A long overdue chapter. I'm so sorry!! I hope it was worth the wait and, should my schedule ever cure itself of its schizophrenic tendencies, I'll start publishing again on a regular basis. :)
Thanks for reading!
The story belongs to Ted Griffin, who wrote the screenplay for Ocean's Eleven and the characters belong to JK Rowling. Please don't sue me!
OF HIGH ROLLERS AND EX-HUSBANDS
Albus has always been a fan of blackjack. He learned it in his youth and thanks to a little magic over the years has perfected his ability to not only count cards but manage to look completely innocent while doing it.
Which is why he places a monumental bet when the dealer, a straight-haired Hermione Granger, places a ten and a five in front of him. Well, that and Malfoy is off in the corner watching him and some high rolling schmuck is sitting next to him, chattering in his ear like a monkey.
'You don't want to get in the hole too heavy to this Malfoy. A friend of mine once borrowed a hundred g's from the guy. Two months went by, Malfoy hadn't heard from him, he calls my friend up, asks "Where's my money?" "I'll get to it when I get to it," my friend says. Half hour later Malfoy's in my friend's hotel room, dangling him off his 10th floor balcony by his feet. "You gonna get to it now?"'
Hermione nods to Albus, turns over his card and the high roller's. The high roller's card is a nine and Albus, just like he knew he would, gets a six.
'Mr. Zerga wins – twenty-one.'
Malfoy steps forward and the high roller turns to wave at him. Albus keeps his eyes forward, focused on the cards and Hermione.
'Hiya, Draco,' the high roller says and Malfoy smiles very slightly.
'Mr. Weintraub,' Draco says without a trace of the whine he always had as a young boy. 'How's everything?'
Weintraub shrugs. 'Eh, they put too much grenadine in my Shirley Temple.'
The small smile remains. 'And here I always thought you were a vodka man.' Draco turns very slightly towards Albus. 'Mr. Zerga.'
He looks up, feigns surprise.
'Mr. Malfoy. I recognize you from TV.' He smiles a little, thickens his accent. 'You know, nine times out of ten, owner of casino comes up in the middle of the hand to ask me what I want. I respect you waiting.'
'You're the guest, sir.'
He's intrigued, Albus can see it in his green eyes.
'And I have to impose on your hospitality a little more.' He motions to the empty chair beside him. 'Can you sit in for a hand?'
Malfoy smiles widely. 'I'd love to, but the Nevada Gaming Commission would feed me to my white tigers if I did.'
Albus frowns. 'That's a shame. The king of Vegas and you have to play craps in the alley.'
Malfoy's smile stays put and Albus wishes he had smiled more as a boy.
'No shame at all. Reminds me of my youth.'
Albus stands and motions for Malfoy to follow him. The two walk away from the blackjack table and towards the bar.
'The fight is Saturday, is it not?' Albus asks when they're out of earshot of the high roller.
'Yes,' Malfoy says. 'I can get you seats if you like…'
Albus shakes his head. 'No, no. Hand-to-hand combat doesn't interest me.' This is a bold face lie and a difficult one at that – he has almost a grand riding on the fight back home and he's secretly hoping it and the heist plan out. 'I have a package arriving here Saturday evening. A black briefcase, standard size, the contents of which are very valuable to me.'
Malfoy nods. 'I'd be happy to put it in the house safe for you.'
Albus frowns. 'The house safe is for brandy and grandmother's pearls. I'm afraid I need something more secure.'
Malfoy laughs at this, a short laugh that suggests he knows something that Albus doesn't know – possibly that all the safes in the Bellagio are magically enhanced. 'I can assure you, the house safe is utterly…'
His voice trails off as he locks eyes with Albus. Having fought his fair share of baddies over the years, Albus Dumbledore had perfected the Look of Steel, a look so hard and unyielding that it can incite terror in the recipient. This is what Draco discovers when he looks into Albus' eyes and whatever placating statements he had ready for his guest die on his tongue.
'I can assure you, Mr. Malfoy, your generosity in this matter will not go overlooked. Now: what can you offer me besides the house safe?'
* * *
Ginny is beyond angry and Harry probably should have planned for that, considering the way he left things back in London five years ago. Instead, he's getting little sparks thrown at him under the table and he's going to be lucky if his pants don't look like Swiss cheese by the time he leaves.
On the plus side, he's thrilled to see she's learned wandless magic since the last time he saw her.
'See, the kind of people you steal from, they have insurance to compensate them. They get made whole again.' Another spark hits him in the knee and he grits his teeth. 'I had to leave London to get away from what happened. How do I get my five years back, Harry?'
Harry sighs and the sparks stop.
'You can't. But what you can do is not throw away another five years.'
Ginny frowns. 'You don't know anything -'
Harry leans in so only she can hear him.
'Listen. You don't love me anymore, you want to make a life with someone else. Fine, I'll live with that. But not him.'
'Spoken like a true ex-husband,' she says with a small smile.
Harry steels his eyes. 'I'm not joking, Ginny.'
'I'm not laughing, Harry.' They stare at each other for a moment or two. She's the first to look away. 'You have to admit there's a conflict of interest when you give me advice on my love life.'
He takes a deep breath, exhales. 'Yes, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.'
She stares at him, really stares at him, and it's his turn to feel scrutinized. She moves her gaze from his face to the wedding band around his ring finger and he knows he isn't imagining the wistful expression on her face.
'Do you remember what I said to you when we met again, after the war?'
Harry smiles at the memory. It was pouring rain in London's East End and they literally ran into each other outside the Leaky Cauldron.
'You said: you better know what you're doing.'
'Do you? Now? Because, truly, you should walk out the door if you don't.'
There isn't an ounce of sarcasm in her voice.
'I know what I'm doing,' he says and he means it.
'What are you doing?' Malfoy asks and it startles Harry – and Ginny, for that matter. They both look up at the newcomer and he smiles slightly at them.
'Catching up,' Harry says.
'Draco, you remember my ex-husband…'
'Hiya, Malfoy,' Harry says with an extended hand.
Draco eyes it for a moment, but eventually accepts it. 'Potter.' He turns to Ginny. 'Forgive me for being late. A guest required my attention.'
Ginny flushes a little. 'Harry was just walking through the restaurant and spotted me.'
Malfoy looks at them both, though his gaze lingers a little longer on Harry than the wizard would like. 'Is that so?'
'I was shocked myself,' Harry says. 'Imagine the odds.'
'Of all the gin joints in all the world.' Malfoy quoting 'Casablanca' is almost too much for Harry. 'You've been in Azkaban until recently, is that right? How does it feel to be out?'
'About the same. Everything you want is still on the other side.' He says it to Malfoy but he's looking at Ginny.
'There's the human condition for you,' Draco says, still managing a calm and even voice though Harry is 100 percent sure he's raging on the inside.
'Draco, Harry was just about to -'
'I just wanted to say hello. For old time's sake,' Harry says, standing.
'Stay for a drink,' Draco offers.
'He can't,' Ginny says at the exact same moment Harry says, 'I can't.'
There's an awkward silence and Draco takes Ginny's hand in his.
'Well, then, I don't imagine we'll be seeing you again, Mr. Potter.'
Harry smiles slightly. 'You never know.'
'I know everything that goes on in my hotels.'
The smile never waivers. 'Then I guess I should put back those towels.'
Draco smiles at Ginny. 'The towels you can keep.'
Harry catches Ginny's eye for only a split second, but there's something there. Something that looks an awful lot like annoyance. She blinks and it's gone.
'Good seeing you, Ginny,' he says.
'Take care, Harry.'
He's on his way to the door when he hears Ginny's voice once more.
'I'm sorry,' she says.
Draco's reply is sharp and fast and undeniably fake.
He smiles to himself and heads out the door, unaware of the fact Colin is tailing him and has been for some time now. The perils of owning an Invisibility Cloak…and having friends who know where to find it.