particular incident was only going to intensify the previous rumours. They were making things worse—he was making things worse!

“Steady on!” Malfoy had already caught her other hand on instinct, inadvertently resting it on his chest.

What a scene the pair made: she clutching her cheek in embarrassment while he held her hand to his heart. But appearances were deceiving, as Malfoy’s nostrils were flaring and his chest was heaving with incredible force. Clearly he was upset with her, but all Ginny could sense right then was his soft hand burning a hole into hers, and the familiar feel of his sturdy chest beneath it.

“What’s your problem, Weasley?”

“You are!” she spat, suddenly wrenching her hand free and turning down the hallway.

 

“Lover’s quarrel?”

“Malfoy isn’t giving her the love she needs, hmm?”

 

Infuriated, Ginny stopped dead in her tracks and turned around, directing her most intimidating glare at all the looky-loos. “Oh, why don’t you all just SHUT YOUR STUPID GOBS!”

And that was that.

 

iii. fear

 

“What are you doing here?”

They were the only words that sprung to mind when Ginny opened the door to see a soaking wet and slightly inebriated Draco Malfoy standing outside her small row house. It was dark and raining out; his normally pale blond hair was dark like honey, matted to his neck and forehead. He was leaning against the side frame with an empty bottle of wine dangling from his fingertips, a smug grin plastered across his regrettably handsome face.

“You recycle?” He held the bottle out, waving it in front of her face before leaning in a bit too close for comfort.

She backed away. “Malfoy, I ask again: what are you doing here?”

“I was in the area so I thought I’d drop by,” he answered with a slight slur and a casual shrug, walking past her into foyer.

“Come right in,” she muttered darkly to herself, before closing the door.

He was completely sopping wet from head to toe, standing still at the entrance to the parlour as though waiting for her. Water poured off his jacket and pooled onto her new rug. She tsked loudly, grimacing at the floor before glancing up to direct him her patented death glare.

“Stay right there!” she ordered, having spotting him eyeing the sofa. “You’re dripping all over the place! I’m going to get you a towel.”

Malfoy obeyed, standing still on the ordered spot and only swaying slightly on his feet. When Ginny returned with towels, Malfoy had already discarded his jacket (and the wine bottle somewhere) and was standing regally in her front parlour in a pair of now clingy black dress trousers and a white shirt that had become decidedly transparent.

“I think I need to get all this off,” he said with a grunt, pulling at the apparently complicated buttons on his shirt. “You have one of those dryer things, yeah? You’ve always liked doing things the Muggle way.”

It was true that she had become a bit like her father, preferring the Muggle methods at times, but what shocked her was that he had any inclination of the sort. And while she most certainly owned a washer and dryer, why the hell was Malfoy suggesting she do it the Muggle way and not use his own magic?

“Where’s your wand?” She threw a towel at his head in hopes that would stop him from undressing in front of her.

“Theo took it. Said I couldn’t Apparate drunk or I’d splinch myself.” He offered her a lop-sided grin before towelling his hair relatively dry, making it spiky so that it stood up in every which direction.

Ginny folded her arms beneath her breasts and stared at him sceptically. “Then why didn’t he Side-Along Apparate you?”

“Cause he’s a bastard?” he offered with a shrug before grinning.

Ginny couldn’t help but begrudgingly grin with him. “It still doesn’t explain why you’re here at my place,” she said, walking over to help him with his clothes.

Malfoy stumbled forward, kicking off his shoes until he was toe to toe in front of her. “Like I said—” he tugged the wet shirt off his shoulders and dropped it onto the floor “—I was in the area and thought I’d drop by.” His hands went to the button of his trousers next and their eyes met. “Maybe find out why you were so angry at me today.”

Ginny swallowed hard. Did it really upset him that much?

Her eyes then drifted to his naked chest for a moment before panicking, jerking her head up to look at his face. Her eyes surreptitiously scanned his features, avoiding his eyes and centring on his nose, watching how the nostrils gently flared. A bead of water rolled down the bridleway and dripped down onto his lip, and she felt a sudden urge to wipe it away, gathering the droplet on her fingertip or licking it off with her tongue.

Abhorred by her own thoughts, Ginny quickly took a step back and shook her head, reining herself in. She shouldn’t have been thinking such things. This was Draco Malfoy for Merlin’s sake—her boss and former school nemesis. But for all the horrible things that he was, she couldn’t deny that he was quite the handsome former villain slash current boss. And what made matters worse was that he looked absolutely inviting when drenched in water.

Life truly wasn’t fair.

The water was already making his pale skin glisten, accentuating the dips and sharp lines in his face. Ginny found herself wondering how sharp the rest of his body was—where all the lines and the angles met, and her eyes travelled downwards past the staves of his neck and over the ridge of his collarbone until they rested on his chest. Her breath had somehow hitched in her throat at the naked sight of it. Thin streams of water cascaded down his chest and torso in rivulets, trickling down the smooth ridges of his body until they pooled into the nape of his navel and trailed downwards into the waistband of his half-undone trousers.

Who would have thought that lean, sinewy muscles would be hidden underneath the clothes of Draco Malfoy? She certainly wouldn’t have suspected as much. And who would have thought that Ginny Weasley would be one to see those muscles up close—to want to lick the rain off his skin?

“If only I were the blushing type—”

Ginny glanced up, mortified at being caught in the act of studying Malfoy’s body like she was a ravenous wolf eyeing a delectable slab of meat. His grey eyes—almost black—were focussed on her so intently that she could barely breathe. She could feel the heat from her own blush travel all the way from her chest to her forehead, and she idly wondered if she was going to pass out.

“I-I—”

She had barely stuttered a word before he had her backed up against the wall, the heat from his cool, rain-soaked body rolling off him in waves. The two stared at each other, breathing heavily as they catalogued each other’s features. Malfoy’s eyes twinkled mischievously in the lamplight as a cocky grin slid into place on his lips, almost as if on cue. It was as though it was a challenge, to see who would turn away first.

Then his hands suddenly reached out and grabbed her by the face, kissing her hard and wet. Her lips hesitantly opened under his as his warm tongue sliced into her mouth, stealing along her teeth. One of his hands slid around to grab the back of her neck, holding her into place as he deepened the kiss. She moaned, eyes threatening to roll into the back of her head as his fingers curled up into her hair, seeking purchase on the silky red tendrils.

And then it was as though she finally clued into what was going on—that he was kissing her and she was kissing him back. She gasped, pressing the flat of her palms against his chest as she feebly tried to push him away, but his fingers only tightened painfully at her scalp, refusing to let her go.

His lips then moved from her mouth to her throat, and she could not help but gasp and moan as he began to place rhythmic bites down the lines of her neck, sucking gently on the tender flesh that she was so willingly letting him abuse. Then he grabbed at her wrists, his long fingers easily gathering both of her hands into one of his own, and pulled her arms over her head, pinioning them to the wall.

He pulled back, gazing down at her hungrily with his body pressed tight and warm against hers—trapping her. She was his willing victim now. She didn’t even think to run; it was the farthest thought from her mind. In fact, she was impatient for more—for his touch, his kisses. She wanted to feel the heat rise between them and lick at her skin. She needed him to consume her.

“Beg for it, Weasley,” he said in a husky voice, his pupils dilated with desire. “Beg me to kiss you.”

Bold and predictable defiance swelled within her, and she brought her knee up to meet his groin. But Malfoy was too swift for her, bringing his own knee down and in between her legs, lifting her up against the wall.

“Just say please, my little hell cat,” he purred, pressing into her until she gasped. “Just say the magic word and I’ll give you what you want.”

He leaned in close, his lips barely grazing her neck, and her breathing sped up to a slightly frantic pace. She could feel his hot mouth on her skin, sense him grinning against her throat, and she cursed him for the power he had over her body. She was waiting, anticipating a kiss that was not going to come unless she stopped lying to him, and to herself.

“P-please—”

 

Ginny awoke in a cold sweat, her fists tightly gripping the sheets that she hugged close to her chest. Her breathing came to her in sharp, raspy gasps, and she blinked blindly in the darkness.

It was a dream?

Flopping back down on the bed, Ginny brought a shaky hand to her damp forehead. She closed her eyes in pain and silently prayed for peace. But it seemed as though even in her sleep Ginny could not escape her thoughts of Malfoy—and even in her dreams peace eluded her.

What if the kiss did mean something to her? What if she liked it? What if—what if she liked him?

“Oh dear Merlin, no!” She rolled over on her side, curling her knees up into her chest. “What the hell is wrong with me?”

 

iv. avoidance (aka back to denial)

 

How Ginny managed to carry her reluctant arse to work the next day was nothing short of a miracle. From the moment she had Floo’d to the Ministry until it was time to Floo back home, she had done everything in her power to not be wherever Malfoy was. To say that Ginny avoided Malfoy like the plague was the understatement of the year.

 

“Weasley, I have an assignment for you and—”

“Ah, there you are, Weasley. I was wondering if—”

“Weasley?”

“Weasley!”

 

Like a bolt of red lightning, she flashed across the room in an instant and was gone. But by the end of the day the constant hiding and mad-dashing had become exhausting and she had nothing or no one to distract her from Malfoy’s constant calling. She was about to pack up and sneak home for the day when her partner, Gregory Smith, walked into her cubicle and handed her a folder.

“That’s it for today,” he said with a yawn, pulling on his robes. “Have a good one, Ginny.”

“You too, Greg.” She smiled softly and offered him a curt wave before slipping the file into her satchel. “See you tomorrow.”

“Oh, by the by—” Smith paused at the door “—Malfoy wants to speak with you.”

Ginny instantly bristled at the mention of that wizard’s name. “I’m busy,” she replied curtly, failing to turn as she busied herself with papers. That reply would have to do until she properly sneaked out of the building.

“You don’t look busy to me.”

Ginny leapt about three feet in the air at the sound of Malfoy’s voice, and turned in dawning horror to meet her adversary’s eyes. They were a cold grey, steely; he obviously wasn’t pleased. Back poker-straight, Ginny had found herself in a precarious situation, caught between fight and flight, but she quickly sacrificed her pride and made a move to go past Malfoy.

“Gotta go!”

She grabbed her satchel and ducked low, trying to make a mad dash past him, but the problem, she had soon noted, was that Malfoy was guarding her only means of escape and wasn’t about to budge.

“Oh no you don’t!”

Malfoy’s feet were planted firmly on the ground, legs bowled in a defensive line-backer position. Everywhere she moved he moved, following and meeting Ginny’s every zig and zag. There was nothing to be done except for her to execute the least anticipated move. Squaring her shoulders, Ginny ran towards the blond, throwing his confidence slightly off balance, and did the absurd: she dove directly between his legs.

Stymied, Malfoy looked down between his legs, which Ginny had already crawled through, and turned around in shock. The redhead was already sprinting out of the office and down the hallway towards the lift at an alarming speed. Luckily the floor they were on was virtually empty, but not so fortunate for Ginny was that Malfoy was far from giving up on her.

“Weasley!” He was slightly out of breath as he rounded the corner. “Why the hell are you running?”

“Because you’re chasing me!” she yelled over her shoulder.

The doors to the lift were closing as she finally made her way to the narrow hallway. Skidding on one foot, Ginny skirted past the lift and made a break for the stairs, cursing the fact that she had chosen to wear heels that day.

“This is ridiculous!” Malfoy panted, though he was decidedly gaining on her.

“Exactly!” Ginny feinted right before turning left and kicking open the door to the fire exit. “So stop chasing me!”

“Weasley!”

Those were the last words Ginny heard before diving down the stairs to the next floor and out of Malfoy’s sight.

 

v. depression

 

The next morning Ginny had felt even worse—far, far worse than she could have imagined. How could she possibly go into work after the embarrassing event that was yesterday’s drama? There was no way she could face Malfoy. She felt utterly dejected and humiliated, and all of this—all of this stupidity—stemmed from some stupid accidental kiss that was eating her alive!

But she could still end the week on a high note, she reasoned. Luckily it was a Friday, and if she took the day off she’d have three days in which she wouldn’t have to see Draco Malfoy’s face or deal with his annoyingly persistent attitude. She’d call in sick and maybe the entire week’s events would be blown over and completely forgotten by Monday.

Maybe.

Yes, it was the perfect plan!

 

“Hullo, Mrs Grey. I’m ringing you on the network to let you know that I can’t come in today.”

“Oh? What’s wrong, dear?”

“I’m not feeling well. Would you mind telling Mr Malfoy for me?”

“. . .”

“Why don’t you tell me yourself?”

“Malfoy! I, uh—”

“What’s wrong, Weasley?”

“I—I’m sick.” Cough. “I can’t come into work today.”

“Sick? Sick with what?”

“Uhm . . .” Long pause. “Dragon Pox.”

“Dragon Pox? My arse!” Slam. “How do you work this bloody thing?”

“You just press the—”

“I’ve got it, Mrs Grey!” Pause. “Weasley, you still there?”

“Uh, yes?”

“You get your arse in here, right now! Do you hear me?”

“Can’t. Sick.”

“Weasley? Weasley! Don’t you dare hang—”

Click.

Dear Merlin. What have I done?

 

vi. anger (again) and maybe acceptance

 

Ginny awoke from her afternoon nap to the sound of successive rapping on her front door. Startled, she froze mid-rise on her sofa. Maybe if she didn’t say anything, her unwelcome visitor would go away. But then even louder and more forceful knocking on the door swiftly dismayed Ginny from further entertaining such wishful notions.

“Who is it?” she yelled, swivelling around into a sitting position.

“Better housekeeping.”

“Better what?”

“It’s Malfoy!” the disembodied voice barked from behind the thankfully locked door. “Open up!”

Ginny’s mouth dropped open in abject horror and she quickly jumped up, gathering loose paper and magazines off the table. It was busy work; although there was really no point to it since Malfoy couldn’t see her through the wooden door.

“Uh, no!” She scrambled backwards in a panic and began desperately and unerringly tidying her relatively clean house. “I-I’m sick.” She faked a few feeble coughs and turned towards the door in terror. “Go away or you’ll catch it!”

There was a short pause in response, followed by what sounded oddly like muffled chuckling.

“I’ll take my chances,” Malfoy retorted sarcastically before thumping on the door. “Now open up before I break this door down!”

“That’s not an incentive to invite you in!”

There was an even longer pause in response after that, deathly silent, as though Malfoy was seriously contemplating his options. “I brought soup.”

“Soup?”

Draco Malfoy had brought her soup? Surely he was joking; however, Ginny’s curiosity had got the best of her and she immediately dropped the magazines and headed to the door, opening it with a soft click.

Malfoy stood outside her door, casually leaning against the frame much like he had in her dream, except that he wasn’t wet or drunk, and this time she was certain she wasn’t dreaming (at least she hoped). He was dressed in a simple yet stylish business suit, which was fortunate for Ginny since she happened to live in a Muggle neighbourhood where robes would be seen as eccentric, if not downright conspicuous. But even when dressed as a Muggle, Malfoy stood out.

“You brought me soup?” She blinked at the sealed plastic bowl he gripped awkwardly in his large hand. He really did bring her soup. “Why?”

“Is it not customary for a friend to bring you soup when you are sick?”

“Customary for a normal human being, sure, but—” She stopped herself short, fingers on the bowl he had ceremoniously thrust into her hands. “W-wait, did you just say friend? Since when have you been my friend?”

“I’d be wounded if I had a heart, Weasley.” He briefly touched his heart before straightening his back. “But let me rephrase: as your superior I was concerned about your health. You are my top Auror, after all, and Smith is entirely incompetent without you.”

Ginny found herself leaning against the opposite frame, smiling smugly. “Top Auror, huh?”

“Don’t let the comment swell your head too much, Weasley,” he warned, and Ginny snorted in response.

“How could I when you so conveniently needle the compliment the moment it passes your lips?”

Malfoy winked. “It is a gift of mine.”

Unimpressed, Ginny cocked an eyebrow and looked him up and down for a moment, as if gauging the genuineness of his interest. Then she felt the sensation of her fingers burning and let out a sharp hiss of annoyance.

“So, are you going to properly invite me in or are we going to have our conversation out here on your stoop?”

Ginny shifted the container in her hands and regarded Malfoy sceptically. Humming to herself, she paused thoughtfully as she tongued the inside of her cheek, observing the dapper blond shift agitatedly on his feet. He was clearly unamused with her pauses and penetrating gaze, and so he opened his mouth once more.

“Well?”

“I’m thinking about it,” she answered slowly, deliberately pausing once more for effect. When Malfoy’s chest puffed out like a male peacock about to strut and assert his dominance, Ginny rolled her eyes and stepped to the side, signalling for him to enter.

“Fine. Come in, Malfoy. And thank you for the soup.”

“You’re welcome.”

Malfoy strolled in and glanced about, taking in the décor of Ginny’s modest row house. Her home certainly wasn’t stylish—inside or out. The small parlour was painfully bare, with an antique hutch and a somewhat fashionable settee, both presents from her Great Aunt Muriel and both gathering dust in the corner of the room. A few family portraits and old Quidditch photographs adorned the unpainted walls, along with assorted kitschy knick-knacks placed here and there, but nothing relatively special. The only items that looked used were the large, comfy-looking sofa with crazy coloured pillows and a thick oak coffee table that she used as a desk more often than she’d like to admit.

“Nice place you have here, Weasley.”

Ginny cocked a humourless eyebrow before lifting a hand to her jutted hip. “You don’t need to lie on my account, Malfoy.”

“Fair enough.” He shrugged, glancing around the room once more with a far more critical eye. “Quite the adequate hovel you’ve nested in, Weasley.”

Ginny took in a deep breath and muttered her sarcastic thanks. She was aware that her house was more functional than anything—a place to crash. It took living in a place to make it looked lived-in. But then Ginny had always lived a Spartan lifestyle; from travelling country to country as a Quidditch player to scouring the world for Dark Artefacts and Wizards as an Auror, Ginny had never really found the time or the desire to ‘build’ her home.

“Take a seat.” She pointed at the sofa with its many plushy and colourful pillows and her favourite blue cashmere throw. “Would you like something to drink?”

“Just water, please,” Malfoy said distractedly, trying to wade his way through the pillows before tossing the throw blanket at the end. “You know, you don’t look or sound exceptionally ill.”

“Well, that’s because I’m a fast healer,” Ginny replied from the kitchen, pouring herself and Malfoy two large glasses of water. “I just needed the day off to recover.”

“A day off to recover from the Dragon Pox?”

“Yes.” Ginny walked back out into the sitting room and set Malfoy’s water on the table before taking the seat at the farthest end.

“Of course.”

Both sat in awkward silence, sipping their water and breathing as lightly as possible. Ginny briefly wondered how long Malfoy was going to stay, and then he suddenly leaned forward, placing his glass down on the table before casually stretching back on the sofa with his ankle crossed over his knee.

“So your wanting the day off has nothing to do with you avoiding me at work for the past week—or barrelling past me last evening like some deranged Chaser trying to evade a rogue Bludger?”

Ginny choked on her water, a pathetic sputtering noise as she lapsed into a full-out coughing fit. She bent forward, spilling the glass of water in her hand, and proceeded to bray like a donkey for a full thirty seconds. Once the spasms had stopped, and she was properly embarrassed by Malfoy staring at her like he had just witnessed an exorcism, Ginny jumped up and ran into the kitchen to find something to clean up the water. She returned with a towel, shakily dabbing the table and floor while trying to avoid Malfoy’s penetrating gaze.

“So?”

“So what?” Ginny asked hoarsely, coughing up her other lung.

Malfoy curved a haughty eyebrow and observed Ginny as she hacked away, impatiently tapping his knee while he waited for her to recover.

“So,” he continued once her second coughing fit had ceased, “why exactly have you been avoiding me?”

“Well—” she hummed “—you are Draco Malfoy, and as a Malfoy and my superior, I tend to avoid you on principle.”

Malfoy’s face suddenly darkened, the playful arrogance in his eyes swiftly sharpening into a bladed grey. And for a fleeting moment Ginny could have sworn that he looked disappointed.

“Weasley, I may not be your friend, but for as long as I have known you you’ve never been one to back down or avoid others. You face your fears and your enemies head-on.”

How was she supposed to respond to that?

“I do, do I?” She looked down at her feet, a regrettable and unavoidable effulgence of colour blossoming on her cheeks. “Since when did you start observing such things about me?”

“Since always.”

She glanced up and his eyes were on her again. Her breath hitched in her throat and she looked away, flustered. The way he looked at her, the way he talked to her; it was all so unnerving, leaving her feeling naked and exposed.

“Yes, w-well—” her ears reddened, matching her cheeks “—I’ve just had a lot on my mind recently. And if you know me as well as you think you do, you’ll have already figured out that I tend to overreact when stressed.” She offered him a thin smile. “I certainly didn’t want to lash out at my boss and get sacked.”

For a full minute he didn’t respond, sitting so still that his silence only thickened the tension between them. Ginny swallowed hard. Should she break the silence? But she couldn’t; she oddly wanted to know what he was going to say. His eyes were like hard slate, keen and focussed, and then he cocked his head to the side, the muscles in his cheeks twitching slightly, before his mouth slowly widened into a grin.

“I never thought a Gryffindor could lie so convincingly,” he said with a slight touch of respect in his tone, “but you’re quite exceptional at it, Weasley.”

Her eyes widened in shock. “How dare you—”

“Oh, don’t feign indignation on my account.” Malfoy carelessly waved a hand in the air. “I refuse to believe lying is a novel experience for you.”

Ginny’s shoulders slumped forward in defeat. She had definitely been caught. “No, it’s not,” she muttered begrudgingly. “You’re just the first person to call me out on it.”

He drummed his fingers on his knee and offered her a bleak smile. “I’m honoured to be your first.”

“And so what if I’m lying?” Ginny suddenly huffed, folding her arms beneath her breasts. “You do it all the time.”

Malfoy’s fingers suddenly curled into a fist and he stood up, his grey eyes flashing dangerously. He took a step towards her, his long, noiseless strides eating up the distance between them in a heartbeat, and Ginny found herself trapped with her back against the wall—nowhere to run.

“You’re damn right I lie, Weasley,” he growled, his body so close and so coiled that she could literally feel the strain. “I lie all the time. But I don’t lie to you.”

“B-but you lied earlier about liking my house!”

His brow knitted in confusion for a half-second. “What—that? That was me trying to be polite, and not at all what I meant.”

“Then—” Ginny shook her head “—then I don’t understand.”

“No,” he murmured, letting out a deep sigh before taking a step back. “Of course you wouldn’t.” He turned his back to her and raised his hands in the air, pantomiming dramatically. “But then you’re a Weasley, aren’t you? A Weasley trapped in your own little deluded, self-righteous world where you imagine and unimagine conversations and events all the time!”

“What exactly is your point, Malfoy?” Ginny huffed impatiently.

“My point—” he whirled around “—is that I like you, Weasley.” When she openly gawked at his reply he instantly recoiled, shaking his head. “Oh, don’t look at me that way. It’s not what you think. All I’m saying is that I like how your mind works; how calculating and cunning you can be when—”

“Are you trying to say that I remind you of you?”

“There you go with that sharp tongue of yours again,” he growled. “What I mean is that I respect you, and I tend not to lie to people I respect. And besides, as observed earlier, you’re the type of person who’d recognise a lie from a mile off.”

“Mhm.” She nodded smugly, once again folding her arms beneath her breasts. “Especially ones coming from you.”

He smirked. “Ah, but for all your cunning and your obvious lack of subtlety, Weasley, you sometimes fail to properly assess the situation at hand.”

“Which is?”

He stepped in close, cupping her cheek in his hands before murmuring low, “That I know exactly why you’ve been avoiding me.”

For a terrifying instant Ginny thought he was going to do more, but then his hands slid down her cheeks to her arms and he stepped back, watching her with those keen grey eyes of his. Even though he had broken contact, Ginny’s heart still hammered wildly in her chest, gauging the palpitating awareness of his proximity. Regrettably, she found herself missing his touch.

“Y-you do?”

“Yes—” he sniffed loudly, running his fingers through his fringe “—and I must say that you put far too much stock into the power of that idiotic rumour mill.”

Ginny’s arms fell limply to her sides and she blinked up at him in utter bewilderment; her mouth was opening and closing like a fish out of water. For some reason she had suspected he knew that she was thinking about him, about the kiss, about her dreams—that somehow he knew everything. But he didn’t. Or maybe he just didn’t care to know.

She really had been overreacting.

“You shouldn’t let those gabby hens’ infantile clucking bother you,” he continued. “Anyone with a brain knows that nothing happened or will happen between us.” He offered her what she assumed he believed to be a winning smile—or possibly just a mocking one. “Your virtuous name and image has not been besmirched by me and my perfect lips.”

An odd mixture of anger and longing spasmed in her chest at his words, and her fingers instantly reached for her heart. Clenching both hands into tight fists, she let them fall rigidly to her sides and agreed haltingly, “You’re right. It was just an accident, entirely unintentional.”

“Exactly,” Malfoy agreed with a slight shake of his head. “So stop your fretting and come back to work with me.”

Ginny frowned. How could he stay so calm and act as if nothing had happened? And why the hell couldn’t she do the same? If it meant nothing to him, then why was he standing so close to her right now, and why was he making her heart beat so fast? It was all so infuriating!

“Yup!” She tittered unconvincingly. “It’s almost like nothing happened at all!”

Now she was really beginning to wonder if she had made the entire incident up in her head. She was certainly doing a fine job earlier with convincing herself that the damn kiss meant something. And now what? Maybe she should have had a talk with Malfoy sooner.

“It was all an accident. It didn’t mean a damn thing. Thank you, Malfoy.”

Malfoy’s mouth suddenly curved downward. “You’re—you’re welcome.”

Ginny suddenly felt like crying. It was a ridiculous feeling. What had she to cry about? But there she was, scrunching up her face in a pitiful attempt not to openly sob in front of him. She knew she looked positively pathetic right now and she desperately hoped that Malfoy hadn’t noticed.

“Let me grab my robes and I’ll come back with you to work.” She made a move to slip past him, her hands already reaching up to touch her watery eyes, when Malfoy caught her by the wrist and spun her around.

“So, are you saying you’d only be fine with a kiss from me if it was unintentional?”

What did he just say? “What?”

His lips suddenly descended on hers, brushing into her mouth with a gentle pressure that quickly deepened, hot and ragged. Eyes wide open in shock, Ginny froze in place for a split second; then it was though a switch had been turned off in her head and she gave into the kiss with reckless abandon.

His hands slid over her ears to the back of her neck, holding her to the kiss. Everything was warm and soft as the rest of her body melted into his. Her hands, in turn, had found his chest, grabbing the lapels of his jacket to pull him in close.

Was this another dream?

He pushed into her, their hips connecting, and her body was suddenly ignited. There was no way this was a dream; it felt too real. His lips had moved from her mouth to her chin, along her jaw, and down her neck, holding searing hot kisses to her throat and then he was pulling away—leaving her breathless.

“Now can you act like nothing happened, Weasley?” His eyes were dark, dancing. “Does this mean nothing to you?”

Anger began to boil in her veins. How dare he use her like that? But it was fear, the cold stab of terror in her stomach that made her reach out and shove him. He barely moved, taking the impact of her violence as though he had been anticipating it. When he moved back in, she fell back against the wall, desperate to put any sort of distance between them.

“What the hell did you do that for?”

“Why?” His voice was low against her ear. “Because I wanted to.”

Ginny was suddenly moving forward. Malfoy’s blasé attitude, running hot then cold, was lighting a reckless fire in her chest. She shoved him again, and this time he stumbled back. His eyes went wide with shock and then narrowed dangerously before his hands lashed out and grabbed her roughly by her wrists, holding her in place.

“Why are you so angry?” he growled, his own temper getting the best of him.

“Because—” Because you’re so damn conflicting and confusing!

Ginny felt her resistance wilt and his grip softened, almost tenderly. There was no way she could tell him why.

“Listen, Weasley—” his voice was almost placating “—I said I wouldn’t lie to you, and I’m willing to be honest with you . . . if you are honest with me.”

“What do you mean?”

He looked at her incredulously. “Isn’t it obvious?”

She shook her head in wide-eyed bafflement, and Malfoy’s grip on her wrists tightened almost painfully before he released them. He took a careful step back before a slew of expletives escaped his mouth.

“Merlin, you are so frustrating!” He curled his hands into fists and closed his eyes tightly for a moment before opening them. “You were right earlier, Weasley. We’re not friends. You said it yourself. But—”

But?

“But I like you!”

Dumbfounded, Ginny could only stare at him, her wrists still lifted in the air as if held by some unseen force. She had no idea how to respond—how to even appraise what he had just said to her—and the look of tortuous pain on Malfoy’s face really didn’t make the situation that much easier to read.

“I don’t know exactly when and more than anything I don’t want to get into the whys right now, but you’re—” Malfoy struggled with his words as though they were physically maiming him “—you’re beautiful, Weasley. There, I said it.”

He exhaled sharply and gathered himself to full height before looking at her softly. He reached out, and Ginny was sure he was going to touch her face, but he simply plucked a piece of flint off her blouse and shook his head with a grimace.

“Even when you’re dressed like a complete slob you’re beautiful to me.” He rolled his eyes at his own admittance and dropped his hand. “But it’s more than that, if you must know.” And she did. “You’re smart and feisty and wild and even a little bit crazy and maybe I’m a little bit crazy for finding that to be one of your irresistible charms, but—” he lifted his hand to her cheek, caressing it gently “—I really don’t care.”

“Malfoy—”

“Because all I know is that I want you; I want you in my arms and underneath me and every position in between.” His hand slid around to the back of her neck, gripping her possessively. “And I don’t give a flying fuck what others think about us—and I never will.”

A wry smile touched his lips and his hold on her neck loosened, a thumb peeking out to caress along the under-curve of her jaw. She closed her eyes for a moment, enjoying the feel of him, until his voice jostled her lovely daydreaming.

“What about you, Weasley?”

“Me? I-I—”

“You know what I want.” The tips of his fingers lightly brushed the fine hairs on the back of her neck, and she trembled. “What do you want?”

What did she want? She wanted this whirlwind of emotions to stop; she didn’t know whether he was coming or going (and her with him). But when Ginny looked up into his deep grey eyes and thought about it, really thought about it, she knew that whatever she wanted, it certainly wasn’t—

“This.”

She barely replied before his mouth was on hers, reeling her back against the wall. It almost felt as if he was devouring her, and she was impatient for more. She lunged forward, surprising him as she not only returned his kiss but deepened it, bringing her hands up to explore his face.

She was forceful and erratic and she knew it, licking wetly across the line of his jaw and the corners of his mouth before he took control again, biting at her lush lower lip and down her chin. His hands lowered to her hips, long fingers skimming along the curves and dips. Pale blond wisps of hair hung in his eyes and were woven through by her own slender fingers, pulling his head back and demanding his mouth return to hers. He met her demand, his lips brushing over hers like electricity. Her very flesh felt as though it was on fire as his mouth moved down her neck towards her chest, nipping and sucking at her collarbone.

She arched her back in ecstasy, painfully tugging at his hair in response to his ministrations, before his hands reached up to capture her wrists. He brought her palms to his chest while he rested his on her hips, his mouth finding its way back to hers. She gasped, struggling for air as he pushed her back up against the wall. Nudging her underneath her chin, he exposed her pale throat and began to trail his teeth down her neck, leaving red and pink blushing wakes in their path.

Blood pounded in her ears as his palms began to move from her hips and travel over her stomach. His long fingers grazed the underside of her breasts, and even through the fabric of her blouse she could feel his gentle yet urging caresses and the very heat of his skin. She moaned with the pure pleasure of his touch, before bringing her hands down to cup his face and to lift his mouth back to her.

But suddenly he was pulling back and away from her, his hands cupping her face as he held her at a distance. Frowning, Ginny couldn’t prevent the disappointed whimper that escaped her mouth at the loss of contact.

“Weasley,” Malfoy rasped, slightly out of breath as he caressed her cheeks with the pads of his thumbs. “Let the damn fools say what they want, okay?” He held her face tighter, eyes darkening as they drifted to her swollen lips. “Okay?”

Dumbfounded, Ginny blinked purposely for a moment before sussing out his words’ meaning and smiled—a sly curving of the lips. She then slowly placed her hands on top of his and nodded before lifting her chin, entreating him for another kiss, which he eagerly granted.

Because, honestly, why the hell should she care about rumours when she has the real thing right here and now?

The End