July 14, 2010
Notes: Thanks to Iridescent-Dreamer for looking over this chapter for me. Reviews appreciated!
"You did what?" Pansy Parkinson verily shrieked, setting her Gillywater down without taking a sip.
Draco smirked and took a drink from his mug—something non-alcoholic this time, as he was a little put out by how alcohol had treated him the last time he'd partaken of it. "I told her the only way to get back at Potter is to make him think she doesn't care. Get a new bloke, one that Potter doesn't get along well with at all, and start dating him in a very public fashion immediately."
Normally Pansy would avoid talking about personal business in the middle of the Three Broomsticks. The press had a way of following her around, eavesdropping on conversations, and snapping photographs of innocent scenes, consequently weaving inane and fictitious tales about her for the next issue of the Daily Prophet. The pub was rather empty today though, for a Saturday evening anyway, and Draco had dropped this bombshell on her before she'd had a chance to suggest they go somewhere more private.
"You meant yourself," she said, her disbelief evident in her expression, even though she didn't doubt her words.
"Of course. I'd be the perfect man for the job."
Pansy stared at him in astonishment, a little awed by his daring.
"Why would she ever agree to that? I highly doubt she's been harboring a secret love for you since our days at Hogwarts."
Pansy smiled. "Of course, Draco. Every girl, boy, and teacher wanted to get in your pants."
"It's not very hard, you know," he replied smugly.
"Yes, right now it's not." Pansy smirked, but if she had been hoping to embarrass her longtime friend, she would be very disappointed.
"We can easily rectify that though." His smile then was more like a leer, but she knew not to take him seriously. He had long ago rebuffed her advances, and she knew that no matter how much he teased her, he didn't want to be with her the way she had wanted to be with him.
She rolled her eyes. "I don't want anything to do with your rectum, or any other part of your body, for that matter. Just answer my question. Why would Weasley ever agree to that?"
"Oh, she had to agree or I was going to let someone know how she had kidnapped me while unconscious, took me to her flat, and pleasured herself with my body without my consent. I still hadn't decided between tipping off someone at the Ministry or someone at the Prophet."
"That's blackmail," Pansy said.
"I know," he replied shamelessly.
"So she bought that? She let you blackmail her?"
"She was furious about it—no doubt about that—but to save her precious, spotless reputation? Of course she went along with it."
They were silent for several moments as Pansy sipped her drink and thought over what Draco had said. He had changed since Hogwarts. He used to turn down every girl that offered herself to him, seemingly disgusted by the way they threw themselves at the closest thing with a dick. Well, a dick and money. She wasn't sure if the war had changed him, or if Azkaban had, but now Draco was just as slutty as the slutty girls he dated. He had turned into an animal—a drinking, partying, sexing animal.
"What do you get out of this deal?" Pansy asked.
Draco's self-satisfied smile faltered for just a moment. "Me? I get sex whenever I want, don't I? No, I get whatever I want. That's how blackmail works, see?"
Despicable. Pansy had never been gladder to be unassociated with Draco beyond just being friends (though the Prophet did try to say otherwise, with the eavesdropping and photograph-taking). She as a businesswoman would not be taken seriously with a boyfriend as wild as Draco Malfoy.
Despite the lazy smile on his face and those hooded eyes of his, Pansy didn't quite buy his explanation. He had to get something else out of this deal with Weasley. His side of it was just too... flimsy. All of it was flimsy. Why would Weasley accept being blackmailed? Pansy thought she'd had more fighting spirit or something. She had at Hogwarts, anyway. The whole deal was tenuous at best, and she thought Draco was depending too much on the blackmail to get the sex. It just didn't even out.
But Pansy wasn't going to say anything. Sometimes the most fun to be had with friends was watching them fall. Draco didn't even need a little push from her. In her opinion, he'd well and truly tripped on his own, and Pansy would be glad to point and laugh at him when he finally hit the ground.
So maybe she still had hard feelings over his rejection, but really friendship between Slytherins just worked like that. Disappointing as it might have been, people were only as good as their usefulness. Pansy knew that.
"This leads me to this meeting I've called," Draco announced.
"Ah. The catch." She set her drink down and put on her business face, a small part of her missing the days before the war and before he'd gone to Azkaban, when they'd been able to drink butterbeer on a Hogsmeade weekend without ultimatums and "favors". Childish thinking. She'd learned since entering the business world that you never got something for nothing, and people were willing to exploit whoever they could just for that something.
"Your fashion show is this weekend, correct?"
Pansy seethed inside. Of course it was this weekend; she'd only been reminding him for weeks.
"What about it?" It annoyed her that she let her annoyance sound through. Draco loved knowing he was getting on people's nerves.
He looked towards the bar at Rosmerta cleaning a glass and joking with a customer, and said in an offhand manner, "I've always wanted to date a model."
Suddenly Pansy understood. To say she was a little dismayed would be an understatement, but she was determined to not leave this meeting without something in return.
Ginny did her best to eat her sandwich while holding up her book, but she was having difficulty all around. Lettuce and tomato fell out between her fingers, and she was having a hard time turning pages, but if that wasn't bad enough, she really couldn't concentrate to read the damn book at all. Ever since she'd arrived at work that morning, she had felt like eyes were watching her all the time. And now, in the Ministry cafeteria, she couldn't hide from the other employees like she could in her cubicle.
They all knew. She was certain of it. They were probably wondering what kind of horrible person Ginny was to scare off Harry Potter. Even though she was doing her best to avoid meeting anyone's stare, she could feel them judging her, as if they were shooting What-a-Bitch rays at her from their eyes.
Or maybe they knew about her arrangement with Malfoy. Maybe they knew she'd slept with him. Maybe they thought Harry had left her because she had cheated on him first. She lowered the book enough to peek over the top and scanned around the lunch room for suspicious glares, the bite of sandwich she'd just taken turning to sand in her mouth. Suddenly she wanted to bolt from the room, back to her cubicle. Suddenly she wanted to call in sick and go home and hide in her bed.
Malfoy had left an imprint on her, and she was sure everyone could see it. Her skin must have screamed "Whore! Whore! Whore!" even though she wasn't one. She'd been faithful to Harry. So, so faithful to him. The Malfoy thing had been an awful mistake, but one she couldn't easily correct. And she was being blackmailed! She certainly wasn't whoring herself out to the git for the fun of it.
Sandwich now inedible, Ginny lowered her lunch and her book to pack up and get back to work. But someone was standing in front of her table looking apprehensive and young, and Ginny didn't think she could ignore her.
"Hello, Ginny," the girl said nervously.
Ginny, feeling like she'd just been caught doing something silly, plastered a too-bright smile on her face.
"Oh, hello, Astoria!"
Astoria. Damnit. Ginny couldn't eat her lunch in peace? She couldn't run back to her cubicle without being confronted by her ex-boyfriend's mistress? Remembering just who was standing in front of her, Ginny wondered why she was putting forth so much effort. This woman did not deserve to be smiled at by her! Ginny should have lunged over the table and started ripping her eyes out, goddamnit!
Astoria had smiled tentatively at being greeted with such a happy smile, but when Ginny's expression fell into a scowl, she visibly gulped and lost her hesitant grin as well.
"I wanted to talk to you," she said.
Ginny glared up at her. 'Fuck off' was on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn't bring herself to say it. There was something about Astoria's little chin and rosy cheeks and her full bottom lip that made you want to take her home, dress her like a doll, and squeeze her until she peed. Her hair fell in pretty curls, in nearly complete ringlets that Ginny was jealous of, though she didn't showcase them much as she always had her shiny blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. It went with the job, Ginny supposed. You couldn't really chase dark wizards with hair blowing in your face, now could you?
Ginny motioned for Astoria to take a seat across from her. Why? Why had her hand done that? Why was she subjecting herself to this?
As Ginny glared at her unoffending sandwich, Astoria said, "Look, I know I have no right to speak to you, and you certainly have the right to ignore me, but I just wanted to say I'm sorry for what happened."
Ginny's head snapped up. She was sorry? Sorry? Well, if she was so fucking sorry she should give Harry back! Or maybe she should have never stolen him from her in the first place!
"We—I never meant to fall in love with him. I tried not to. I knew it was wrong, and I shouldn't have encouraged him when—"
By then, Ginny had had all she could take. She stood from the table and grabbed her half-eaten sandwich and book, intending to walk out of the cafeteria before Astoria was devastated by a bomb of 'fuck you's and a melee of sharp fingernails.
But Astoria grabbed her hand before Ginny could pass, and looked up at her with sad doll eyes. "Honestly, if Harry was so easy to steal away, why would you want him back? You want someone who is completely devoted to you, don't you? Or was it just his fame that attracted you this whole time?"
Ginny stared down at the other witch, her mouth slack in gobsmacked shock. She had underestimated Astoria Greengrass. She may have looked like a doll, but she was as fake as one as well, it seemed. Then fury took a hold of Ginny's heart and forcefully grasped her tongue. How dare this girl say that Ginny had only been with Harry for his fame! As if their relationship had meant nothing to her at all!
Ginny snatched her hand out of Astoria's grasp, and it took all the strength she had not to slap the innocent look off her face. She wondered how she could have possibly been Sorted into Hufflepuff, when her older sister had been more appropriately placed in Slytherin.
She managed to cool the fire of her anger before she said something she would regret. Not that she would regret hurting Astoria's feelings—much—but they were still in a public place, and she was still convinced that the general public assumed that Ginny had been in the wrong when it came to Harry's infidelity. She certainly didn't need to be seen harassing poor little Astoria, whose only crime had been picking up the pieces of Harry Ginny had left behind.
"Just remember that what he did to me, he could also do to you," she seethed.
"Unlikely. He was never meant to be with you." Astoria smirked. Ginny bristled at the emphasis on 'you', as if Harry had always been meant for Astoria, and took a deep breath, concentrating on the goal of keeping her job. Her hands clenched into fists, but they stayed by her sides.
Grimacing, she left the cafeteria without a look back, too distressed to notice the whispering people she'd left behind.
It had been weeks since Ginny had last seen him smile. A real smile. Lately he answered her joking with half-hearted attempts at humor and a grin that looked painful more than amused. She had wondered to herself what might be wrong, but had been too afraid to confront him about it, too afraid to find out the answer. Did he know something she didn't? Something about Ron? Something about them? Was it work, which he wasn't supposed to talk to her about anyway?
She pulled a chicken pot pie out of the oven and placed it on the table, getting lost in her thoughts as she watched the steam rise over it. If he was going to ask her to marry him, she would have thought he'd be happier, but he moped around as if someone had died.
"Ginny, can I talk to you?"
She startled and turned, a smile coming to her face until she saw the determined look on his.
He looked about to object, like he wanted to put dinner off for a while, but seemed to think better of it, sitting down at the table instead. Even after Ginny gave him a helping, he continued to frown at his plate, picking at the crust of the pie with a fork.
When he put the fork down and looked up at her, Ginny's stomach dropped.
"This isn't working," he said.
He was silent for several long moments, staring at her with an intent and searching gaze. He sighed. Ginny's heart thumped loudly in her chest.
"You don't feel it? That we're not working?"
Panic. That's what she was feeling. Where was this coming from?
"What did I do?" she asked, her grip tightening on her fork.
"No—you didn't do anything. Don't you see that it's not the same? Hasn't been the same?"
"Since when? When did it go wrong?" She searched her mind, trying to remember when Harry had stopped smiling, when it had gotten so much harder to make him happy. She couldn't pinpoint a single date. It seemed like she had always fought to make him laugh.
She couldn't even remember the last time they'd had sex. His birthday eight months ago? Christmas?
"Is there someone else?"
He didn't even seem startled by the question. His face was straight and serious.
Ginny didn't know how to feel. The panic disappeared and her eyes filled with tears that refused to fall. She was having a hard time believing this was happening. It couldn't be true.
"Who?" she asked, part of her preferring not knowing.
She looked up. "Your partner?"
He never met her eyes. He looked everywhere but at her.
It made sense though. Astoria had trained under Harry when she'd joined the Aurors three years ago, and after her training, they'd been made partners.
That's all Ginny could think about: the number of years she'd been with Harry, and how he was throwing it all away. Almost four years, not including the time they'd been together before the war had ended.
"I'm sorry," he said. And he looked it. His eyes sparkled as if he wanted to cry as well, but the sight of those tears just made Ginny angry. "I never meant to fall in love with her. I never wanted to hurt you, but... I've realized that you are more like a sister to me."
She laughed, harshly and cruelly. "I know you've never had any siblings, Harry, but people don't go around fucking their sisters."
Harry jumped as if frightened, thrown off by her words and her tone. He'd never heard her curse like that before, in all the time that he'd known her.
"So that's it, then?" she asked. She kept a close reign on her voice lest she began to shout, which she wanted to do. She wanted to scream at him, to rage, to call him a fucking horrible person and to call Astoria a goddamn whore.
Because she could, because she knew he didn't like to hear that kind of language, and because she knew it would piss him off.
"I'm sorry I couldn't finish dinner," he replied as he stood from the table. "I'm sorry," he repeated when he reached the doorway to the living room, his eyes disappointed but resolute.
She didn't see him to the door.
Instead of facing that uneaten supper, Ginny went to a pub. Her stomach had begun to hurt, like someone had ripped a hole in it, but there just wasn't enough alcohol in the world that could close it back up.
Ginny woke up angry and with tears in her eyes, but for several moments she couldn't remember from where the anger originated. When her dream came back to her, she groaned and climbed out of bed, reluctant to slip back into it. A look outside her bedroom window told her that it was much too early to be awake, and she had to suppress another groan. Work was going to be dreadful today. Thank you, bad dreams, lack of sleep, and Astoria Greengrass.
Stumbling into the kitchen, Ginny poured herself a glass of water and chugged away at it as if she'd been thirsty all her life. A pecking at her window caused her to choke and spill water all over the kitchen floor. In the darkness beyond the window she could just make out an owl, and if there was an owl being delivered to her at this time of the night—or morning, if that's your thing—Ginny just knew her day was going to get a whole lot worse before it officially began.
As she opened the window, the bird swooped inside, landing on her small dining room table and waiting in what Ginny could only describe as an impatient and imperious posture. The damn thing thought it was royalty, acting all regal like that. Ginny scowled at it as she removed the letter attached to its leg, and as if sensing her thoughts, it took a snap at her hand.
You are meeting me for tea on Wednesday. I'll come pick you up at your flat sometime around three. Why shouldn't you run and hide, you might be asking yourself? Because we'll be discussing our first date, which is this Saturday. Cancel all your plans.
The wanker hadn't even bothered to sign the damn note, and the whole commanding tone of it made Ginny bristle. She'd do what he wanted because she owed him that much after what she had done to him, but he could have been a little more polite about it.
Who was she kidding? The man had blackmailed her quite shamelessly. Of course he didn't know how to be polite.
Ginny responded with a terse Fine, sending the owl back on its merry way. She contemplated the note as the bird retreated into the darkness, and suddenly wondered what Malfoy was getting from blackmailing her. He hadn't asked for anything in return, really, just forced her to date him, and she highly doubted it had been a longtime wish of his to do so.
As the sun finally began to peek over the horizon, Ginny's thoughts drifted from Malfoy to Harry. The thought of his face when he found out she was dating Draco Malfoy was the only ray of light able to pierce through the clouds hovering over this horrible day she was already dreading. Somehow, revenge made it seem a little less awful.
She smiled at the sun rise.