The Malfoy Inquisition

Chapter Four

Ginny rubbed a hand over her face, exhausted. It had been a long night, and as she sat in her chair while the first tendrils of daylight crept through her office window, she took a long sip of coffee and attempted not to pull a face over the awful, bitter taste. She was certainly not a coffee drinker, but after a mere thirty-minute power nap on her office sofa she desperately needed the caffeine.

After scouring Draco's file all night, she had decided to send a letter requesting Astoria meet her in her office at 8am sharp, because Ginny was of the mind that this kind of thing was like ripping off a plaster – the sooner she got it done, the less painful it would be. Ginny also couldn't deny that the thought of having Astoria Greengrass at her beck and call didn't bring her more than a little joy.

Pulling out some blank parchment, she went to reach for her old, tattered quill, but only grasped thin air. Frowning, she wondered if she'd managed to misplace it in her handbag – but it wasn't there either. As she pondered over where on earth she could possibly have left it, she caught sight of the as-yet unopened parcel on her desk, and knew what had happened.

That prick of a Pureblood had replaced her favourite quill. She'd bet all the Galleons in her Gringotts vault that that was what he'd purchased from the jeweller's the other day, because Flourish and Blotts just wasn't good enough.

Ginny glared at the offending parcel, torn over what to do, but ultimately decided she was entirely too proud to open the thing. Instead, she decided to keep the 'gift' to herself, for now, and shoved the thing into her desk drawer. Grumbling, she then banged out a short and succinct letter to Astoria on her typewriter and sent it off, then all-but-collapsed onto her sofa in order to have a few minutes rest before she faced down the harpy.

Her brief respite ended in what felt like seconds, to the sound of firm knocking on her locked door.

"This had better be important," Astoria called out, waspishly. "I had to reschedule my hair appointment for this."

Ginny straightened her shirt and quickly cast a charm to conceal the bags under her eyes, before opening her door, grinning at the sight of Astoria's split ends. "Miss Greengrass, do come in." She stepped back as Astoria brushed past her and immediately occupied the armchair in front of Ginny's desk. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"I don't plan on staying long," Astoria replied while she examined the ends of her hair with a scrutinising gaze. "Well? What have you found?"

"I'll be asking the questions this morning, Miss Greengrass." Ginny smiled as she leant against the edge of her desk and crossed her arms, narrowing her gaze as she looked down her nose at the other witch. "Starting with why my office was broken into last night."

Astoria froze, then dropped the strand of hair she'd been holding and let her hands rest in her lap as she looked up at Ginny. "Pardon?"

"My office. I returned here to find that my office had been broken into and that a very particular file had been tampered with."

There was a long pause as Astoria digested this information. "Are you accusing me of something, Miss Weasley?"

"Oh, of course not," Ginny said easily, then leant forwards to brace herself against the arms of Astoria's armchair, while Astoria sunk down against the back of the seat. "I am, however, questioning why Draco Malfoy might be interested enough in my investigation to commit a felony."

Astoria's expression grew shuttered, and Ginny could tell the woman was furious. "You mean to say he knows you've been investigating him?"

"That's not the issue, here, Miss Greengrass. The issue is exactly why a man merely cheating on his girlfriend might want to discover what information I've collected so far, since this man has done absolutely nothing to indicate that he has been having an affair. Unless..." Ginny paused a long moment, taking her time to stand upright again, then continued with the theory she'd come up with through the early morning. "Unless I was hired for an investigation under false pretences."

Astoria remained silent, but Ginny noticed the barest twitch of a muscle under the woman's left eye. Clearly she'd hit a nerve.

"Well?" Ginny prompted the other woman. "Is there anything you'd care to share with me, Miss Greengrass?"

Astoria got up from her chair and brushed past Ginny, striding to the window that overlooked a bustling Diagon Alley. Ginny remained where she leant against her desk, but watched the silhouette of the other woman cautiously. There was a moment of tense silence, before Astoria exhaled a deep breath on a sigh. "Draco Malfoy isn't my boyfriend."

Ginny rolled her eyes at the obvious comment, but remained silent, hoping the other woman would continue talking – and was generously rewarded for her patience.

"We used to be together, but that was a long time ago. He has some... sensitive information regarding my personal life, and I was hoping you might be able to help me find some leverage over him. Collateral, you might call it."

Ginny's mouth hardened into a line. "I'm not in the business of helping the rich blackmail each other, Astoria."

The other woman slanted a look at Ginny over her shoulder. "Obviously, or I wouldn't have resorted to lying in order to make you take on my case. I gave you something familiar so that you wouldn't question me."

"But there are dozens of other Investigators that would have been more than willing. Why me?"

Astoria turned to Ginny then, arms crossed as she faced the other woman off. "I needed a detective who is good with sensitive information – one that wouldn't cause problems if I had to be fully open with them about my situation. The less people that know, the better – and you don't strike me as the kind of person who might go to the Prophet."

That was ominous enough for Ginny to put her hand in the pocket of her jeans to clutch her wand tightly. "And what situation is that?" Ginny prompted, cautiously.

Astoria's lips thinned distastefully, and she looked away.

Exasperated, Ginny slapped the palms of her hands against the desk and attempted another line of questioning. "You asked for Narcissa and Draco's letters. Is there a particular reason why?"

"As I told you at the time, I needed to know if she's mentioned me to him," she said to Ginny, with a tone that implied Ginny was a few bludgers short of a Quidditch match, and Ginny tried not to be impatient with the woman.

"I'll need you to be a little more specific, Astoria."

"I spend a lot of time with Narcissa," Astoria paused and gave Ginny a meaningful look. When Ginny didn't overtly react, she scowled and clarified her statement. "We had an affair."

Ginny's brows just about shot into her hairline, and she wondered if she'd misheard. "Pardon?"

"I can't speak more plainly," Astoria said in a patronising tone as she narrowed her eyes at Ginny in an accusing fashion, as though she were at fault for something. "There's no need to look at me like that."

"I'm not looking at you like anything," Ginny assured the other woman. "I'm just... surprised."

"Why is that?" Astoria scoffed. "Because I don't look like a dyke?"

Ginny was taken aback by Astoria's abnormally vulgar language, but tried to reply diplomatically. "I don't think you should look like anything."

"Well, it's too bad no one else thinks that." For the briefest moment, Astoria's expression was so vulnerable that Ginny felt a brief stab of pity for her.

"And Draco knows?" Ginny prompted, attempting to get the conversation back on track.

"No – not everything." She lifted her head a fraction. "Not about the affair."

"Right. So what you're telling me is that," Ginny held up a hand and began counting off her fingers, "You dated Draco Malfoy as a ruse to hide your sexuality, he intends to use your sexual preference against you for some nefarious purpose, and you had an affair with his mother despite that. I assume that the affair will only add to Draco's vendetta against you - should he find out. Is that everything?"

"Approximately."

Ginny pinched the bridge of her nose. Really, getting anything useful out of this woman was like pulling teeth. "Has Draco Malfoy bothered to mention to you what he wants?"

"Something about money, or business. I don't know; Father takes care of that kind of thing." Astoria waved her hand, while Ginny resisted the urge to slap her palm across her face. "Are you going to help me or not?"

She didn't want anything to do with this mess, really, though she couldn't help but feel terrible for the poor woman in front of her – but Ginny wasn't willing to trust Astoria as far as she could throw her, either. The witch had already proved she was willing to outright lie to get what she needed, and there wasn't much stopping her from doing so again. It was almost enough to make Ginny wish she was a callous enough person to spread rumours, if only to ensure Astoria wouldn't trust her with her secrets.

There were few things in the world that Ginny detested – such as filing and coffee – and unsolved cases were at the top of that list. Ginny was determined to get to the bottom of things, where Draco Malfoy was concerned.

Besides, she reasoned, she owed him one for getting so far under her skin.

Draco Malfoy had told her only several hours earlier that he wanted a challenge. Ginny was confident that she could give him more than he bargained for.

"My rates for extortion cases are higher than affairs," Ginny told Astoria, and held out her hand for the woman to shake. "I'll have a revised contract for your rates agreement owled to you within the hour."

Astoria stared at Ginny's hand with some distaste, as though she weren't sure what to do with it, but eventually placed her fingers in Ginny's palm for a half second before picking up her purse and flouncing out the door.

xxx

Later that day, Ginny was operating on an unholy amount of caffeine and not-nearly-enough sleep, but she consoled herself - as she always did - with the thought that this kind of exhaustion wasn't something she experienced often, along with daydreams of her plush, warm bed waiting for her when she got home. It had been a long day, on top of an even longer night, but it was almost over.

After all of her planning that morning - and a brief trip to Hermione's office to borrow the most tattered quill she could find - she'd then returned to her usual routine: following Draco.

She hadn't bothered with her usual caution - just enough to prevent him from becoming too suspicious - but she knew that he knew that she was there, and, to her delight, she knew he was annoyed about it.

At his usual lunch meeting with Theodore Nott, his eyes had locked on her as she sat a few tables down armed with a copy of the prophet, sunglasses and her hair charmed an ashy blonde. She'd watched him from behind her tinted lenses as his eyes travelled over her body for the briefest moment, and his jaw tightened in a manner that was somehow incredibly sexy. Reminding herself that this was for work, she crossed her legs and ignored the shiver his gaze alone had managed to wrack from her body, but took great pleasure that he'd reacted so perceptibly to the sight of her.

With a grin, she sipped her tea, finished her sandwich, and listened to him thank Theodore for his assistance the evening before, along with a cryptic promise of a returned favour in future that made Ginny wonder what other nefarious activities the toad had on the side. It nearly didn't bother her that he was baiting her by all-but-bragging about breaking into her office right in front of her; Draco Malfoy had gotten one over her, and she had to respect that - albeit grudgingly.

When the meal was over and he left, she left as well, but instead of following him to whatever ridiculous location he'd planned on torturing her at today, she went straight to the Malfoy's business headquarters. With a little assistance from a disillusionment charm, she helped herself to Draco's office, and made herself comfortable until he returned from his afternoon meeting.

It was strange, being so easily immersed in Draco's things; she's grown so used to being a spectator in his life over the last few weeks that being here in his space, now, felt like a taboo. But it wasn't long before proximity helped her ignore those feelings, and for her curiosity to take over. Ensuring that the unopened package he'd left her was placed front and centre on his desk, she walked around the spacious room and leisurely examined his things.

It as a lovely space, and Ginny couldn't help but admire his selection of furniture. If she'd had more money to spend on her own office she would definitely have styled it like this - though she doubted that she could bring herself to part with the galleons these authentic mahogany pieces would cost, even if she had the money. Draco also had several oil paintings on the walls and above a large fireplace; landscapes painted in an impressionist fashion, in hues of blue and green, that looked so familiar she had to wonder if they were famous.

Then - after looking at all those lovely things he had on display - she couldn't help but go through his drawers.

Feeling like a voyeur, she opened a cupboard to find spare suits and robes meticulously hung on a rail, and she felt a jolt as she caught a whiff of his musky cologne on the fabric. Slamming the doors of the cupboard shut, she decided to peruse his books and examine the various magical items displayed on his shelves instead, noting he had an impressive number of potions stored in his sideboard, along with his liquor. She warily identified a few of them, and was almost unsurprised that his collection ranged from befuddlement potions to veritaserum; and honestly, Ginny wasn't sure she wanted to know why a company director would need these types of potions readily at hand.

Finally, she got to the drawers of his desk and felt justified in her snooping when she found a copy of the file from her office. She opened it and flipped through the document, noting that he'd flagged, then written responses to, some of her notes;

Lack of human emotion - Sociopath?

Investigator should research definition of sociopath. -DM

Unable to help herself, she sat at his desk - ignoring how naughty she felt sitting in his chair - pulled out her quill and sloppily scribbled a reply under his flawless penmanship.

Perpetrator should research definition of larceny. -GW

Other things, he'd only marked with a small asterisk, and she quickly confirmed exactly what Draco was interested in - or, more likely, what he was worried about her investigating.

As she read through one of the articles he'd flagged, discussing the loss of a major contract for The Malfoy Foundation, she turned a page and a piece of card fell to the floor. Curiously, she scooped it up and was surprised to see that it was his match card from the speed dating event, which he'd evidently not bothered to return to Hannah. Even more curiously, he hadn't marked any of the numbers on the card, except for one. Thirteen.

Unsure how she felt about that, she tossed the card onto his desk, then reclined in Draco's chair and continued reviewing Draco's file.

Slowly, she pieced the puzzle together, and she angrily wondered how she hadn't seen it sooner - though, she mildly consoled herself with the thought that she hadn't been looking for suspicious business dealings in the first place. Her clippings were riddled with mentions of The Malfoy Foundation securing contract after contract for all kinds of projects - even some that had been previously given to other businesses, before they mysteriously relinquished the deal - and she had to wonder how on earth they'd landed them all. But then, she had the answer to that, didn't she? She was certain that Astoria wasn't the first person Draco had crossed, and she seriously questioned how he managed to sleep at night - though, she supposed a person needed a strong conscience to feel guilty over that kind of thing, anyway.

But then, she thought there was some kind of self-serving good intention behind the whole thing, since The Foundation had managed to achieve so much positive work - they'd just built a new paediatrics ward for St Mungo's, for goodness' sake; at least there was some kind of method to Draco Malfoy's madness.

Some time after five, the door to Draco's office opened, and she lowered the papers she'd been reading to see the wizard in question shutting the door behind him, while eyeing her with some amusement.

"Investigating what it's like to be an Executive, I see," Draco said, nodding his head to where her feet were propped up on his desk.

Attempting to look unconcerned, Ginny slowly returned her feet to the floor, and put the file on his desk, clasping hands on top of it. "Mr Malfoy," she greeted him with a smile. "Please, do come in."

He raised a brow at her, then crossed the office to take a seat in the armchair in front of his desk, gait relaxed. Casually, he loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar. "Have you had a productive day?"

"Quite," Ginny said, leaning back in his chair and studiously ignoring how attractive he was when his appearance was so purposefully dishevelled. "Almost as productive as you were, last evening."

His mouth twitched. "You must think you have everything figured out, if you went to the trouble of coming here today."

"Can't a witch get a little retaliation without people accusing her of such nonsense?" She asked him, then nodded at the package she'd placed on his desk. "Besides, you forgot something."

"That was a gift."

She crossed her arms. "I don't take bribes, Draco."

"If I were trying to bribe you, you'd know it," he said, standing up, then moved to his sideboard and took out two glasses. "Drink?"

"No, thank you." Ginny rolled her eyes when he poured her one, anyway, then placed it on the desk in front of her.

Draco blithely touched the lip of his glass to hers, then took a long sip after he sat down. "What can I do for you, Ginny?"

She smiled at his blunt question, deciding to follow suit. "You can leave Astoria alone."

"I can't do that," he said, with a shake of his head, as he sat down again.

"Why not?"

"Because I have plans, and the Greengrass family isn't cooperating."

"Not everyone has to do what you tell them to," Ginny told him, as she tried to decide if she found this side of Draco unbelievably sexy or irritating as hell.

"Of course not," he replied, casting a meaningful look at her that made her feel hot all over. Sexy it is. "Which is why I have to resort to all of this," he waved a hand at the collection of items she'd left on his desk, and took another sip.

Raising a brow, Ginny lifted Draco's speed dating card. "So, what does that make me?"

"A welcome complication," he said, in a way that made her glad to be one. "But a distraction nonetheless."

Ginny feigned a pout, then threw his words from the night before back at him. "You're bruising my ego."

He smirked at that. "Diffidence never suited you."

"Thank you," she dropped his card on the table again, then tapped a finger on top of her file. "But flattery will get you nowhere."

"I wouldn't expect anything less."

There was a long silence, as they eyed each other off over the desk, their banter bringing them to a stalemate. Ginny was determined not to blink first, so she smiled at him, reclined in his chair, then enjoyed a small sip of the amber coloured drink he'd poured for her - lest she manage to choke on the liquid, as she seemed to do every other time he was near her.

Finally, he cracked. "Say I leave Astoria alone. What do I get out of that?"

"A sense of pride that you did the right thing," she told him, and had to stifle a laugh at his deadpan expression. Reminding herself it was a serious matter, she straightened. "Look, surely you can still make her an offer. I'm sure you've got more money than Gringotts, lying around gathering dust somewhere."

"Not quite," he said, a small smile playing on his lips. "And usually an extraneous amount of money is the first thing I offer - but Astoria has money. She already threw it back in my face."

Ginny smirked at him. "Does she, though?"

He arched a brow at her. "Playing coy never suited you, either."

"But it's so much more fun," Ginny smiled at him, closing the file on his desk with a dramatic flourish. "Astoria's parents found out about her. They cut her off."

Draco's expression was sceptical. "Are you sure about that?"

"Positive. The last deposit slip she paid me with was rejected by Gringotts this morning, so I did some further investigation and found that she's more or less living on credit at the moment. Her receipts are in the file." He opened his mouth to respond, but she quickly continued. "Trust me, the only reason I'm letting you know is because I'd like to be paid. Besides, I'm a Weasley, and we don't have dishonest bones in our bodies."

"Should I remind you about what you did to the Leaky Cauldron's floor last night?"

She grinned. "Only if you're planning on telling me how you got rid of your drinks without me knowing."

"Not today," he said, then leant forwards in his hair, his gaze locked on her face in that assessing manner she'd grown accustomed to. "That doesn't help me, though. If she's estranged from her parents, I doubt that she'll be able to get her father to relinquish the contract I need."

Ginny made a tsking noise. "I think you're forgetting something, Draco. Or should I say, someone?"

He tapped his finger against his glass twice as he thought, then he smiled at her in an incredibly delicious manner. "Daphne."

"You got it; Daphne would do anything to help her sister, so long as it doesn't entail being cut off, herself," Ginny said, examining her nails. "So, how did I do?"

Draco lifted his glass in a toast. "Splendidly," he said, then downed the remaining liquid as he watched her over the rim of his glass.

Ginny smiled back at him. "I'm glad you're satisfied with the service. For a one off consultancy session, that will cost eighty eight galleons and five sickles."

He laughed, then stood and joined her on the other side of the desk. When he moved close to her she could feel the heat of him, and she wondered what he was going to do - until he opened a desk drawer and retrieved his chequebook from it. He then unwrapped the gift he'd gotten her and picked up the quill inside, made the cheque out to her for her stated fee, then signed it with a flourish.

He held it just out of her reach. "This is robbery."

"It's business," she plucked the slip of paper from his fingertips and slipped it in her pocket, then held her hand out for him to shake. "It's been a pleasure, as always, Mr Malfoy."

Draco grasped her hand, branding her skin with just that small amount of contact, but he didn't let go. Instead, he leant over to look her in the eye, since she still seated in his chair, and she attempted not to squirm under his heated gaze. "What'll it cost me for dinner?"

Ginny pretended to think about it, feeling more at ease in his presence now that they'd concluded their business than she ever had. "For you? On the house."

He pulled her up and out of the chair, his hand letting go of hers in order to grasp her waist and steady her, and when she was standing he was so close their bodies were flush against each other's she could feel every last solid inch of him - and it was marvellous. "And how much will you make me pay for a kiss?"

"Everything you've got," she said, placing her hands against his chest as she tilted her head up towards his, and with a determined gaze his mouth came down over hers. The feel of his firm lips against her own was indescribable, and he quickly had her pressed against the desk as his tongue stroked into her mouth, his hand in her hair tilting her head to find the perfect angle - there.

Ginny pulled away, nearly gasping for air, and when she realised her cool, unflappable Draco was just as out-of-sorts, she smirked at him triumphantly. "You can do better than that."

"I plan to," he told her, then pulled her back for more.