"Wait… how much?" Ginny Weasley's jaw was hanging open. She knew she shouldn't have let him in here. Actually, thinking about it, she hadn't let him in here. He had knocked on her office door and asked if he could come in, she had said no, and he had come in anyway. Thinking about more, she realized that this was the only thing she had contributed to the conversation besides demands that he leave. He obviously had noticed the same thing because he was smirking at her, leaning forward to prop his elbows on his knees.
He told her the amount again.
Her mouth stayed agape.
"You're kidding me. You've got to be." She half-stammered this statement, and he shook his head coolly. "Bloody hell, you're not kidding me?"
"No, Miss Weasley, I am not kidding you." He was looking at her as if she were a bit dense, but he didn't betray any signs of joking. "My friends are not the sort to dally around."
"I guess not."
Draco Malfoy had walked into her office to inform her that his friends had bet her an obscene amount of money that he couldn't nail her. As if this wasn't shocking enough, here she was, actually thinking about the situation. It had to be leftover hormones from her teenage years or something.
Ginevra Weasley had not had a good year; being 25 was not all it was cracked up to be. Her job was deadbeat - she was just a pretty face to file paperwork for the Ministry of Magic - her love life was nonexistent, and her closest friendships had dissolved into vindictive, bitter spats. She supposed the beginning of all this had been the day she and Ron had discovered that Harry and Hermione were banging after hours. Apparently, Aurors and nurses had an animal attraction for one another that "could not be ignored." Ron had been heartbroken; Ginny, however, had been murderous. She had gone after Harry with a metal spatula and her bare hands, offering to perform surgery on him that would involve reaching down his throat and pulling out his testicles the long way. Perhaps it had not been one of her prouder moments.
Anyway, it had been a while since then, but she couldn't honestly say that anything had gotten peachy. Things had been mundane at best, and this wasn't a sign that prospects were looking up. After all, people making bets regarding the potential sordid affairs of you and your enemies was not a positive thing. She looked at her enemy for a moment.
He was sitting on the leather chair across from her desk with a look of absolute calm on his face. He gazed at her proprietarily, even though she had given him no encouragement and had not even seen him since they left Hogwarts. At Hogwarts, he had been arrogant, obnoxious, and if she had asked him the time of day, he would have deemed himself too high above her to even deign to hear the question. Now she looked at him to see the man whom the boy had become. His blue eyes were so pale that they appeared grey, bright and intriguing in the pale set of his chiseled features, with a strong jaw and classic profile. His hair was still blonde but it had darkened once his teenage years had passed, and he was tall, long legs resting demurely in front of him. He was the picture of poise; the extremely attractive picture of poise.
Why didn't I invest in ugly enemies? She thought forlornly, twisting a lock of red hair around her finger. Instead I pick enemies that are hotter than any of my boyfriends, my boyfriends, who are cheating scum, who sleep with women who aren't as pretty as me.
"Are you planning on giving me an answer? I could have been underhanded and tried to seduce you, but instead, I'm offering this to you as a business endeavor." His voice slipped out as smooth and cool as Italian silk. She frowned.
"I shouldn't even have to answer you. Of course the answer is no," she replied even as her mind screamed, A third party is willing to pay huge money for you to have sex with a gorgeous man, and you're saying no?
"I was hoping your answer would be yes. I'm being more than fair about this."
"Sex isn't about fairness!" She tossed her hands in the air in disbelief. "It's about…well, it's sex!"
"I know what sex is," Draco echoed, raising an eyebrow as if he was not seeing her point. She watched his lithe fingers drum lazily on his knee. I bet you do, she thought, imagining those capable-looking fingers getting a hold of her.
What she said aloud was "I'm not going to have sex with you so that you can win some bet."
"How are you going to have sex with me?" His look was sly.
"I'm not!" She smacked her hand against the polished mahogany of her desk.
"Would you like to go out to dinner with me tonight?"
"I'm not going to have sex with-" She began explosively and stopped just as quickly. "Wait, what?"
He repeated himself.
"Dinner? What, so you can try to seduce me?"
"Perhaps, but you know exactly what I'll be trying to do, so you can defend yourself. Look, Miss Weasley, I have one month to win this bet. They're giving me a month. Why don't you do the same thing? If the month ends and I haven't gotten a shag, then the end, no hard feelings. If the month ends and I have shagged you, we're both a little richer. It's a heavenly deal."
"Heavenly deals don't exist with the devil," she muttered, hazel eyes narrowed.
"I think you are giving me a bit too much credit. I'm hardly the devil."
"No, you're worse. You're a Malfoy." There was a pause where their eyes met. Ginny imagined evil music playing. Any second now he was going to start delivering an evil laugh. She wondered what he would look like throwing back his head and unleashing a good rowdy "Muhuhahahaha."
Instead of delivering on his villainy, Draco stood up, stretching out his legs and rolling his shoulders once as if they were kinked. "So I will see you tonight at Kniltholder's?"
Her jaw dropped again; Kniltholder's was a staggeringly expensive restaurant where the wizarding world's rich, famous, and influential liked to go to play and where everyone else need not bother trying to get a reservation. Harry had once tried to take her there for their anniversary, to no avail. Anyone who went to Kniltholder's on a weeknight first date had Galleons to spare.
"Why exactly did you take this bet again?"
"It's a matter of pride, Miss Weasley. I will see you around eight."
He stepped out of her office, and she sagged in her chair, dropping her face into her hands. She couldn't believe she was considering this. This was the most ridiculous thing ever. And to think, I'm the normal one in my family.
Ginny went to The Burrow once a week, one of Mum's rules for her gaggle of children. Right now, it was the last place in the world she wanted to be. Arriving had been pleasant enough, but quickly, she had realized it was no ordinary night. Instead it was another of the nights in which her parents attempted to guide her into Reconciliation. So devout were they in their love of Harry Potter - Hogwarts sweetheart, Quidditch star, gentleman, and famed Auror - that they seemed to forget he had put his penis inside someone else while dating their daughter. They had not only invited him over for dinner but had graciously allowed him to bring Hermione along, conveniently forgetting that it had been her vagina into which Harry's penis had wandered. The pair of them were seated on the couch in the living room, smiling to greet her when she crossed the threshold into the house.
Ron, who was now dating an exceptionally sweet woman named Miranda, had forgiven his former best friend and ex-love-of-his-life almost completely, and he accepted their presence in the living room on Family Night as if it were normal. It Right now, in ripped hose and a wrinkled skirt and generally disgruntled mood, Ginny was especially ill-equipped to deal with this nonsense.
Ron sat on the armchair, so Ginny had been forced to take a seat on the couch beside the lovebirds while her mum went to get tea. Harry's right hand rested on his left leg, getting as far away from Ginny as possible, while his left hand rested casually on Hermione's knee. Ginny battled an irrational desire to turn the offending appendage into a toad.
"Rough day, Gin?" Harry tried out sympathy. She shot him a vicious look.
"Look like hell, do I, Potter?" Her voice dripped venom, and he shook his head, not making another attempt at camaraderie.
"You just look tired," Ron placated, but Ginny instead tucked away Harry's words to fan her personal flame of bitterness in moments where it seemed like it might go out. Molly Weasley stepped back into the room, tea tray floating in front of her, and she distributed a cup to each person before sitting down on the ottoman in front of Ron.
"How was your day, Ginny?" Molly asked, a touch of empathy affected into her tone. Ginny watched her mother's eyes take in her messy appearance with mild disapproval. She could almost hear the disappointment and the judgment. After all, Hermione had to work much harder on her bushy, mousy hair to make it look presentable and yet hers rested sleekly in its bun. Ginny remembered the flyaway look of her curls in the mirror before she had flushed out of the Ministry for the day. Maybe it wouldn't have killed her to run a brush through it. Self-blame wasn't her style though.
"Look like hell, do I, Mum?" She replied coolly.
Molly looked a little shocked, swallowing her mouthful of tea and raising an eyebrow.
"Merlin's beard, do you always have to be so grouchy?" Ron looked annoyed now. Ginny figured this meant that Miranda was coming. He always liked to pretend that the Weasleys were normal when Miranda was coming whereas Ginny thought it more appropriate to help the poor woman see the madness that ran in this gene pool.
"Maybe she's PMSing." This announcement came from across the room, and they all looked up to see Fred and George walking through the living room door. The brothers wore matching blue pants and Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes shirts. "Fred acts that way when he's PMSing."
"You're a wanker," Fred replied, bumping his shoulder against George's. They both laughed, and even Ginny, in her current funk, had to smile. It was little wonder they ran such a successful joke shop; they had yet to meet a situation without humor. Ginny adored them because they never got on her case about being pissed off. They just made her smile instead.
"No, she's not PMSing. She just got off her period last week," Molly corrected, counting out weeks silently on her fingers, and Ginny turned to look at her. She wondered if her eyes were lit with real flames or if her irritation could actually still be invisible.
"Oh, that would explain why she was a real bitch during dinner last Friday," Fred said, winking at her. Ginny glared at him as well and thought, You are not helping, Stinky.
"Hard to be cheery when you're menstruating," Hermione added, deciding to finally contribute to the conversation. She leaned forward to make eye contact with Ginny around Harry. This unwise decision earned her a nasty look from her ex-friend.
"That is a serious invasion of privacy," Ginny announced loudly. "You all are a serious invasion of privacy."
"Inside voice, Ginny," Molly observed, taking a sip of her tea. Chilly silence descended, and Ginny watched Ron glance towards the empty fireplace, obviously hoping that Miranda would appear in this moment of quiet rather than during an argument over his sister's menstrual cycle.
"Seems to me that we have put little Ginny in a bad mood. We truly are a sadistic bunch." George tossed his lanky frame on the arm of the sofa. He leaned over and slung an arm over his baby sister's shoulders. "Why are we picking on you tonight, Gin? Fred and I missed the beginning. How'd you open yourself up as the butt of our family's humor?"
Ginny looked around the room at her mother who was looking at her with mild concern; at the twins who were grinning and looking for any excuse to tease her; at Ron, who was trying to make things perfect for his new girlfriend; and at her ex-boyfriend who was squirming as Hermione whispered something in his ear when she thought no one was looking. Ginny felt a surge of dark, hot satisfaction as she realized she had perfect ammunition just waiting to be fired. She grinned.
"They're just upset that I have a date with Draco Malfoy tonight," she purred, rising to her feet and shrugging off George's arm. "I'd best be on my way before I'm late. Thanks for the tea, Mum. Hope you're not talking dirty to Harry on our couch, Hermione. That's disrespectful."
She Disapparated before she could even fully appreciate the six dropped jaws around her.
Ginny looked at her reflection in the steamed-up mirror, frowning. She had no idea what she was doing. She didn't have anything to wear to Kniltholder's. It was Kniltholder's! It wasn't like she could throw on something casual and go eat a burger. When eating at that place, she was going to have to know which fork to use. Sometimes, in her apartment, she ate with a spoon because she couldn't find a fork. She had no business going somewhere with the hubris to put out four forks for one meal.
Trailing her fingers through some of her soaking wet red hair, she let her panicky thoughts race over who she was going to dinner with: Draco Malfoy. She had seen him on the cover of a magazine lately; it had been a sort of 'Look at hot, rich British bachelors' issue, but still, he had been on the cover. Of a magazine. Not only had she never been on the cover of a magazine, but she often passed them up in the market because they cost too much. He had looked good on that cover, too. At the time, she had been frowning and thinking that he was smarmy bastard who didn't deserve the coverage, but after being within a few feet of him this afternoon, she knew that he wasn't all hype. He had a… a definite flair. She let out a sigh. Flair was just one word for it.
Sexy as hell is another, her mind added.
She walked into her bedroom, towel-wrapped around her to catch stray drops, and flipped through the clothes in her closet. She didn't have anything she could wear out to dinner at Kniltholder's with Draco Malfoy. She was a loony for thinking she could pull this off. One moment of extreme annoyance with her family did not equal an attire ready for an evening out with Draco Malfoy at a 5-star restaurant. She had only agreed to this whole charade because Draco had made it sound like a no-lose situation earlier.
And because I wouldn't mind spending an evening with Draco Malfoy trying everything he has to seduce me, she thought to herself wickedly.
Holding out a bright green dress that looked like it belonged at a summer picnic, she groaned. The selection in here - in her closet - was pathetic. She shook her head.
"Who am I kidding? I don't have anything to wear." She plopped down on the bed ungracefully. She heard a Pop!, and suddenly, standing in front of her, was the devil himself. Her jaw fell open, and a full-bodied horror scream escaped before she was able to realize there was no danger.
"That's a very unbecoming sound, Ginevra," Draco Malfoy said, blue eyes giving her an once-over, taking in her damp hair, her towel, and everything it didn't cover. Then those blue eyes gave her a twice-over, and then they did one better and made it a thrice-over. Her face turned the color of her hair as she let loose another scream.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY HOME? GET OUT!" She hollered, jumping to her feet as she gripped the top of the towel for stabilization. He was wearing a crisp, snow-white shirt that managed to look expensive without any embellishment at all and a tailored black blazer. His hair was neat, his expression cool, and even his shoes looked good. She was all too aware of the fact that she was sitting on her unmade bed in an old, ratty towel. He seemed to be aware of that, too. She glanced down at the wide bleach stain on the towel, resting right over her left boob. The look might be considered art deco in some circles.
"You keep telling me to get out. Have you considered working on your hospitality?"
"YOU SAID EIGHT O'CLOCK AT THE RESTAURANT!" She stuck with the yelling and earned herself an exasperated eyebrow raise from her guest.
"I said no such thing. I said I would see you around eight o'clock. It's 7:30. Close enough." He shrugged his shoulders, and she glared daggers at him. So unruffled was he that she actually rearranged her face into an expression she hoped was more menacing. He seemed unfazed.
"Get out of my room and my house, and I will be at the restaurant eventually," she finally said, trying the calm tactic since the manic one and failed. He smiled but seemed equally unmoved by her attempt at sounding rational.
"They won't let you in without me," he mused lazily, walking over to her closet. He began to skim his fingers over the clothes there, occasionally lingering on a particular fabric. The invasion of privacy did not bother her nearly as much as the judgment she knew had to be flitting through his mind as he touched the cheap material and saw the childish patterns she had a tendency to favor outside of work.
"Then meet me outside!"
"I'm not standing outside waiting for you. Get dressed, and we'll go now. I won't watch you change, no matter how curious I am what is lurking under that towel." Her stomach flipped once, nerves kicking up enthusiastically at his implication. There was a long silence, and he looked at her without blinking, obviously wondering why she wasn't replying. She tugged at a lock of red hair and looked away.
"Do you not want to get dressed?" He asked, and she frowned at him. A corner of his mouth lifted slyly. "I'm fully supportive of that idea, but it seems a bit uncharacteristic."
"I don't have anything to wear," she muttered finally, barely audible.
"I didn't quite catch that." He smirked at her.
"I don't have anything to wear," she repeated a little louder. He grinned with a sort of twisted satisfaction. You are a smarmy bastard, she insulted him telepathically just as she had when she had seen him on the cover of that magazine.
"I'm glad you admit it. I was just noticing that your closet was lacking in Kniltholder's style of dress. Put something on for now. We'll go get you something to wear."
"You'll buy me something to wear?" She gaped at him again. At this rate, she was going to dislocate her jaw before this day was over.
"Of course I will. I'm not a stingy person." He feigned shock at her surprise.
She blinked at him several times, looking like a startled toad, before standing up. She opened a drawer and grabbed underwear and a bra, hiding them from his view so he did not see that they were both plain, dingy white cotton. Just to be difficult, she grabbed a pair of sweatpants and a tee-shirt before ducking into the bathroom. She emerged a few minutes later, dressed. Her hair was dry, but not exactly done; it was in messy curls and waves. One curl bounced off her eye, and she pushed it away in frustration.
"Get out your wallet, buddy," she said darkly. "I'm going to break the bank."
"Probably are." His tone accepted her hostility so affably that she faltered momentarily. Her family's usual outrage or sympathy at her temper caused it to flare, but she did not know how to react to this easy acceptance. Why was he not rattled by her gift for bitchiness?
"Oh, I definitely am. We're getting the most expensive dress there."
"Fine with me."
"You're taking the fact that you are about to be bankrupt very calmly."
"I probably am. See, I failed to mention one little thing about your dress." He slipped a hand to her elbow, fingers wrapping surprisingly gently through the curve of her arm.
"What's that?" She lost control of her grumpy tone, disarmed by the gentle brush of skin on skin.
"I get to pick it out."
"This one is your size," Draco said, holding up a slinky brown dress that left nothing to the imagination. The cut-out keyhole at the cleavage level bordered on pornographic. She laughed at him, and he adopted a false wounded expression. He looked even more attractive standing here with sleek, expensive fabrics draped over his arm. There was something undeniably sexy about him picking up dresses so lovely and openly imagining her in them.
"Yeah right. Then, after dinner, you can put me on the street corner and pass me off as a hooker to earn back both the cost of dress and dinner."
"Or I could take you home myself, and we'd both get paid."
She rolled her eyes even as her thoughts said, Good idea! She ignored her thoughts; they had a tendency to be impulsive.
She and Draco were in a clothing store that would have barred her at the door without him. Almost instantly, she had regretted her petulant choice of attire. Sweatpants had no place in this store. Even the employees were higher class than she was, and they kept looking down their nose at her when they weren't absolutely drooling over Draco. They swooned every time he breathed, and all but bent over to kiss his butt when he spoke to them. Ginny couldn't decide whether to be disgruntled by their apparent disrespect towards her or not; after all, they had no way of knowing that she and Draco weren't really together, so they were just proving themselves as hussies. Classy hussies, but hussies nonetheless.
Even though the situation was less than ideal, Ginny did feel like a little girl who had been swept into a fairy tale, surrounded by all these beautiful dresses. Sure, Draco was the devil, not a prince, but the dresses were definitely princess-like. She picked up a blue floor-length, admiring it, and she heard a sound of disapproval.
"If I wanted you to look like a nun, I would have taken you somewhere else." He placed his hand over hers and guided the dress back onto its hanger.
"Modest is a good adjective." She felt that she was pointing out the obvious.
"Not in my vocabulary."
They stared each other down, and finally, she grunted and walked over to another section to peruse the hundreds of "little black dresses." She was scrutinizing one when she heard his voice behind her.
"Try this one on."
She turned to look, and Draco Malfoy was holding up a green dress, the exact jewel shade of a perfectly cut emerald. Her eyes lit up, and she grinned despite herself.
"Okay." She agreed with a nod, swooping over and taking it from him. The moment of eagerness faded as she approached one of the employees to ask to be let into a dressing room. The woman was a slim blonde with a surly, snobbish expression.
"May I try this on?" Ginny attempted to sound friendly. The woman didn't reply, but she walked over to a dressing room and unlocked it with a little snort of derision.
"Well then." Ginny snorted back childishly as she stepped in and shut the door. Shedding her sweats and tee-shirt, she slid the dress on gently, careful not to look in the mirror until it was all positioned. She turned to look with a sense of anticipation, and when she saw herself, her eyes widened. The halter-style fastenings made her sensual, turning her collarbone into an appealing plane of skin and her shoulders into soft, inviting curves. The fit of the dress accentuated the best of her shape, and the fabric flirted with the tops of her knees, making it coy without being prudish in the least. I'm a bombshell, she thought, twirling and giving herself come-hither eyes in the mirror..
The devil has damn good taste, she observed with a grin at her reflection.
"Do I get to see it?" She heard Draco's voice outside the door, and she could already tell that he knew he'd picked a good one. She opened the door. He looked at her and gave her another one of those thrice-overs, admiring her from top to bottom in such a way that she knew he wanted her to see exactly what he was thinking. Goosebumps popped out on her skin, and she knew he saw those too.
"You look good in it. I bet you look better out of it. Why don't you let me in there to find out?"
"And to think I was just about to thank you."
"Sarcasm is unflattering in a woman."
"According to you, everything I do is un-something," she retorted.
"You are difficult. Do you realize that?" He looked charmed rather than frustrated by this fact.
"I've been told."
"Mr. Malfoy…" A voice suddenly crooned at his elbow, and he turned to look at the employee who was speaking to him. Ginny took this as a moment to glance at the price tag dangling from her dress. The numbers leapt out at her in their bold, swirling script. She gulped. It cost more than she made in six months.
"-take it. Here's my card." Ginny saw him handing the woman his credit card, and horror rose up.
"Wait!" She held out the tag for him to see. The women sniggered at her. He looked confused.
"What?" He said, not even looking down at the tag.
"Look at the price!" She hissed. Just don't freak out when you realize how much you almost spent! Her thoughts urged silently.
"I know how much it costs. I picked it out, remember?" He shrugged, took the tag from her hand, and ripped the small plastic line that held it to the dress. He crumpled the tag and handed it to the waiting employee whose jealousy and admiration battled on hr face.
"Holy God! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" She exclaimed as he shooed the women off with his credit card.
"Should you really be talking to them while you're with me?"
"Guess not," she muttered, still feeling air-deprived.
The dress was hers. It was the most expensive clothing article she had ever even tried on, let alone owned. She felt like she couldn't breathe. She owed him. He had just bought her the most beautiful thing she owned. If she accepted this, she had to show him at least a modicum of kindness. She could not use him as a punching bag for her irritable side, could not guiltlessly jab at him throughout dinner. This dress was a gift from the devil. She was sealing her fate. She wouldn't be able to just ditch him after this. Her conscience would never let her live it down. You slimy weasel. You dirty ferret. This dress is an underhanded bid for my compliance…and so pretty on me…
"No strings attached," he assured her with a sly smile.
"To hell you say." She put a hand to her head, massaging her temple. "Quick. Take me to Kniltholder's. I think my blood sugar's dropping."
"You're just in awe of my generosity."
"Whatever you say, Satan."
Kniltholder's stunned; it oozed charm and perfection from the very walls. They were led to a table near the kitchen and greeted with glasses of wine in glittering crystal goblets. When she took a sip, she wished she had the knowledge to say something intelligent about the wine besides that it was probably better quality than the boxed stuff she usually bought. Draco looked at home at the table, patiently explaining to her that there was no menu here. The chef would simply send out courses that matched Draco's usual tastes. He informed her of this while leaning back slightly in his chair, lounging amidst the finery with that comfort only those born wealthy can possess. She smoothed a wrinkle out of the white tablecloth and prayed the food would not have red sauce. Her nervousness destined her for at least one spill this meal.
Unlike the employees at the store, the waiters and the hostess treated her like she was a goddess. She knew it was just because she was with Draco Malfoy, but she didn't care. It made her feel radiant. When the first course came, she ate every bite of the crisp, cold arugula salad, but by the fourth course, she had caught the rhythm of the meal, tasting and savoring but not finishing so that she could have room for more. So this was how the rich and famous and beautiful ate.
"This food is wonderful," she observed, swallowing a bite of brie and mushroom pate. Draco nodded noncommittally, sipping his second glass of wine. After a pause, she sighed gently. "Let's talk business,"
He raised an eyebrow. "Let's talk dirty," he countered, and she flushed crimson. As her imagination ran away with that, she frowned at him. He sighed. "Fine. Let's talk business."
"I'm willing to give you a month because I like eating good food and wearing pretty dresses and being envied," she said, twirling her fork in her rice. A few pieces ended up flinging onto the table. He shook his head, reaching over to pick them up and drop them back on her plate. She appreciated that he seemed to know the Five-Second Rule, the unofficial religion of large, poor families.
"No. You're willing to give me a month because you want me."
"Nope. Wrong." She lied because it would never do to swell that handsome head of his.
"So I get a month. Does your family get to know?"
"Yep. They're the first to know. I like pissing them off." She thought of the beautiful moment in which she had dropped the news about tonight's dinner. She was going to have a month's worth of that pleasure. That alone almost made it worth denying herself the pleasure of shagging Draco.
"Do we treat it like a normal relationship?"
"As normal as possible."
"That means we should have sex tonight," he said with a cool grin. She laughed.
"Nice try, Lucifer."
"Had to give it a shot."
"So, we're dating now. For a month." She felt that reminding herself of the time frame as often as possible might keep her from feeling too at home in places like Kniltholder's.
They looked at each other, and he lifted the fork from her fingers, setting it on the table. "Let's shake on it, Miss Weasley."
He extended his hand; she folded hers into it, sealing her fate, making her deal with the devil.
"I must say I didn't expect you to be so open to this plan. You do realize that for a month you're going to have to deal with being a part of my world," he commented, not letting go of her hand and looking absolute wicked. She smiled and shrugged her shoulders lightly.
"What can I say? I hear hell is nice this time of year."
The pleased delight flickering on his face made her want to keep saying ridiculous quips just to keep delighting him. Gods, he was dangerous.