A/N: Written for Costanza. D/G, Post-Hogwarts.

Disclaimer: Insert witty disclaimer here.

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Ah, the joys of being a part of polite society.

The champagne was excellent, the lights muted and soft. Draco Malfoy supposed that, for a Weasel, this one had surprisingly good taste in everything but women, if the mousy brunette on his arm (one of Draco's less-liked schoolmates, in fact) was any indication.

It was ten years after he'd stepped into uncharacteristic shadows that he found himself sipping Dom Perignon as a Weasley's guest.

It had been an interesting, sometimes difficult decade. The fiasco of Dumbledore's death had only proven certain things about the Dark Lord-- things that he'd already suspected after he'd taken the assignment. The Dark Lord had requested an exchange-- Lucius' life for Dumbledore's. Draco had agreed, because he knew that the death of the Headmaster would have given him his family back and glory beyond all dreams.

Or, he thought he knew. In the sessions with his Aunt Bellatrix, she had smirked at him, not his mother's subtle smirk-- but one of derision, of almost-pity, with a hint of menace underneath. It seemed to say that he was a fool to have walked into the trap, but if she could kill her own cousin, she could certainly watch another foolish kin bleed at the hands of her Lord and Master.

Lucius had been freed after Dumbledore's death, true, but it was far too late. His father, the autocratic figure of power he'd known and idolized all his life, was broken by prison and his Master's betrayal. Man of the household and a bit too soon, Draco turned away from that path, swearing that no Malfoy would bend to the will of another master ever again.

It had taken quite a bit of cunning and quite a bit of work-- selling out the Death Eaters who were once upon a time friends of his father, investing all the assets that hadn't been frozen by the Ministry in a variety of slightly risky funds... but it had paid off in the end.

And ten years later found Draco Malfoy once again a plutocrat whose name had been restored, dressed in immaculate linen robes and sipping champagne at the Minister's ball.

He'd greeted the Minister earlier-- a man who had helped him magnanimously and shrewdly, with the sort of restrained scrutiny that he wouldn't normally have associated with a family of hotheads. And so, Draco had returned the favour. Alliances were necessary, even if subordination was out of the question.

His thoughts were cut off abruptly at the sound of a gasp. Setting down his champagne with a patented look of boredom, he glanced down to see a vaguely familiar young woman with red hair pulled into an elegant twist whose lean, slightly coltish beauty was marred by the incredulous expression on her face. It didn't take long to place her when she scowled.

"Weaslette," he greeted her with what he deemed an exceedingly polite voice. From what he knew, she'd dated Potter on and off to the end of the war, but broke it off for good after the death of the Dark Lord. He supposed they were still the sickening sort of friends who finished each other's sentences and pulled Wizarding crackers over hols.

Dark eyes narrowed in a freckled face before she sneered. "A Malfoy being a Weasley's guest... never thought I'd see the day."

He sneered right back, taking an inordinate amount of enjoyment in the angry flush in her cheekbones. "What can I say? Your brother the Minister is an eminently reasonable and gracious man," he drawled sardonically, one eyebrow raised. "For a Weasel." The last was tacked on almost as an afterthought.

Her pale cheeks were positively crimson now, and he was reminded of a feylike fourteen-year-old who'd flung a hex at him that even the son of one of Voldemort's best had never seen before. He wouldn't bait her excessively-- that would be in poor form-- but it would be positively disgraceful if he didn't tease her a little. He HAD never fought back against her. "Are you here to question me on my undoubtedly dishonourable intentions towards your brother, then?" He nodded at where Percy Weasley was dancing with his wife, "I do believe that, attractive as I am, he prefers to bed a creature with tits."

A muscle ticked in her jaw at that. Leaning forward, her hands clenched into fists, she glared at him. "I'll not have you manipulating Percy or anyone else in my family! Like your FATHER didn't do enough damage to us when we were young!"

"I've no interest in manipulating your family," he drawled, reaching out and sliding a long fingertip over her smooth hair. His expression twisted into a slightly amused leer. "YOU, on the other hand... a possibility."

An outraged hiss, and then that Chaser's arm of hers was swinging back, then forward. The force of the slap knocked him backwards, and the sound echoed like a thunderclap in the otherwise quiet room. "You BASTARD," she snarled, and then she had stormed off in a whirl of pale gold robes and flame-red hair and Gryffindor temper. He gingerly fingered his jaw and cast a quiet healing charm on the bruising skin. Some things hadn't changed, after all. Winsome little weasels still possessed nasty, vicious tempers.

The champagne helped numb the fading pain, and he continued to observe from the shadows as she spoke to her brother, who seemed slightly displeased at her display. Ginny looked a bit outraged, but Percy gave her a look that was a cross between severe and affectionate, and she nodded sulkily before walking off. A few minutes later he saw her dancing with Longbottom while the latter's heavily pregnant wife (one of his former childhood friends, of all people) chatted with Cho Chang-Davies from Magical Games and Sports. All in all, the faces might have been different, the alliances shifted. But things were still the same at these events. Women gawking at each other's dress robes. Men gawking at the women. Well. Longbottom seemed slightly less clumsy, but then again, he did marry a Slytherin witch. He had to have learnt SOMETHING.

It was not too long a while later when the rest of the room's attention was drawn once again back to Ginevra Weasley.

Draco had been watching her, dancing with every young man in the room, but no more than once-- and it was just like Hogwarts too, before things became complicated, because then she also flitted like a flame and never really stayed long enough with anyone to burn. But never him, of course. She'd left Dean Thomas and Michael Corner and Justin Finch-Fletchley and quite a few others in her wake, rumoured even to have dallied with Zabini briefly, but it would have been unthinkable for her to so much as flirt with him. Of course she'd been too infatuated with Potter to consider such a treasonous act-- and then after that, he'd left to rebuild his life.

This time, it had been Zacharias Smith that she'd danced with, and apparently something the former Hufflepuff had said was not agreeable, because in the second time of the evening, she had slapped a man across the face. Smith had let out a most undignified yelp and glared at her, his hand covering his rapidly bruising cheek, and she had stalked away towards the doors. He had attempted to follow, but a leg-locker curse, apparently from nowhere, sent him sprawling against a column.

Draco's wand was nowhere in sight when he intercepted Ginny close to the doors. His expression was almost pleasant now, except for the dark, shrewd look in his eyes. "You know, it's a lot easier to appreciate that you have a hell of an arm when it's not aimed in my direction," he purred, one hand clasping around her thin wrist before holding her reddened hand up for his inspection. Boldly, he pressed an open-mouthed kiss to the stinging palm.

"What do you WANT, Malfoy?" Her eyes darted suspiciously from his face to her hand, wrist still encircled by his long fingers. Her expression was mutinous, but deep down, as he stared into her eyes, he could see a hint of intrigue. Slowly, his lips curved upwards.

"Oh, a lot of things that would be unsuitable to discuss in public," he chuckled darkly. "But since you were just leaving, anyway..."

"Not with YOU," she hissed, trying to free her hand. "Not like this!"

"We'll find a way you 'like' by and by, I'm sure," he replied complacently, giving her a beatific smile. "I'm not worried about that."

"You're indecent!" But even with the indignant statements, her feet were taking her out the door, falling into step beside him.

"And you're hot," came the careless reply. "And since you're so interested in manipulation..."

They stopped by the Ministry fountain, glittering with water drops and fairy lights, and she was slightly out of breath keeping up with his long strides. But the anger had vanished, replaced by a steely sort of look, and Draco found his own smirk thrown back at him. "Two can play at this game, Malfoy," she told him. "I'm not afraid of you."

"Exactly," he yanked her close by the hand he still clasped, and held her chin with his other hand. "People who fear me are so BORING." And before she could have time to reply, he'd pressed his lips to hers, his kiss aggressive and deliberate, no room for resistance or escape, and she fought for control, teeth nipping at his bottom lip, her free hand clenching almost painfully on his shoulder.

When he pulled away, her lipstick was smudged and her face was flushed, and she finally managed to twist her wrist out of his grasp. She flexed her hand, as though preparing to make a fist and permanently damage some part of his face.

But instead, she used it to pull his head back down to her. Glittering dark eyes met amused grey ones for a moment. "Don't you DARE kiss me without permission again. I won't be manipulated by you," she hissed, glaring at him menacingly for a moment before pressing her lips to his again. This time it was slightly softer, longer, and when his tongue touched hers, she moaned.

When they broke apart, she wore a smile of heady triumph. "Now we're even."

"Except for the hex you threw at me fifth year and that wallop a few minutes ago," he contradicted her silkily. "You're going to have to work harder than that to make us even, Weaslette. You're still in my debt."

She shook her head. "Someone's going to come out and see us," she whispered, glancing at the doors before turning back to him. "Name your time and place, then."

"My place," he replied in cool amusement. "As for time... now. Until further notice. Will you be honourable and deliver?"

She gave him a mild glare before taking his arm, and a moment later, the crack of Apparition could be heard in the air. And then, as though nothing had changed, the courtyard was once again empty, the ballroom quiet.