A/N – Unsurprisingly, Lucius wins hands down. I'm not sure, though, if Ginny will ever manage to find the same love she had with Draco.

Disclaimer – JKR et al own the canon characters and situations. I own the rest. Don't sue.

Chapter 10

The restaurant was quiet, sophisticated, and out of the paparazzi's way; the food was exquisite, the ambience perfect, and the staff deferential and respectful. Blaise was charming, amusing, gentlemanly –

But it was not enough.

He recognised it, she thought, acknowledging their predicament with his rueful smile. He'd always been the perfect foil for Draco's sharp, dangerous brilliance, balancing and grounding him, but while Ginny had always appreciated his patience and understanding, he did not stir her.

He led her back to her apartment, and they stood in the doorway for a while, gazing awkwardly at each other.

Ginny spoke first. "I'm sorry, Blaise –"

But he cut her off. "No, it's all right, Ginny. I think I already knew." He laughed softly, took her hand. "I think we would be better off as friends and companions…"

Bending down, he kissed her fleetingly on the cheek and walked away.

It was lonely in her apartment, her luxurious bed cold and empty, and for the first time since Draco's death she missed the warmth of another body beside her. Not just for the heat and flash of passion, but the solid, physical warmth and reassurance of another heartbeat in the dark night.

Clutching her nightgown close around her, she stumbled out of bed and made her way to the hidden drinks cabinet. The anonymous Malfoy agents and servitors who had prepared the apartment for her arrival had stocked it with a full range of spirits; feeling reckless, she grabbed some firewhisky and drank straight from the bottle.

If she couldn't have real warmth, she'd have the illusion of it.

A good hour later, she was pleasantly dazed, a silly smile plastered on her face. She was humming to herself along with the song playing softly on the wireless, a Weird Sisters song that she and Draco had danced to, once, in a small interlude between flaring crises –

And then suddenly she was crying, tears leaking from her eyes, squeezed tightly shut against a sudden onslaught of grief, loneliness and desire.

She apparated into the Manor's entry hall with a loud crack, startling the dozing house elves. She was drunk enough, reckless enough, to scowl angrily at their wide eyes and discreetly averted eyes – why should they care if she chose to visit in her nightgown? It was certainly no business of theirs.

Storming through the richly furnished hallways, her temper driving her hard, she could feel eyes on her as she passed – servants, ghosts, paintings, all watching her and wondering just what she was doing here now, after she'd left vowing never to return.

But if she paused long enough to think on it herself, she knew she would talk herself out of it…

Lucius was in the conservatory, a small light hovering over his shoulder as he pottered about with Narcissa's more delicate plants and flowers. Surrounded by greenery and rich, fertile earth without any of his usual luxurious robes or trimmings, he looked so very different.

He looked up when she threw the door open, his brows raised.

"I went out with Blaise," she said abruptly, defiantly.

Slowly, he set down his battered watering pot and drew off his dirt-stained gloves. "Did you?" he asked, as he gestured and tossed the ball of light up to the roof, lighting the entire room. "And how was Mr. Zabini?"

"Courteous. Charming. Sophisticated."

He looked at her, those wry, dark silver eyes understanding.

"He walked me home and left me with a kiss on the cheek." Shivering, she drew her nightgown closer around her, her mouth set and stubborn. "I think he's in love with me."

"I know he is," Lucius said candidly. "You should marry him, Ginevra. He'll place you on a pedestal and give you everything you ever ask for…"

"But I don't want to be worshipped!" she shouted suddenly. She remembered Blaise's warm, gentle smile, his undemanding companionship and the adoration in his eyes; but that was not what she wanted. She wanted… she wanted…

She swallowed, the tears welling up and choking her. "I want Draco," she whispered. "I want to see silver hair and grey eyes moving over me. I want everything to be as it was… And if I can't have that," she looked at Lucius, "then I'll take the closest thing I can get."

Lucius froze. He looked up, and their eyes clashed. "Be very, very careful, Ginevra. I'm not in love with you."

"But you understand me," she insisted, her voice shaking. "You don't have me on a pedestal. You don't worship me, or cherish any false illusions –" Suddenly, she gripped the high neck of her nightgown and tugged. "I want to feel again, Lucius! It's been eighteen months since Draco's death. Let me have that illusion again."

"You'll close your eyes and think of Draco?"

"Don't tell me you'll be hurt," she drawled, bitter and sardonic. "You've been trying to push me into this for months. Well, congratulations – here I am. What will you give me, I wonder, if I give you what you want?"

He stared at her. Desperate, infuriated by his silence, she ripped again at her neckline, tearing it open this time, exposing pale flesh. "Well?" she demanded.

She watched his eyes, saw the calculation, the slow, gradual growth of masculine interest – and then the firm, confident determination as he came to some kind of conclusion.

Slowly, respectfully, he extended his hand towards her.

She took it.

Afterwards, as she lay beside him in his great bed, surrounded by his scent and warmth, and tried very hard to imagine that nothing had ever changed. Shameful or not, it was the closest she'd come to peace for months…

She woke in the morning alone, and was glad of it. Somehow, it was such an intimate thing, waking up with a man in the cold light of morning when the shadows and fantasy had vanished.

Feeling slightly soiled, she forced herself to rise from the bed, her eyes skittering away from her ripped nightdress, puddled on the floor by the doorway. Quickly she grabbed a set of his robes from the wardrobe and threw them on, not pausing to inhale his rich, exotic scent, and went down to breakfast.

He sat at the table, reading the Prophet as if the last night had never happened. "Good morning, Ginevra," he said, looking at her over his spectacles. "I didn't think to see you this morning."

She swallowed, forced her chin high. "I was going to sneak away," she admitted. "But that wouldn't have done either of us any good." Abruptly, she sat down and poured herself some coffee. "I can't stay, though; I have to go to work."

He sighed, and tossed the newspaper down to the table. "You'll have to forgive me," he said ironically, "it's been a while since I've had to conduct such an affair."

"Well I've never had to conduct one," she sniped. "But you can be sure I won't tell anyone about this." Frowning, she looked down at her hands. "My mother said that you would charm and enchant me into besottedness, like Fudge."

He snorted. "Your mother must think me some sort of Don Juan. I don't think you're in any danger of that, Ginevra."

"Nevertheless," she began uneasily –

"No. We each know what we want of the other – you want an illusion, for as long as you can force yourself to believe, and I want an heir. As long as you harbour no unreal expectations…" he trailed off. She shook her head. "Then we will deal well together."