This was written for Anise in The DG Forum Fic Exchange - Summer 2018 by a member of our forum. For more details, please visit our page.


Chapter One

When Harry called Ginny into his office at Auror Headquarters one unbearably hot, summer afternoon, she assumed he had some kind of new assignment for her. She'd been whinging (to use his term, not hers; Ginny maintained it was merely a professional request) to him lately about how bored she was on her current task force, which involved examining suspected Dark objects. Harry, being quite senior in the Auror hierarchy (everyone knew he was tapped to be Head one day, and Ginny thought that day would probably come quite soon), had the direction of several task forces, most of which involved a bit more action than examining Dark objects.

So when Harry asked to see her privately, that scorching afternoon, it did not come as a surprise. His assignment for her, however, did.

"Draco Malfoy," Ginny repeated, dumbstruck.

"Right," Harry confirmed.

"You want me to find Draco Malfoy…who…"

"—has been undercover for the past two years," Harry said. He seemed oblivious to her shock, leaning back against his desk with a preoccupied look on his face. "Under various assignments, at least at first. This last assignment of his has been going on for nearly a whole year, because it involved infiltrating a rather large operation. Like I said, he missed his last check-in and—"

"Hang on," Ginny cut in. "Go back to the part where Draco Malfoy is an Auror?"

"Yes, Ginny," Harry said, with a touch of impatience. "I know that may be hard to believe—"

Ginny laughed. "Hard to believe? Hard to believe?"

"But he—"

"Who thought it was a good idea to make Draco Malfoy an Auror?"

"I did," Harry said.

Ginny stared at him incredulously.

"Think about it," Harry said, and he sounded much more patient now, annoyingly so, like she was a student at Hogwarts and he her teacher. "He was a Death Eater. Those are all the credentials he needs to mingle with some of the worst criminals, especially other Death Eaters who are still at large. He has connections in that world that we simply don't."

"So, what, you just asked him would he like to be an Auror so he could help you hunt down—"

"I didn't ask him," Harry interrupted. "He approached me."

Ginny broke off, her words dying in her throat. For a moment, she simply stared at Harry, her jaw agape, probably looking quite stupid. Harry, for his part, stayed quiet, allowing her some time to recover her thoughts. Once she'd done so, she burst out, "But how is it that I never knew this? You said he's been undercover for two years; he would have been in training when I joined the program—"

"His training was all done in secret. Only a handful of senior officials in the department knew about it. That was essential, if he was going to work undercover."

Which did make sense, Ginny grudgingly admitted. But still…Draco Malfoy, an Auror…it was hard to fathom…

"Anyway," Harry went on, "he's been MIA for the past two months, possibly longer. He first missed a check-in in May…" He consulted a sheaf of papers on his desk behind him. "The sixth of May, he should've checked in. That in itself wasn't terribly unusual; sometimes he finds himself in situations where he can't get word to us. But usually, even then, he contacts us within the week, and he never did. His next official check-in ought to have been a few weeks later, and he missed that one too. We haven't had a single word from him in nearly three months now."

Ginny chewed her lip, moving past her shock at Malfoy being an Auror as she digested this news. "You said he was infiltrating a large operation. What sort of operation?"

Harry grimaced. "An operation that involves the kidnap and sale of Muggles to individuals who use them for various purposes. Servitude, torture…worse things."

"Ugh."

"Yes." Harry crossed his arms over his chest. "We're pretty sure some of the people involved in this operation are old Death Eaters. This is the fourth undercover assignment Draco has taken on. All the previous assignments, we managed to conclude in such a way that did not betray Draco's true allegiances, but even so, with each new assignment, there's a bigger risk for him—a risk that others will have heard about his involvement in these other operations, operations that eventually went south. We always knew his time as an undercover operative would be limited, but…" Harry ran a finger over a groove in his desk. "Obviously we hoped to end that time on our own terms. Not because—"

"—he's been caught," Ginny finished.

Harry nodded.

Ginny leaned back, resting her elbows on the arms of her chair. "He could be dead," she said, and was relieved to hear her voice did not waver.

Harry looked up, meeting her gaze head-on. She got the feeling he was watching her rather closely. "Yes. He could be."

Ginny forced herself not to flinch. She said, in as steely a tone as she could muster, "Why did you choose me for this, Harry?"

Something like a smile ghosted over his lips. "You said you wanted something new."

"You have other assignments. So why me for this one?"

"It's possible Draco is captured or dead," Harry said bluntly, his green eyes still boring into her, "but there are other possibilities when an undercover operative disappears. Such as him possibly going native."

"Do you think that's likely?"

"In Malfoy's case? No, not really." Harry rubbed a hand over his chin. "But a similar, less extreme possibility is that he's simply abandoned his assignment. Whether because something spooked him, or maybe he just…" He trailed off, pausing. "Maybe it got too hard."

When he didn't say anything more, Ginny pressed him. "So again…why did you pick me to find him?"

Harry looked at her a moment longer. Then he turned away to gather up some of the papers from his desk. "Someone may need to persuade him to come back," he said. "I thought you were the person best-suited for that job."

Ginny gripped the arms of her chair, hoping that was the only visible sign of the alarm that coursed through her. Not that it really mattered, since Harry was still messing with the papers on his desk. "Why?" she demanded, inwardly wincing at how sharp the word came out.

Harry turned back to her, his face frustratingly composed as he said, quite blandly, "Because you're persuasive."

Ginny stared at him with open suspicion, but Harry merely raised an eyebrow. After a moment, he said, "Well? Do you accept the job?"

Ginny bit back a number of responses, ranging from "Hell, no" to more questions, specifically, questions like what exactly he knew about her and Draco Malfoy. When she finally answered him, though, all she said was, "Yes. I accept."

"Good." Harry handed over the sheaf of parchment in his hands. "Here's everything we know about his assignment thus far, including the information we gathered prior to his going undercover, as well as all the intelligence he's passed along since. Take the night to look it over, and report back to me in the morning so we can finalize the details."

Ginny nodded, and it was with a distracted air that she left Harry's office.

When she Apparated home to her flat that night, she was still going over it in her head. She stood in her foyer, in the darkness, for a long moment, thinking it over. She was still marveling at the fact that Draco was an Auror, but most of all, Harry's words haunted her. Someone may need to persuade him to come back. I thought you were the best person suited for that job.

It didn't really matter, she told herself. Whatever he knew, it didn't matter. She hadn't been with Harry, romantically speaking, for over five years now. She was past caring what he thought, though sometimes she thought he still carried a torch for her, and she hated the thought of hurting him. But hurt him how? What was there for him to know, anyway? He already knew what had gone down with her all those years ago, how she had spiraled, made some questionable decisions…

She ambled into the sitting room, so caught up in her thoughts that she didn't register the lamp in the corner, which was on, nor did it occur to her that it was not so stuffy as it usually was when she came home in the evening, before she had a chance to open a window. She stopped in front of her fireplace, wondering if she should Floo Hermione. Just to ask her, just to make sure, that she had never said anything, never divulged any…any of that. But that was silly. "Hermione wouldn't have said anything," she muttered to herself. "She told me so."

"Said anything about what?"

"Merlin!" Ginny spun around, her wand half-drawn before she realized that it was no intruder in her flat, but only her infuriating brother. "Ron! What the hell are you doing here?"

"Waiting for you, of course." Ron grinned one of his goofy grins. He sat, looking quite comfortable, sprawled in her armchair, not five feet from her. She must have walked right past him when she came in.

Now, exasperated, she tucked her wand away and put her hands on her hips. "Waiting for me? Why?"

"Never mind that." Ron laced his hands behind his head, quite complacent. "What exactly would my darling wife have not said anything about? To who?"

"None of your business," Ginny snapped.

"You're in quite a mood."

"Well, I'm not used to being spied on in my flat by my own brother!"

"It's just, I thought you'd be happier," he went on, ignoring her reply. "Since Harry finally assigned you off the Dark objects task force."

Ginny froze halfway through the act of thrusting her hand through her hair, pushing it back from her face. "How do you know about that?"

Ron rolled his eyes. "He is my best mate, you know that right? You're the one that dumped him, not me. He still tells me things."

"Are you ever going to stop harping on me about breaking up with him?"

"I'm not harping!" Ron protested. He sprang to his feet. "Look, I came here to congratulate you, all right, see if you wanted to go out for a celebratory drink."

"Really?" Ginny said, somehow not trusting this. She pulled her work robes off and stalked past him to hang them over a chair in her tiny kitchen.

"Really!" Ron shoved his hands into his pockets. "So he gave you the job, right? Going after our missing undercover?"

Ginny choked a little. "He told you that?"

"Sure."

Ginny turned, pinning him with a narrow-eyed gaze. "No, he didn't. Or if he did, he didn't tell you everything."

"Why wouldn't he tell me everything?"

"You'd have to ask him that," Ginny said astutely. "All I know is, if you knew everything about this job—if you knew who he sent me after—you wouldn't be offering me a celebratory drink."

"Why?" Ron looked baffled. "Who's the undercover?"

"I can't tell you that, you moron! Don't you understand the meaning of the word undercover?"

"Aw, c'mon, Ginny." Ron gave her another grin. "You can tell me. I'll be going with you, after all."

Ginny's jaw dropped. "What? What are you talking about?"

"I mean, it's not official," Ron said eagerly. "But Harry's going to ask you, you know, in the morning, once you've looked it all over. He's going to ask if you want to take another agent with you."

Ginny stared at him, nonplussed. "And you think I should take you."

"Of course! Oh, come on, Gin, don't look like that." Ron came towards her, his face lighting up like a Christmas tree. "The two of us working together on an assignment! It'll be fun."

Ginny shook her head ruefully as she reached for her bag. "Take a look at that—" She pulled out the file Harry had given her and tossed it on the table in front of Ron "—and tell me if you think it'll be fun." Without waiting for his answer, she walked out of the kitchen, intending to submerge herself in a long, hot shower.

As she rummaged for a clean towel in her closet, she heard Ron let out a yelp. "Draco Malfoy is an Auror? Malfoy!"

Ginny sighed. "That's what I said," she muttered to herself.

She could still hear Ron swearing and exclaiming as he looked over the file on Malfoy and his undercover operation, but once she switched on the shower, the force of the water raining down shut out his voice. She stood there for a long, long moment, not even moving, just letting the water soak her hair and stream down her face. And for the first time in a long time, she allowed herself to think about Draco Malfoy…and remember.

SIX YEARS AGO

Ginny threw herself around a corner and skidded to a halt, pressing herself up against the wall. The halls of Hogwarts were dark and cold around her, and for a moment, the only sound in her ears was her own heavy breathing.

Then, thudding footsteps, close by, and a low voice that carried. "I think she went this way, Professor…"

Ginny gulped another breath, her pulse spasming in her throat. Then she took off at a dead run, trying to keep her footfalls silent but unwilling to slow down. When she reached the spiral steps that led to the Astronomy Tower, she skidded to a halt again, daring a glance over her shoulder. They probably wouldn't look for her up the tower, they were too lazy, even as much as they wanted to catch her…but if they did check up there, she'd be trapped, with nowhere to go…

The sound of those footsteps, too close behind her, decided it. She vanished into the stairwell, taking the steps two at a time, climbing up and up and up—she dared another glance over her shoulder, still sprinting round the spiral staircase—

Bam. A gasp tore itself from Ginny's throat as she bounced off something, hard, and stumbled back. For a terrifying, breathless second, she teetered on the edge of a step, her arms windmilling in a desperate attempt to catch her balance before she went tumbling down the tower's stairs—

Then a hand gripped her by the forearm, tugging her upright, back to safety. Ginny barely had time to huff out a breath of relief before she looked up into her savior's face and saw who it was.

Draco Malfoy.

Panic spiked through Ginny, though she managed to catch herself from taking a step down, away from him. It was so dark in the stairwell that she couldn't see his face properly; she only knew it was him by his silver blond hair and his pale face, both stark white in the blackness around them. For a moment, they stared at each other, wordless. Ginny wished desperately that she could see his face, read his expression—

"Go check up the Astronomy Tower, Crabbe, she might've run up there!"

"But—"

"Do it, now, and I'll check down this way…"

Ginny whipped her head around as these voices floated up the tower towards them, and she was vaguely aware of Malfoy doing the same. She reacted instinctively, ducking past Malfoy and darting up a few more steps. She fully expected him to try and stop her, and when he didn't, she slowed to a halt, looking around.

He stood four steps below her, and it was like he wasn't even aware she was there, for he stood in the same position, staring down the steps. Only the top of his head was visible, like a lantern lit in the darkness. She edged up another step, still staring down at him, and that was when he turned and looked at her.

Ginny stopped still. Her chest felt tight, as though someone had wrapped a fist around her heart. She had nowhere to go, no way to escape, and any minute now, Malfoy was going to shout for Crabbe, tell him exactly where she was, that he had her cornered…

But he didn't. He didn't say anything. He only stood there, staring at Ginny, and as the seconds ticked by, and Ginny's eyes adjusted to the dark, she thought she saw his gray eyes, locked on hers, glinting with their own light.

Then Crabbe's heavy footsteps reached Ginny's ears, thud-thud-thudding against the stone steps, and then he was so close that she could hear his labored breathing, and she inched up another few steps, inching up into the darkness. Malfoy's pale head vanished from sight. She should've kept running, all the way to the top, where she might be lucky enough to find a place to hide. But she didn't. She stopped, out of sight but within earshot, listening in tense silence.

Crabbe's voice broke through his panting breaths. "Got you, you—oh." His low, growling voice reflected some surprise, but then turned oddly suspicious, considering whom he was talking to. "What're you doin' up here, Draco?"

"I could ask the same of you," came Draco's reply, and his tone, too, was cold and unfriendly. "Bit late to be wandering the corridors, isn't it?"

"Not for me," Crabbe grunted.

"Nor me," Malfoy said sharply, as though he had to remind Crabbe of this. "So why don't you turn around and leave me to my business, Crabbe?"

"Can't," Crabbe said. His breaths were still shallow, and he spoke between them. "Lookin' for the Weasley girl. She was running from us—did you see her up this way?"

"Do you think I'd be standing here chatting with you if Ginny Weasley had just run by me?" Malfoy said waspishly.

"What're you doin' up here, then?" Crabbe's voice turned sulky. "You didn't say."

"It's none of your business what I'm doing."

"You used to tell me what you were up to, Draco—"

"No," Malfoy said, and there was a note of finality in his words, "I didn't. You used to know what was good for you, and did what I told you to, remember?"

"Yeah, well—"

"Listen, Crabbe. You might be the Carrows' favorite pet dog, and they might let you have the run of this place. But let me remind you, Hogwarts is just a stupid school." Malfoy's voice was full of scorn. "Let me remind you, the circles I run in—the master I serve—is far more than some Dark Arts teacher. And what I get up to, on his orders, are. None. Of. Your Business." The pause that followed his words held its own kind of menace. "Understand?"

Crabbe didn't respond right away. Ginny heard a sort of snapping sound, as though Crabbe were cracking his knuckles. She couldn't imagine he'd actually hit Malfoy, but then, she never thought she'd hear the two of them arguing either. The moment stretched on in silence, and Ginny waited, her breath caught in her throat—

"Whatever," Crabbe muttered. "Do what you like. I've gotta go anyway, I'm—"

"Looking for the Weasley girl," Malfoy said evenly. "So you said. Run along then."

Crabbe didn't say anything more. A moment later, Ginny heard his clumsy footsteps, fading into the distance. Letting out a long, slow breath, she started back down the stairs, wary, winding around—

She stopped short when she came face to face with Malfoy again. Only then did she realize she hadn't heard him follow Crabbe down the steps. He stood where she'd left him, two steps below her, close enough that the details of his face were a little more visible than they had been before.

She had no idea what to say to him. He had just lied to Crabbe, saved her neck, and yet, she couldn't feel grateful. She couldn't even really believe that he had meant to save her, that he hadn't had some other motive. Gratitude was just too at odds with the anger that the sight of his stupid face stirred up inside her—especially here. Here, in this stairwell. "What are you doing up here, Malfoy?" she demanded, before she could stop herself. "And don't give me that piffle about You-Know-Who. Like you're doing any sort of business for him here at school. Aside from torturing the rest of us, I mean."

Malfoy stiffened, his spine going ram-rod straight. Did she imagine it, or had something just passed through him, shaping the lines of his face into something vulnerable, something so very different from his usual sneer?

But then he spoke, and his voice sounded no different than usual, no less scornful. "Do you see my wand out, Weasley? Not torturing you now, am I?"

His voice wavered a little at the end of that question. She was sure of it. In fact, Malfoy had never used the Cruciatus Curse on her, but then, that was mostly just because they didn't see each other much. They weren't in any of the same classes, and she'd been banned from Hogsmeade and from Quidditch. Their paths had little reason to cross.

"So I'm just supposed to believe you lied to Crabbe to cover for me?" she asked, not bothering to hide the disbelief in her voice. "Is that right?"

"I didn't lie at all, Weasley," Malfoy retorted. "I asked Crabbe if he thought I'd be standing here if you'd run by me. Not my fault he didn't press me for an answer to that question."

Ginny blinked, taken off-guard. That was true, she thought, going back over everything he'd just said to Crabbe. There hadn't been a lie in there. For some reason, this only sparked her anger even more. "No, of course," she snapped. "As though you would ever lie to save my neck, Malfoy. As though you would ever do anything that might put you at risk. I suppose if he had pressed you for a direct answer, you would've told him exactly where I was, wouldn't you?"

Malfoy's face seemed to harden in the darkness, highlighting the sharp planes of his cheekbones. "I guess we'll never know, will we?"

He left her then, vanishing around the corner as he headed down the winding staircase. And though she knew she shouldn't stay there, in the dead of night, she stood still for several long moments, the memory of Malfoy's gray, glinting eyes cutting through her like a jagged, troubling knife.

NOW

Despite the fact that Harry thought it a bad idea, Ron was coming along after all. Ron had insisted he could remain professional where Draco was concerned, and Ginny had assured Harry that she could keep Ron in line. Since Ron knew the truth now anyway, Harry conceded. Ginny left the two of them in the office to have private words—no doubt Ron was going to explode at Harry for not telling him about Malfoy in the first place, and Harry would apologize, and then there would be some manly hugging.

Ginny left them to it. She had someone she wanted to question about Malfoy, and she preferred that Harry not know anything about it. Tracking down her quarry's address in the Aurors' files was easy enough, and that was how she found herself in a small, dark, but lavish office an hour later, awaiting the pleasure of Theodore Nott.

She didn't have long to wait. Nott's assistant in the entry outside had smugly informed her she couldn't see Nott without an appointment, but all her smugness disappeared the moment Ginny flashed her Auror credentials. She'd been ushered into the office at once, and less than a minute later, Theodore Nott sauntered in.

"Ginny Weasley," he said, in his smooth-like-caramel voice. "It has been a spell, hasn't it?"

"I suppose so," Ginny said, affecting an indifferent tone.

Nott didn't smile, exactly, but there was something like amusement playing around his eyes. He hadn't changed much in the past few years. He had never really filled out his lanky, beanpole frame, and his face still held a permanently gaunt, sallow look, as though he never saw the sun. Come to think of it, Ginny never had seen him out in the sun. For all she knew, he was a vampire.

Nott gestured at the dark wooden chair facing his long, gleaming mahogany desk. "Please, have a seat. Natalia's bringing tea."

Ginny didn't want to sit before he did, but neither did she want to let on how discomfited she was, here, talking to him, so she moved to take the seat. As she did so, she waved a finger around, indicating his office space, and said, "You advertise your business here as a…consulting firm, isn't that right? What exactly do you consult on?"

Nott slid his hands into the pockets of his very expensive-looking, perfectly tailored trousers. "Are you asking in an official capacity?"

"Just curious."

"I consult on all sorts of things." Now he did smile, very evenly. "I do lots of favors for lots of different people. My associates have a wide range of marketable skills. But surely you know all that, Auror Weasley?"

Ginny didn't answer this as she lowered herself into the wooden chair. Yes, she did know that Theodore Nott had his fingers in a lot of pies, but she didn't know any details. There was probably some Auror somewhere who had a few more details on him and his business, but she doubted they had much. Nott had lived a life shrouded in secrecy since graduating from Hogwarts, though Ginny imagined his secrets were mostly harmless, from what she knew of him. Nevertheless, he dabbled in just enough to make him interesting to the Aurors, always skating on the edge of suspected illegal activities, but never actually getting his hands dirty.

Nott's assistant interrupted them then, bringing in a tray for tea. She poured a cup for Nott first, adding a considerable amount of cream, before pouring one for Ginny. Ginny lifted the steaming cup to her lips—more to be polite than anything else—but she stopped short as a spicy, homey blend of cloves and cinnamon assaulted her, and she couldn't contain a sharp intake of breath.

"Something wrong with the tea?" Nott asked innocently. "As I recall, it was a favorite of yours."

Ginny didn't bother to mask her annoyance as she settled her gaze on him. "It's an odd time of year for it."

"Really? I drink it year-round." To demonstrate, he took a sip of the tea. He still had not seated himself, instead leaning against the side of his desk.

Ginny shifted in her own chair as she settled her teacup in her lap without drinking it. The chair was upholstered in leather but not well-cushioned, and Ginny found the seat more than a little uncomfortable.

"Really, how long has it been?" Nott mused, as he took another sip of tea. "Four years? Five?"

"Who's counting?" Ginny countered, her voice flat.

Nott smiled again." Really, Weasley. It's a bit odd, isn't it, how far you will go to avoid talking about Draco Malfoy, when I'm sure that's the reason you're here."

Ginny narrowed her eyes. "What makes you say that?"

"Well, he is missing, after all."

"Missing?"

"Yes." Nott met her suspicious stare without blinking. "His mother spoke to me about six weeks ago. She was concerned because he hadn't checked in with her for a while."

"Why would he check in with her?"

"She's his mother, Weasley. He may have been traveling a lot these past few years, but he's never been estranged from his parents."

"I know," Ginny said without thinking. She was too distracted by her own thoughts to be bothered by Nott's knowing glance. She supposed it was not so odd that Draco would keep in touch with his parents, even if he was working undercover. In fact, given their history, it would seem odd if he wasn't in contact with them. He was supposed to look as though he was picking up old, bad family habits, after all.

"So what did you tell her?" Ginny refocused her attention on Nott, leveling her gaze at him. "Malfoy's mother?"

"That I had no idea where he was," Nott replied. He set his teacup on the desk and finally slid into the seat behind it—a cushy armchair that looked quite a bit more comfortable than Ginny's seat.

"And of course, you wouldn't lie to Mrs. Malfoy about the whereabouts of her son," Ginny said dryly.

"Of course I wouldn't." Nott looked amused. "Why would you think otherwise?"

"You forget, Nott." Ginny set her teacup on the desk as well, rather more firmly than was necessary. Some of the reddish tea splashed out of the cup, onto the saucer beneath it. "I know how you and Malfoy operate."

"I forget nothing, Weasley. I should think I've made that point by now."

He had, and then some. "So you understand why I find it hard to believe you have no idea where he might be."

"I didn't, when Narcissa asked me." Nott drummed his fingers against his desk. "I didn't lie to her. Of course, that was several weeks ago."

Ginny didn't bother to hide her heightened interest. "And since then?"

Nott didn't answer right away. He leaned back in his chair, sprawling in it like it was his throne, and he eyed Ginny with undisguised, almost hungry curiosity. "Why are you looking for him, Weasley? Out of professional interest, or…personal?"

Ginny snorted. "I've never had personal interest in Malfoy."

Nott made a similar sound of disbelief. "If you say so."

"You know a lot of things, Nott," Ginny said. "So I'm sure you're well aware of Malfoy's…suspected illicit activities. Now that he's gone off the radar, is it really so strange that the Aurors want to locate him?"

"What's strange are his…suspected illicit activities in the first place."

Ginny showed no sign of the alarm that rose inside her. "What do you mean?"

"You don't find it strange? You know what he was like after Hogwarts, Weasley. And even his parents seemed determined to keep a low profile, in these post-Voldemort days. Yet all of a sudden, Draco delves back into dark activities."

"I don't find it strange at all. Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater."

"You don't believe that."

"Have I offended you? Your father was a Death Eater, wasn't he?"

"Weasley, you couldn't offend me if you tried," Nott said, though despite this pronouncement, he no longer bore any amusement in his eyes. He seemed…closed off, even more closed off than he usually was. "Nevertheless, I fail to see why I should share any information with you about Draco's whereabouts."

"Because if you don't," Ginny said, rather tonelessly, "I'll be back here tomorrow with a whole team of Aurors. Is that reason enough for you?"

"Hardly."

Ginny held back a grimace. Nott wasn't flinching, and there was a hardened glint in his eyes. She knew what he wanted, and it was nothing, really, wasn't it? It was stupid, even. So why was it so hard to say?

As though to steel herself, Ginny picked up her cup of tea and downed it, all at once. It had cooled somewhat in the past few minutes, but it still scalded her throat pretty well going down. Nott raised an eyebrow as she set the cup back down, leaned forward, and looked him in the eye.

"I want to find Draco," she said in a low, steady voice. "I…need to find him. Because he may be in quite a lot of danger, and…I don't want that."

Nott's reaction was instantaneous. He smiled a slow, impetuous smile. "Is that so?"

"You're a sadist, you know that?" Ginny growled.

"I'm only looking out for my friend." Nott lolled from one side of his chair to the other. "But since, apparently, you are too, I'll let you in on what I know. Mind, it's not much."

Ginny waited, not bothering to hide her growing impatience.

"A few weeks ago—after Narcissa informed me her son might be missing—an associate of mine spotted someone who looked very much like Draco Malfoy. In Amsterdam."

"Amsterdam?" Ginny frowned. "Not Madrid?" That was his last-known location, and most certainly where a large part of the Muggle-trafficking operation was taking place.

"Amsterdam," Nott repeated.

"What was he doing there?"

"Bar-hopping, apparently."

Ginny's frown deepened. "Why do you say someone who looked like Draco Malfoy? Was it him, or not?"

"It seemed to be." Nott sat up straight. "But when my associate confronted him, he discovered something rather odd. You see, Draco seemed to have never heard the name "Malfoy" before. Nor did he indicate any knowledge of the wizarding world at all."

Ginny was flabbergasted. "He thought he was a Muggle?"

"Yes." Nott rested his elbows on his desk and steepled his fingers together. "It seems, Weasley, that Draco Malfoy doesn't have any memory of who he used to be." He arched an eyebrow. "Sounds like a Memory Charm to me. A really nasty Memory Charm."

O O O

Ginny had never been to Amsterdam, but she found she liked it almost straightaway. She also thought it was one of the last places Draco Malfoy would like to be, given that it was so many things he detested—small, crowded, quaint, vibrant, touristy. She thought he would hate dodging all the cyclists, being amidst all the crowds of young people looking for a good time, the restaurant hawkers stopping people ambling down the street.

But then, if Theodore Nott was correct, then Draco Malfoy might not be Draco Malfoy. Not anymore.

"Okay," Ron said, as he emerged from the loo in their tiny hotel room. He was still doing up his fly, and Ginny made a face, putting her hand out in front of her eyes.

"Could you please do that before you leave the toilet?" she snapped.

Ron rolled his eyes. "As I was saying, according to the bloke at the Hard Stone Cafe—"

"Hard Rock Cafe, Ron, honestly, and if you'd ever been there, you'd know it was rock, not stone."

"—and to the witch running her charms business out the hot dog stand, Malfoy—if it is Malfoy—works as a bartender at an Irish pub in that square just off the park." He shook his head. "Why an Irish pub? One, this is Amsterdam, two, he's English—"

"We don't know what he is," Ginny reminded him.

"Right." Ron nodded. "Which is why I'm going to question him. Discreetly."

When Ginny didn't respond—or move from her position, perched on the edge of her bed—Ron sidled a furtive glance at her. "I said, I'm going to question him. Discreetly."

"Okay," Ginny murmured.

"Okay?" Ginny looked at him and saw his eyebrows shoot straight up. "That's it? Okay? No 'Ron, you don't know how to be discreet,' or 'No, Ron, I'm going to question him, I'm better at it' or—well—that's it?"

"I am better at it," Ginny said dryly. "You don't have a deceitful bone in your body."

"Er—thanks?"

"But in this case, it's better if you question him, and I observe." She finally stood, pulling her purse over her head and settling it crossway. "See if I can pick up on any hint that he's really himself. Or that he knows who he is—oh, you know what I mean."

"Hmm," said Ron, as they left their hotel room, stepping out into the dimly-lit corridor. Their footsteps were near silent on the spotted carpet beneath them.

Ginny shot him a look. "What does that mean?"

"Well, listen," Ron said slowly, "I mean, I'm not saying I'm best pals with Malfoy or anything—but I would say I had more interaction with him at school than you did, wouldn't you? Maybe I'm more suited to observing him, see if he's acting like himself?"

"Ron," Ginny said irritably, "who's in charge of this operation."

"You are," said Ron, and to his credit, he did not sound grudging or annoyed.

"Then we do it my way," Ginny said. "You talk to him. I observe. Got it?"

Ron shook his head, but all he said was, "Got it."

The Irish pub in question was a good twenty minute walk from their hotel. It wasn't quite as hot in Amsterdam as it had been in London, but it was warm, so by the time they arrived, Ginny's hair was frazzled and damp with sweat. Luckily, that didn't matter, for as they approached the pub, she pulled a flowery, satin scarf from her bag and wrapped it around her head, concealing her red hair entirely. She completed this look with a large pair of sunglasses.

"Bit conspicuous, don't you think?" Ron asked.

"Not in this city." Ginny gestured. "Go on, then. You know what to do."

Ron didn't look the slightest bit apprehensive as he stepped inside the bar, but then, Ginny thought wryly, he had no reason to be. The doors to the pub stood open, but the glare of the sun around her was so bright she couldn't make out much inside, where the lights were dimmed down.

She turned away, taking a seat outside on the patio, as they had planned. She ordered a drink from the waitress who passed by, and then, once she had it, said, "Actually, I think I'll just take this to the bar." The busy waitress nodded, already dashing off to another table.

Ginny ascended the steps into the bar, blinking her eyes as she went from dazzling sun to darkened pub. It was a few seconds before she could see clearly, through her sunglasses, and then she looked around. It was not a large pub—there was much more seating outside—though the bar was long, with a good fifteen seats. Ron was seated at one end, being served a Bloody Mary by—

Ginny couldn't help it. She stopped in the middle of the room and stared, completely forgetting her mission, why she was there. She realized that until this moment, she didn't really believe he would be here. Much less dressed like a Muggle, working behind the counter, pouring drinks.

But it was him. Draco Malfoy. And as Ginny stood there and stared, he glanced up and saw her. His gray eyes cut through her, just like they had that night, on the steps of the Astronomy Tower, and in that moment, Ginny knew she was very, very screwed.


Anise's Prompt (#1)

Basic premise: Draco and Ginny are both Aurors. One of them was sent undercover in the Muggle world… but got in too deep. This could be because they lost their memory, just plain didn't want to come back, or basically any other reason. The other is sent in to find them and bring them back. But the problem is that they don't really want to return…

Must haves: Other than the above, use your imagination. Settings could include anywhere and anytime. Present day, time travel... anything. Draco and Ginny could have had a previous relationship or not, and they could be friendly or not.

No-no's: No D/G offspring, please.

Rating range: Any

Bonus points: Smut, a dark tone.