All the good stuff belongs to JKR, like characters, magic, etc. Plot, story, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, bad dialog is mine. (iActually, I rather liked this one. No accounting for taste.i)

A/N: Okay, okay, a bit predictable, but I have to admit that I don't feel up to writing anything about the final encounter with Voldemort other than briefly alluding to it as I have in a few (three, I'm told) of my other stories. That is why I never touch the years between when D graduates (or gets kicked out or quits or whatever) and when they 'serendipitously' meet several years later. (Thanks, Katy) Anyway, for better or worse, here is the 'rest of the story'.

Chapter 5

"Good-bye, Narcissa," Ginny called, waving at the woman who had just left her side. "See you next week!"

Narcissa Malfoy turned and gave Ginny a brief, sad smile and waved back. Ginny watched her disappear into the crowd, then turned back to her office building. She and Narcissa Malfoy had been meeting every so often for lunch for about the last two years. Ever since Draco had dropped off the face of the earth.

Ginny had kept in touch with him for some time after he left Hogwarts. He had only attended Durmstrang for a few months before dropping out and taking his mother to Europe. He'd never told her exactly why his mother had left his father, but had gathered that it had a lot to do with Lucius Malfoy's obsessive dedication to that vile creature everyone had been afraid to name. She also gathered that Draco had decided not to follow his father, but to work for the Ministry of Magic in some secret capacity. He'd written fairly regularly at first, telling her about his mother and the unclassified things he was involved in, and then the letters had come farther and farther between. Finally, his letters had stopped coming. She'd been saddened, but had been realistic about it. Why would he still want to correspond with someone he really barely knew? Besides, he was involved with some highly dangerous work and couldn't be expected to keep in touch with her at the risk of endangering himself, right?

That he worked against Voldemort had surprised her. She knew about his work because her father had been astounded that a Malfoy was actually on their side. He hadn't divulged the nature of Draco's work, either, but obviously it was hazardous. She remembered Ron scoffing about it.

He'd been leaning back on a chair, at the kitchen table in the house in the Burrow. Several of the Weasleys had gathered for a family visit and they'd been discussing about the ongoing fight against Voldemort. Ron was balancing on two legs of the chair, casually offering his unwanted opinion. "The Ministry doesn't honestly trust that slimy ferret with anything important, do they?" he'd sneered.

Without warning, Ginny had stood and shoved him, causing him to overbalance and land flat on his back. "You don't even know him," she'd seethed. "Don't judge until you have the facts!"

Of course he and the rest of the family had been flabbergasted. Ginny had been very careful to keep any rumour of her dealings with Draco from her brother's ears and he was understandably confused by her reaction. But she wouldn't explain and they'd finally dropped it, thinking it was more of her 'all Slytherins aren't evil' nonsense. Ron was careful about what he said in front of her since, though.

However, it had been some time since Ginny had heard from Draco. If she wasn't actually 'waiting' for him, she had been at least sort of unavailable. Not that she pined for him. She still saw her friends from Hogwarts, even though Vi had married her Slytherin and Jess worked for the Daily Prophet and now traveled a great deal. And Ginny did date, once she decided that Draco had finally forgotten all about the silly sixteen year old he'd known. She had dated a few men, one or two a bit more seriously than the others, and had had sex a few times. It hadn't been what she'd expected. She couldn't help wondering if it would have been better, more exciting and fulfilling if it had been Draco, but she'd probably never know. Maybe it had just been the attraction of being with a 'bad boy' that had made their encounter with him seem so exciting. Maybe it was the old wheeze about 'forbidden fruit'. Whatever it was, Ginny figured that the kisses she'd shared with Draco just seemed more passionate because her memory was skewed by time. That the men she had dated were a bit dull in contrast didn't stop her from dating, but she didn't go out all that often. But it was on one of her dates that she'd run into Narcissa Malfoy.

She and her date, a man she worked with, had gone to dinner in a small, out of the way restaurant. The food was decent, the conversation boring, and her date, frankly, somewhat sleazy now that he was away from work. Ginny had been trying to figure a way to end the evening quickly when she'd noticed a woman huddled in a corner booth, apparently crying. She'd been shocked when she realized the woman was Narcissa Malfoy, and even more shocked to see how exhausted and haggard the woman looked. Her date was uninterested in the mother of a long-lost boyfriend. He seemed much more interested in trying to grab her thigh under the table. Ginny had been losing patience with him anyway, but when he grabbed her in a most private and inappropriate place, she stood and slapped him. Digging some money from her purse, she threw it on the table and stalked toward Narcissa's booth.

She had introduced herself as an old friend of Draco's and asked if she could help. The older woman had been reticent at first, but had finally opened up. Draco, the only family she had left, was missing. No one at the ministry would help her. She didn't even know where to turn. Ginny had soothed her and promised to help out. Her father might be able to get more information, and she would ask. She'd been about to leave when the woman had said pitifully, "I don't have anything of his, anymore! Lucius destroyed everything!"

Ginny had gone home that night after finding out where Narcissa was staying. She'd sent a quick note to her father, then had removed the painting Draco had made of her from the wall. Turning it over, she pulled an old, dog-eared sketchpad from where it was taped to the back. Smiling at her memories, Ginny opened the pad to her favorite drawing, the one showing Draco holding her. After studying it a moment, she sighed.

"It would have been nice, wouldn't it?" she asked the empty room.

Then she opened it to the first page. Narcissa's picture was still in good condition since Ginny seldom looked at it. With another smile, she carefully pulled the page out. She would have it mounted and framed and then give it to Draco's mother. Then the woman would have something of her son's.

Afterward, Narcissa had insisted on taking Ginny to lunch. She was surprised to learn Ginny's last name, and even more surprised to find out that Ginny was the girl her son had told her about when he'd taken her to France. She had been determined to like that girl, whoever she was, but she confessed that she was glad Ginny was who she was. She'd been dreading the possibility that she might have to welcome a disgustingly sweet Hannah Abbott type to her bosom. Their lunches became a regular thing, with Ginny giving Narcissa whatever updates her father could come across. Although it wasn't much, it gave the woman hope. Narcissa had pulled herself together and gotten on with her life. She kept in touch with Ginny, though, and kept Ginny in touch with what was going on.

As Ginny entered her office, she sighed. There had been little to report to Narcissa lately. Draco was missing in action and probably dead as far as the Ministry was concerned. They were calling his case closed, according to Ginny's dad. And the poor woman had so little left, Ginny felt awful being the bearer of such bad tidings. They had scoured the hospitals last week to see if he might be injured and unable to contact Narcissa, but had turned up nothing. In a last-ditch effort, Ginny had talked Narcissa into filing a Missing Person's report. She wasn't very hopeful, but she figured they should cover all their hoops.

Later that afternoon, Ginny left work, donning the large, flowered scarf and oversized sunglasses she'd begun wearing after she'd graduated from Hogwarts. A misspent summer at Hermione's home with full access to the local video rental store had given Ginny a love of the Muggle styles from the 60's. Especially after actually renting 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'. She looked nothing like Audrey Hepburn, but she loved the elegance of the actress and how the woman had pulled off those odd outfits. Tugging her cloak tightly around her and giving her scarf a last pat, Ginny started walking toward her flat.

After a block or two, she noticed him again. She had casually stopped to check the pastries displayed in one of the shops when she saw him. He appeared to be in his late forties or even his fifties. His robes were shabby and non-descript. He wore thick glasses and walked with a limp and he'd been tailing Ginny for the last two days. Ginny stepped into the shop and purchased some croissants, still watching the man. He had greasy brown hair, streaked with gray and his moustache looked as though he hadn't wiped the remains of his lunch out of it. Ginny shuddered. At first she had brushed off the feeling of being watched and followed. After a while, though, she'd seen the man and realized that he WAS watching and following her! She didn't have any idea what he might want, but he was an unsavory- looking character and she decided to be rather careful of him.

Ginny exited the shop and hurried toward the grocer. If her larder weren't bare, she would have waited to do her shopping. She would have just apparated to her flat, as she'd done the last two days. But she did want to eat tonight, so she merely gripped her wand and kept her eyes open. The man sort of shuffled along in her wake; a drooping, tired-looking man. He never got too close, but never lost sight of her, either. Selecting her groceries and making sure she didn't buy so much that she wouldn't have her wand-arm free, Ginny watched the shop intently to see if the man had followed her in. He hadn't. He was standing across the street, apparently absorbed in the display of women's lingerie in the opposite shop.

Ginny wondered if she should inform her dad; even though Voldemort was destroyed, many of his followers were still at large, trying to revenge him against his enemies. Her dad had been one of those, and the family had been warned to be careful, just in case. Shaking her head, she decided against telling him. Mum was worried enough without thinking that there was some sort of vendetta against Clan Weasley, as she thought of her family. Paying for her purchase, Ginny asked if she might use the back exit. The shop owner knew her well and told her to go ahead.

Once she was in the alley, Ginny apparated to her small flat relieved that she had shaken the man following her. And, since it was Friday night, he couldn't follow her from work the following day, either. That would give her the entire weekend to decide what to do about him. As she let herself into her small place, Ginny kicked off her shoes, sighing with relief. She locked the door and placed protective wards on it, just in case. Then she doffed the scarf and glasses, dropped the groceries onto the kitchen counter, grabbed a long-sleeved men's dress shirt she had picked up from a thrift store, and headed for the shower.

The shower was just what she'd needed. She felt much better afterward, and padded into the kitchen wearing only the shirt, which hung to her thighs, and a large towel around her hair. The groceries took only moments to put away since she was using most of what she'd purchased for dinner tonight. Then she poured herself a small glass of wine and put some water on to boil. Pasta with a salad, crusty French bread, and wine sounded good. She pulled out some pre-packaged pasta sauce and then went into her living room to wait for the water to boil.

"Ahhh," she sighed as she put her feet up. She smiled up at the painting of herself over the mantle and thought of the sketchpad she still kept. At least one good thing had come of the book. She'd become friends with Narcissa Malfoy.

A sudden knock on the door startled Ginny out of her thoughts. She jumped up to answer it, setting her wineglass on the table. As she reached out to unlock the door, she stopped. What if it was that man? She couldn't imagine how he would have found her, but she was cautious, all the same.

Hesitantly, Ginny called, "Who's there?"

There was no answer at first, so Ginny started to move away. Then a muffled voice said, "Horace Bloggs, miss, Department of Missing Persons."

Missing Persons? Ginny's heart pounded. She and Narcissa had only filed the report last week. Had they actually learned something? Already? She quickly removed the wards and almost unlocked the door, but stopped again. They hadn't dealt with a Mr. Bloggs.

"Mr. Bloggs," she said uncertainly. "Do you have any identification on you? Can you slip it under the door?"

She thought she heard a muttered oath, but a few seconds later a slim wallet slid under the door. Ginny snatched it up, not too surprised to see a picture of the greasy haired man who'd been following her on the identification card. He was Horace P. Bloggs, special investigator. He was, according to the ID card, forty-five years old, had (greasy) brown hair, blue eyes and was five feet, eight inches tall. The emblem on the card was genuine; it was the same as her father's and Percy's. With a sigh of relief she opened the door and faced Mr. Bloggs.

"Sorry about that," she told the short man in front of her. "Please come in."

"Nothing to be sorry about," he told her morosely with a broad London accent. "More people should be so careful. Have fewer missing persons, right?"

He limped in, favoring the right leg. Ginny backed away a few steps, trying not to notice the distinct stench coming from his filthy robe. She showed him to a chair in the living room and started to sit when she noticed him staring at her legs. Her face turned bright red as she remembered her scanty attire. Excusing herself, she hurried toward her room.

"Sorry," she called, embarrassed. "Won't be a moment!"

Ginny grabbed her bathrobe and hauled it on. She unwound the towel from her hair and quickly coiled it at the back of her head, securing it with her wand. She could keep the hair out of her face and have her wand handy at the same time. She finally slipped into her house slippers and rushed back to the living room.

Mr. Bloggs was slumped in the chair, looking exhausted, apparently studying her portrait. She cleared her throat.

"What did you want to see me about, Mr. Bloggs?" she asked, perching nervously on the arm of the couch.

He pulled his spectacled gaze away from the portrait and focused the weak, watery eyes on Ginny again.

"Can't say the artist did you justice, miss," he surprised her by saying. "Not much talent, that."

Ginny bridled immediately.

"He is very talented!" she said heatedly, almost coming to her feet. She clenched her fists, then stopped herself.

"But that's neither here nor there," she continued more calmly. "You said you're from Missing Persons?"

The man was flinching back into his chair, apparently surprised at her anger. He looked from the portrait to her and back again and shook his head. Clearing his throat, he reached into a pocket. He pulled a notepad and a stub of a pencil from the pocket and flipped the pages with dirty, cigarette stained fingers. Ginny shuddered again. There was no wedding band, so Ginny couldn't blame a wife for letting this man out in such a state. But he could be on a case right now, or whatever it was the special investigators did, she told herself. He might not have had a chance to clean up. She shouldn't really judge without facts.

"Er, let's see, ah, yes, here it is." Bloggs held the notepad away from him, squinting to focus on the sloppy handwriting. "Hm, Malfoy, Draco. You filled out an MP on him?"

MP, Ginny wondered? Then she made the connection. "Oh, yes, I went with his mother to fill out the report. Why?"

She jumped up, seeming to startle the man. He sat quickly back in his chair again and glanced up nervously at her.

"Did you find him? Where is he? Is he safe?" Ginny began to pace as she fired questions at Bloggs. "Have you contacted his mother? Maybe I should send for her! It'll only take a moment!"

She hurried to the hearth, ready to start a fire so she could contact Narcissa, but a protest from Bloggs stopped her.

"Miss Weasley, please! Get a hold of yourself!" he said in a whiny voice. "Someone is with Mrs. Malfoy right now!"

"Oh," she said helplessly. She sat on the couch again and stared at the ministry man. He looked at his pad once more. Ginny frowned as a thought occurred to her.

"If you were responding to the, er, MP, why were you following me?" Ginny asked suddenly.

Bloggs looked up quickly, and started to stand up.

Ginny jumped up and pulled the wand from her hair, causing the half-dry mass to tumble around her face. She pointed the wand at him and ordered, "Stay right where you are!"

The wand was pointed directly at his heart. His bushy brown eyebrows shot up and he fell back into the chair.

"Now, miss," he said, his voice shaky. "There's no need for that! I can explain!"

"Better start talking," Ginny said sharply. "I'm not really known for my patience or my even temper!"

The man nodded. "I can believe it, miss" he whined, still clutching at his notepad.

He cleared his throat again and flipped the pages once more. "Er, you know this Malfoy fellow was in the espionage line, right?"

Ginny nodded and impatiently brushed her hair away from her face. Her wand never wavered. "Something like that."

"Er, yeah, well, seems his cover was blown. He had to disappear for a while, but his family and friends were being watched, see? I couldn't approach you until I was sure you weren't carrying an unfriendly shadow, get it?"

"You mean you were making sure none of the enemy was following me?" Ginny demanded incredulously. How would anyone know about the connection between herself and Draco?

The answer was obvious even before he explained.

"This Malfoy fellow wrote you, didn't he?"

Ginny rolled her eyes and nearly slapped herself in the forehead. Letters! Of course.

"I'm really sorry, Mr. Bloggs," she said, dropping her wand arm and feeling her cheeks grow hot. She pulled her hair up again and skewered it with the wand.

Closely watching her, Bloggs answered, "No problem, miss."

Poor man, Ginny thought. She'd probably scared him half to death. He probably thought she would blast him with her wand for no good reason. Ginny settled herself on the couch and clasped her hands together tightly.

"So, you're telling me Draco's alive? Can I see him?"

"Er, well, we've sort of lost him again," Bloggs answered nervously. "And anyway, he gave the impression that he thought you probably had more important things to worry about than him. Attractive young girl like you, probably forgot about him."

Bloggs was closing his notepad and stuffing it back into his pocket. He chanced a look at Ginny and slid back in the chair again. She was glaring at him with a look that should have been able to stop his heart. Holding up a hand in a warding off gesture, he said quickly, "Of course, I might have been mistaken!"

Ginny stood and started pacing, ignoring the dirty little man watching her so carefully.

"Stupid git," she seethed. "Couldn't even tell me to get lost himself. What did he think I was going to do? Try to force myself on him?"

Humiliating as it was to admit, Ginny realized she actually HAD been waiting for him. She'd been waiting for him to come back to her. She shook her head and continued her tirade.

"As though I want him! As though I don't have better things to do with my life than wait for him to come waltzing back into it!"

She stopped and wheeled on Bloggs. He cringed as she poked her finger into his chest.

"You can tell him for me that I don't give a damn if I ever see him again. Stupid, conceited bugger! He can rot in hell for all I care!"

Ginny spun away and stood, arms crossed, trying to get her temper back under control, and trying not to cry.

"Er, well, then, I guess I'll let myself out," Bloggs stammered. "Just one last thing."

Ginny turned back to him. "Yes?" she demanded through clenched teeth.

"Er, well, this Malfoy did give me a message for you," he said haltingly.

Ginny's eyes narrowed at the gray man sitting before her. "And that was?"

"Well, it was sort of personal, but he said it was very important. A question."

Her heart started pounding. What could be important after he'd given her the brush off? She felt light-headed and realized she had forgotten to breathe. Taking a deep breath, she said, "What?"

Bloggs leaned forward a bit. "He asked."

"What?" Ginny demanded as he paused.

"Well, he wanted to know.the colour of your knickers!"

Ginny stared, open mouthed at the man in front of her. Of all the nerve! She pulled her hand back, ready to smash that filthy mouth! Suddenly she stopped. Bloggs was watching her intently, not a trace of fear on his face. There was something wrong with his voice! It was different! A strange, impossible thought struck her. Moving so fast that Bloggs didn't have time to react, Ginny reached down and grabbed a corner of the disgusting moustache. She yanked and had the satisfaction of hearing a healthy ripping sound accompanied by a string of oaths. She looked with horrified fascination at the fake moustache that was now dangling from her fingers. The man had struggled to his feet and was cautiously touching his upper lip and examining his fingers for blood. With another rapid movement, Ginny reached up and snatched the glasses from his watery blue eyes, revealing cool gray ones.

"You BASTARD," she hissed at him. "You lied!"

Draco straightened completely, and Ginny was amazed that he'd been able to hide his six foot frame. Hell, even she'd believed he was only five eight. She looked up at the greasy brown hair. Dropping the glasses and moustache, she hooked her fingers in it.

"And is this fake, too?" she asked, giving a threatening pull.

"No!" Draco said loudly, grabbing her hand. "It's really mine!"

He pulled her hand from his hair, but didn't release it. "God, I've missed you," he breathed, pulling her hand to his lips.

Ginny snatched her hand back and shoved him , hard. His legs hit the chair and he fell backward over it, landing roughly on the floor.

"Shit! Fuck! That hurts!" he gritted through clenched teeth. He was holding his right thigh and grimacing in pain.

"Draco!" Ginny gasped, dropping to her knees and touching his hands gently.

"Shit, shit, shit!" he hissed, massaging the thigh. "God, you still fight dirty!"

Ginny felt helpless. She'd only pushed him! She hadn't meant to hurt him, but he was in real pain! She didn't know what to do to help. Instinct took over. She watched his motions, then brushed his hands aside and took over massaging. The large thigh muscle felt like it was tightly knotted. She dug her fingers into the muscle, ignoring his gasp. She kept it up until she felt the spasm subside. She then massaged more gently, but still firmly. When she heard him release a long sigh, she chanced a look at his face.

His eyes were closed, but his face was pale and covered with sweat. He looked much older, lines etched on his forehead and beside his eyes. No wonder she'd taken him for an older man. Even without the moustache and glasses, he'd changed. When Ginny pulled her hands away, he finally opened his eyes. She was still angry at his deception, but she couldn't resist the look of longing in his eyes. Touching his cheek gently, she whispered, "I've missed you, too."

He leaned forward slightly, hesitantly, cupping her cheek in his hand and pulling her mouth to his. His lips brushed hers lightly when she pulled away suddenly.

"Gods, Draco, I'm sorry, but what have you been into!?" Ginny backed away, hand over her nose and mouth. "Lord, that smells AWFUL! What is it?"

Draco blinked at her, and then looked down at the soiled robes he was wearing. "Oh, yeah," he said with a half laugh. "I needed a disguise that would keep people from looking too closely at me. It worked. My mother wouldn't even let me in the door this afternoon until I took off the moustache. You didn't suspect until I used my normal voice."

Ginny frowned. "But, why? I mean, why the disguise in the first place? And why make up such a stupid story?"

Draco's expression stiffened and Ginny realized he hadn't made it up. At least not all of it.

"You disguised yourself so you could see my reaction!" she accused. "Did you honestly think I'd forgotten you?"

"I didn't know," he said honestly. "I hadn't seen you in years. Hadn't even written. I was trying to protect you. But for all I knew, you weren't waiting for me. Lord knows why you should, either. I was just the boy who tried to steal a look at your knickers."

Ginny shook her head. What an idiot he was. "I didn't know I was waiting, but I was. You were the first boy to really kiss me. And, believe it or not, no one else could come close. I just didn't think you could still be interested."

She looked down at his leg again. He moved uncomfortably.

"What's wrong with it, anyway?" she asked, her voice shaking.

He looked down and tried to ease away from her. Ginny took his hand and pulled it to her chest, holding it tightly with both of hers.

"What happened," she asked.

"Nothing," he muttered, scooting back and leaning against the chair. He pulled his leg up and began to massage the thigh again.

Ginny looked at him, concerned.

"Draco, you were limping. That wasn't fake, either, was it?"

Letting out a sigh, he looked away.

"My cover was blown," he said finally. "I was caught and, well, things got a bit ugly. I barely escaped, and I've been working on getting healthy again. It's just taken a bit of time."

Ginny's mouth dropped open. She could only stare for a minute. Finally, she choked out, "They tortured you? Who was it? Do I know them?"

Draco studied her angry face and gave her a small smile. She looked ready to go out and take on all of Voldemort's remaining supporters herself.

"Don't worry, Ginny," he reassured her. "They're all gone." The smile hardened as he added, "I made sure of it."

She nodded, casually accepting the fact that he had as good as told her that he had destroyed the people responsible for his capture. She looked intently at his face.

"Well, then," she said, finally. "Let's get you cleaned up. You shower and I'll finish making supper."

She stood up and then bent to help him up. She didn't seem to notice the way her bathrobe gaped away as she bent. Draco did, though. As he grabbed her arms, his eyes seemed glued to her bosom. She pulled him up and he leaned heavily on her shoulder, still transfixed.

"Uh, hello, Draco?" Ginny grinned and waved a hand in front of his face, knowing that her shirt was buttoned almost to the neck. Whatever he thought he saw was only his imagination.

"Um, it's not blue or black," she quipped when he finally brought his eyes back to her face.

His blank expression was replaced by one of sheepish embarrassment.

"Just wondering, you know."

"Yeah, well, you can keep on wondering, lover-boy," Ginny declared, leading him toward the bathroom. "Smelling like you do, you're not getting close enough to find out!"

Draco chuckled. "This will be the shortest shower in history!"

They made it to the bathroom and Draco released her shoulder. Ginny grabbed a large towel for him, then shed the thick terry robe she was wearing.

"Good thing its not pink with hearts and flowers," she joked, handing the garment over.

He wasn't paying attention. He was staring at her legs again, his eyes traveling up to the hem of the man's shirt and then down again.

"That, er, doesn't belong to an old boyfriend, does it?" he asked suddenly.

Ginny frowned. "What?" She glanced at the shirt and realized what he was talking about. "Oh, no. I bought it at the second hand store! Perfect for lounging in."

Draco sighed, relieved. He doubted she was still a virgin, but he didn't like the idea that she had liked some bloke well enough to keep his clothes. God, he'd missed so much, but he couldn't see how he could have changed anything. Giving her another playful leer, he said, "Don't suppose I could take a quick peek?"

He was eying the hem of the shirt again, reaching out with one filthy hand. She slapped it away, none too gently.

"Not a chance. Take a shower, preferably a cold one, then come eat some supper. Then we'll talk."

Ginny turned away and headed back to the kitchen. She knew he was watching her; she could feel it. But she resisted the urge to turn around. She wanted a few minutes to herself to accept the reality that Draco Malfoy was in her flat; he was in her bathroom right now, using her shampoo and soap! She added the pasta to the boiling water and heated the pre-packaged sauce. Slicing the loaf of bread length-wise, she smeared butter across the halves, then sprinkled chopped garlic over the top. She set the bread to toast slowly and prepared a large salad. When she heard the water in the shower stop, her heart started pounding. He'd be out in a few minutes.

God, what would she say to him? Once she realized who he was, she'd been torn between anger at his deception and relief and joy that he was back, safe. And he'd come here, to see her, almost before seeing his own mother! She tried to think clearly, but what she really wanted to do was to throw herself at him, drag him to her bed, and rip his clothes off! Which she couldn't, of course, do. He'd think she was a lunatic, and besides, they still barely knew each other. Ginny was concentrating on stirring the pasta and trying to sort out her own chaotic thoughts. She didn't hear him enter the kitchen and nearly spilled the contents of the pot on both of them when he slipped his arms around her from behind.

"Easy, easy," he whispered in her ear, pulling her gently away from the stove.

"God, Draco, you scared me! Let go! I have to drain it or it'll congeal into a lump."

He released her and she pulled the pot off the stove. She dumped the pasta into a colander in the sink, rinsing it off briskly. She didn't dare look at him. She knew she was flushed and he'd see it in an instant. But she felt him come up behind her again.

"Is it safe now?" he asked, not touching her.

"Er, yes, but we should eat while its hot."

Draco stepped back and Ginny tossed the drained pasta into a large bowl. She poured the sauce over the top and quickly mixed them together. Taking the pasta and the salad to her small table, she set them down and then went for serving utensils and plates.

"Could you take the bread out of the oven?" she asked, finally turning to look at him.

She almost gasped, but caught herself. He was wearing her bathrobe, but loosely. His chest was clearly visible, as well as several inches of his lower legs. Both were pale and well muscled, but she could still see several scars; some fading, some still livid. She felt the anger coming back. What had those animals done to him? She looked away quickly when he turned from the oven, oven mitt on his hand, holding the pan of toasted bread.

"Where do you want this," he asked casually.

"Er, just set it on the counter, and I'll slice it up. Do you want salad?"

She was trying to stay busy, so she wouldn't cry. When she felt him standing behind her, she froze.

"I'm sorry if the scars upset you," he said quietly.

"The scars don't upset me," she said stoutly. "They make me angry as hell! I'd like to tear the bastards apart."

He grinned, the tension between them easing a bit.

"It's all right, really. A few weeks and they'll be practically gone."

She wanted to cry. She wanted to turn around and wrap him in her arms and hold him. She only sighed, though, when his arms slipped around her again, one arm wrapping around her waist while the other moved higher. She felt his fingers moving on the top button of the shirt, but she didn't stop him. Instead, she covered his hands with hers and leaned back to look at him.

Without the hair dye, and with the grime washed away, Draco almost looked like the boy she'd known. But the lines were there, etched into his skin by whatever he'd been dealing with for the last few years. His eyes, though, were shades darker than normal as he watched her watching him.

"I'm not really all that hungry," he said huskily. "My mother fed me this afternoon."

"You must have seen her after lunch. She didn't say a word to me." Ginny told him breathlessly.

"I was waiting for her when she got home."

Ginny was about to ask how it went when Draco slipped a hand into the front of the shirt. His mouth moved along her cheek to her jaw, trailing light, feathery kisses.

Suddenly Ginny didn't want to know about Narcissa. She tried to turn in his arms, but he held her where she was.

"Not yet, Ginny. I've dreamed about holding you like this for years."

Ginny relaxed against his chest, curling one of her arms up, behind his head, to pull his mouth to hers. When their lips met, Ginny felt a wave of desire crash over her. Her memories had been right. He was the most exciting man she'd ever kissed!

He finally pulled her around, into his arms. He caught her lips again and crushed her to him. His mouth was soft at first, but grew more demanding. Dragging his hands down her back, he gripped her bottom and pulled her even more tightly against him, his fingers kneading her soft curves.

Ginny's hands were busy as well. She slipped them into the robe he was wearing, caressing his hard chest, feeling his heart pounding. She dipped her hands lower, pushing the material aside, until she came to the robe's tie. Before she could untie it, Draco broke away.

Ginny looked shyly up into his eyes, even more unsure of herself than she'd been all those years ago. He smiled gently at her and cupped her face in his hands.

"Maybe you should eat," he murmured. "You'll need your strength!"

Grinning and blushing, Ginny backed away slightly.

"I suddenly don't feel hungry," she said.

But she caught one of his hands and pulled him to a chair.

"I suppose you're right, though. Besides, I want to talk."

She watched him limp to the chair and sit. He still looked tired, but he no longer looked absolutely exhausted. She smiled and sat opposite him. Serving both of them, she pushed his plate across to him. He started to decline.

"I told you my mot--,"

"Carbohydrates give you strength and stamina," she quipped.

He gave her a huge, leering smile and made a show of eating heartily. Ginny couldn't help giggling. She had no idea whether pasta was good for stamina or not, but he did look too thin. After a few bites, though, Ginny put her fork down.

"Look, Draco," she began.

He looked up at her and she faltered to a stop. She'd been about to say something about them not really knowing each other; about having to catch up with the other before things became intimate. The look in his eyes just took her breath away. She saw sexual hunger, yes, but there was more. She saw longing and pain and even, possibly, love.

"What is it, Ginny?" he asked, his voice anxious. "Is something wrong?"

Ginny got up and stood in front of him. He watched her, not moving. She reached out and pulled his head to her abdomen, cradling him against her like she would a tired child. He wrapped his arms around her and buried his face against her, releasing a deep sigh.

"I dreamed about you, you know," he murmured. "You're what I see when I close my eyes. The painting is nothing to the reality."

Ginny shivered. She felt a surge of emotion, very much like love, threaten to overwhelm her. She'd never, in all her wildest dreams, imagined that he would still think of her. Even though he was never far from her thoughts, she always imagined that he would forget about her. Her hold tightened momentarily, and then she pulled away. Cupping his face in her hands, she leaned down and brushed a soft kiss across his brow. They could talk about the future later. Right now, she needed him desperately.

"Are you back to stay, then," she asked.

"Only if you want me," he answered seriously. Too seriously.

Ginny didn't like the shadows that were collecting behind his eyes. She smiled brightly and drew him up from the chair.

"You look like you need to lie down," she drawled in a silky voice. "To, er, rest that leg. Let me show you to the bedroom."

He followed her eagerly, but stopped her at the door. Pulling her into his arms once more, he let his hands wander down her spine. When they were resting on the curve of her bottom, he whispered in her ear.

"You know, you never answered my question."

Ginny frowned. What question?

"Of course I want you to stay, Draco," she whispered, thinking that was what he'd meant.

Brushing his lips over hers, he smiled again. "That's good to know, but that's the wrong question."

One hand slipped to her hem and under it. "What colour are your knickers, Miss Weasley?" he joked.

Then his hand froze and his face took on a look of amazed excitement. She gave him a playful grin and wrapped her arms around his neck.

"Actually," she breathed, watching his face as he moved his other hand up her thigh. "The colour right now is non-existent!"