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Bare Naked by dee
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Author's Notes:
Thanks to Blythe, who encouraged the flimsiest bunny ever (and also wrote Pansy). But biggest thanks to Sloane, who practically wrote this with me, and bludgeoned me to death with my OKs. Beloved Nazi that she is.
Let me see you stripped down to the bone,
Let me hear you speaking just for me.

- Depeche Mode, "Stripped"


Draco thought that if he hadn't already poured half a bottle of firewhiskey into Blaise, there's no way in hell the guy would have let himself be led around blindfolded. For very good reason; but actually, Draco had no other motive tonight than making sure this thing went off perfectly. After all, anything worth doing was worth doing impeccably, and that went double for being Best Man.

With a flourish, he whipped off the blindfold. As Blaise blinked, the huddle around the tables obligingly lifted their glasses and bellowed a variety of greetings, cheers, jeers and encouragement.

Blaise looked around, taking in the assembled crowd and then the rest of the place; the mirrors, the lights, the bar, the stage, the poles, the girls wrapping themselves with licentious disdain around the poles. His eyes went wider than Draco had seen them since they figured out how to transfigure a wall into a two-way mirror.

"This is--" Blaise said, some sort of awe in his voice. "But how did you--?"

"Ask and you shall receive," Draco said, clapping him on the shoulder, and Ted stood up from the tables and grabbed Blaise's arm, dragging him up to the place of honour.

Draco went to the bar, ordering a vodka tonic for himself and something hideously colourful, alcoholic and garnished with a pink umbrella for Blaise. At the tables, the girls were already circling like sharks. (Bucks nights were better than blood in the water.)

If Draco hadn't had the other half of the bottle of firewhiskey, he might be wondering what the fuck he was doing here. But Blaise had spent forty-five minutes one day - Draco remembered it with the vivid surreality of a dream you were sure you were going to wake up from any minute - waxing rhapsodic about the whole concept of Muggle strip clubs, so Draco figured that it was the least he could do, on Blaise's last official night of unmarried freedom.

Draco wasn't sure about it, himself. Not the Muggle thing, because he was quite willing to admit that when it came to the more innocuous and seedy of the sordid pleasures, Wizardkind could step aside for Muggle ingenuity. Just... the whole thing. Yes, the girls were interesting. Fine - he amended, watching the nearest girl on stage, a gyrating brunette, stretch and twist - very interesting. Nigh on fascinating.


But there was something lacking. It wasn't... personal.

The drinks arrived, and Draco took them back to the table, sliding in next to the groom and almost spilling the lot as Blaise grabbed his elbow and yanked him down. "You're the best, man!" he half-shouted over the music.

"That's the point," Draco replied.

Blaise laughed, took a slug of his drink, and went back to ogling the lissome blonde undulating past the table.

But that was all right. That was what they were here for.

Coming back from the gents, later (Draco hadn't bothered taking his leave from the party, but then, no one would have noticed. Certainly not Blaise, who'd been enjoying an almost-lapful of Turkish delight when he'd left) Draco glanced up at the girls on stage. Just a glance, because, well, even tits and arse and the perfect sweep of a honed and flexed thigh could get old.

And then he looked again.

It was the hair that grabbed attention, a blazing sweep of copper-red that flashed under the lights as it was tossed back over a pale shoulder. Pale, such an expanse of pale skin, divided and highlighted by the stark black strings of the few bits of stuff she was wearing. Black boots with four inch stilettos reached nearly to the knee she had hooked around the silver pole.

Draco's eyes slid back up to her face; dramatic make-up that couldn't ruin the sharp lines of her face, and her eyes, wild and dark and looking right back at him.

Just for a moment, and then she was twirling around the pole, sliding down it with blatant sensuality and her red hair flying, and Draco turned away, pushing through the crowd back to his table, where Blaise slung an arm around his neck, saying, "Draco! Where you been? You know they have private rooms in this place? You need a drink?"

Draco didn't think he did. Obviously he was drunk enough, too drunk, or else he'd never have thought, even for a moment, that that had been the Weasley girl.

The Zabini-Parkinson wedding was, the society pages of the Daily Prophet declared, absolutely the event of the season, possibly of the year; not even the Malfoy Midsummer garden party would be able to top it. (When she'd read that, Narcissa had closed the newspaper quietly, finished her tea, and disappeared into her study, a steady stream of drapers, caterers and dolphin wranglers arriving to see her during the day. Draco hadn't asked, just pointed them in the right direction.)

Draco, of course, couldn't enjoy the gossip-session in the church, because he was busy being paced at in the vestry. He sprawled (carefully, so as not to disturb his robes) in an armchair, watching Blaise wear the carpet thin.

"What am I doing?" Blaise was muttering. "I'm twenty-one. What the fuck am I doing, getting married? I'm insane."

"Yep," Draco agreed. He understood this part of the proceedings was as traditional as the exchange of rings, or the cutting of the cake, or the bit where the father of the bride threatened to dismember the groom if his little girl was made unhappy (or maybe that was only a Malfoy tradition, which would help explain why there were no divorces in Draco's family tree). In any case, there wasn't really much point in him getting excited about the temperature of Blaise's feet.

"Just one thing," Draco said, and Blaise paused mid-pace, looking over to him. "If you bail out on this and leave me to marry her in your stead, there will be nowhere on earth you can hide from me."

The door opened, and the beaming, beatific priest popped his head in. "We're ready for you, gentlemen."

The service, Draco was reliably informed after the fact by no fewer than five witches, was absolutely beautiful. He had to admit that Pansy looked remarkably pretty. It all went off without a hitch, once he'd kicked Blaise's ankle and Blaise had shaken the glazed look off his face. They signed the register, and Draco clapped Blaise on the shoulder and said congratulations, and found himself flailing in a bear-hug two seconds later.

The reception certainly was a really big thing. Draco suspected the Prophet report would use words like "dazzling" and "gala", and possibly even "spectacle". The dinner was course after course of exquisitely presented tidbits, and the champagne quite literally flowed like water (there were hand-pumps on each table with a fluttering cherub to operate them).

After that, inescapably, there was dancing. The women always seemed far more interested in this than the men, and for a bizarre, dislocating moment, Draco thought of the club last night.

And then Pansy was dragging him onto the floor and, as she pointed out, it was her night and he didn't get to say no to her.

"Jealous, sweetheart?" she asked, with that single-eyebrow lift that always used to herald a really good sniping session.

"Of Blaise?" Draco asked, playing dumb.

"Lost your chance now," she added, curling a finger through the fine hair at his nape.

Draco tugged against her grip. "I'm devastated," he said, and she preened. He watched her, and frowned. "Do you think you're going to be happy?"

That actually surprised her, her face flicking blank for a moment. "Happy?" And then she laughed. "That is such a... a... a settling sort of word. If Blaise makes me happy, I'll divorce him out of boredom."

Draco laughed along with her. "You actually manage to make matrimony sound appealing."

She smirked at him. "Well, the rate you're going through girls, you're never going to get a chance to try anyway."

"I'm going to take holy vows and retire to the Pyrenees for a life of contemplation," he quipped back.

"That why you didn't bring someone tonight?" It had all the hallmarks of an innocent question, but Draco knew Pansy better than anyone in the world.

"No," he said easily. "I didn't bring someone because it's my job as best man to try to snog both the bridesmaids."

Pansy looked lazily unconvinced. "You hate Eurydice and if you try anything with Sabine, Blaise will kill you."

"I don't think he'd even notice, tonight," Draco said, with smiling emphasis, and she blushed very prettily, and also, because this was Pansy, after all, very smugly.

He danced with Eurydice as well, Pansy's cousin with whom he'd had a bitter enmity since she beat him at musical chairs at Pansy's eighth birthday party. She glowered right back at him, and they traded insults agreeably all the way around the dancefloor. After that, he danced with Sabine, Blaise's baby sister, who'd grown up quite a while ago and who filled out her bridesmaid's robes in a way she was obviously aware men found rather interesting.

But she had Blaise's dark Mediterranean complexion, and Pansy had chosen blue for her bridesmaids, not black, and Sabine's hair was more auburn than copper.

Stupid as it was to be thinking like that, even stupider would be whisking his best friend's sister out into the shrubbery just to prove a point.

When Draco got into the office on Monday, Ted was reading the paper with his feet up on his desk. "You made the society pages again," he said, flipping newsprint.

Draco set his coffee cup down on his own desk, and circled to read over Ted's shoulder. There was a picture of Blaise and Pansy, of course, him looking alternately smug and bored, her wicked and demure. Draco scanned the text, finding a dizzying spectacle attracting the dazzling elite of society; "Hah, I was right," he said.

"Here you are," Ted said, ignoring him (as usual) and pointing to halfway down the final column of text.

Draco leaned in to read. "Master Malfoy blah blah partnerless blah blah pining? I never pine, thank you very much. Blah blah, oh she wishes, blah blah, did I really dance three times with Rosalba?"

"How the fuck should I know?" Ted said, flipping back to the page with the cryptic crossword on it. "Great bucks night, by the way. Well done."

Draco headed back to his own desk. "Yeah, thanks." He took a swig of coffee, and poked at the pile of quivering violet inter-departmental memos on his desk.

"How'd you even find that place?"

Offering a glib smile, Draco reclined in his chair. "I have my ways."

The quick click of approaching heels in the corridor, and both Ted and Draco glanced at the door (over newspaper and coffee-cup rim respectively) as Penny Clearwater stuck her head around the frame. "I need one of you," she said.

"We come as a package deal," Ted said, looking back at his crossword and reaching for his quill. Draco started opening his mail, adding one memo to a file, scribbling a response on another and flicking it back into the air.

"Ha bloody ha," she said, ducking the departing memo as she stepped into the doorway fully, tapping a roll of parchment on her thigh like a truncheon. "Those idiots down at Games and Sports have bollocksed it up again, but I have reports to do for tomorrow's meeting and I can't go down and explain it in person, so I thought, since you two never do anything useful--"

"Flattery will get you everywhere," Draco said.

"Who's it being delivered to?" Ted asked idly, filling in an answer. Incorrectly, apparently, because the newspaper blew a raspberry at him.

"Not that idiot Ackerley, thank Christ, which is who I've been dealing with," Penny said, talking smoothly over the top of Ted's screeching abuse. ("Whaddya mean, it's not shingle? Of course it's fucking shingle, you useless fish-and-chip wrapper!") She waved the roll of parchment. "This one's to go to Ron Weasley."

Draco stood up, holding out his hand as he drained his coffee. "I'll go." She looked surprised, and he shrugged. "I've already finished my reports for tomorrow."

Weasley had an office to himself in the tangled corridors of level seven. The door was half-open, so Draco rapped his knuckles against the doorframe, and Ron said, "Just a minute, Hector," and looked up from the fireplace. "Malfoy." He blinked. "What an unpleasant surprise."

Draco held up the roll of parchment. "Playing inter-departmental message boy."

"Oh, of course. I've been expecting... someone." He pulled a face, and turned back to the head-and-shoulders in the fire. "Got to run, Hector. But deal with it, all right? This isn't me being unreasonable, it's them, but I will have you up before the board if you keep dragging your feet."

Hector, looking sullen, disappeared. Weasley turned away from the fireplace. "So, Malfoy." He sat down behind his desk. "It's been a while."

"It has," Draco agreed, coming into the office fully. "How's the family?"

"Do you care?" Weasley asked, making a note on a bit of parchment before closing the file on it and tossing the lot into a tray.

"Not really," Draco admitted, and it was only a fraction of it a lie. He held out the parchment. "Your official telling-off. I'm to liaise with you and make sure it's absolutely clear. Penny was rather hysterical about the idea of another misunderstanding."

Ron unrolled the parchment and started reading (amazingly neither moving his lips nor tracing the lines with a fingertip). Draco took the opportunity to look around properly. Not as big as his and Ted's office. Then again, Ron didn't share. Not a square inch of wallspace not covered with a Quidditch poster. Ridiculous. Draco wandered over to check the details on an action shot of Aiden Lynch (who took a pause from his swooping to pose under Draco's scrutiny - poncy git).

The tap of a quill against an inkpot behind him. "When it says 'acceptable margin'--?"

"We find the usual ten percent can be written off as coincindence," Draco said, moving on to a team poster of the Appleby Arrows. The Beaters appeared to be attempting to give the Keeper a wedgie. Draco raised his eyebrows, and they sidled off towards the edges of the poster, looking sheepish.

Why the hell was Draco down here? It's not like he could say, 'So, Weasley, about your sister... what was her name again?'

Draco leaned against the corner of Weasley's desk, cocking his head to see where the reading was up to. Ron twitched the parchment with an irritation like habit. "Do you mind?"

"Have to make sure you understand it," Draco said pleasantly.

"It's all perfectly bloody straightforward," Weasley was saying, when the half-open door to his office was pushed the whole way open.

Both of them turned to look, and in came a young woman dressed all in pale violet with her copper-red hair braided down her back. "Ron, look, sorry, but I--" Her eyes fell on Draco, and she gasped: "Shit!" Jumping backwards out of the room, she pulled the door shut with a bang.

Weasley scowled suspiciously at him, and Draco blinked back and tilted his head enquiringly towards the door. Ron stomped over to it, and dragged it open again. Outside, the young woman spun around, hands falling away from her face. "Ginny, what the hell are you doing?"

Ginny; Ginevra. Of course, yes, that was her name. Draco remained where he was, leaning against the corner of Weasley's desk, as she said something about not meaning to interrupt, just wanting to tell him that she wouldn't be home for dinner, some of the others were going out for a drink. She was wearing, he noticed, the violet tracksuit of training gear, with the Ministry insignia emblazoned on the chest.

She glanced at Draco once, just a dart of her eyes past her brother's shoulder, that then ricocheted away when she noticed he was watching her. But even before that, he knew. It had been her he'd seen at the club (her pale skin, her hair). And she'd seen him too.

When she'd gone, and Ron turned back, shaking his head in transparent perplexity, Draco stood up. "Well then, I'm sure you can handle that. Talk to you later."

Which didn't improve Weasley's confusion at all, but that wasn't any concern of Draco's, now was it?

Ordinary people, he supposed, would owl her, ask her out for a drink.

Draco went back to the club that Friday.

"Looking for a girl," he said to the bartender as vodka-tonic and money changed hands, and the bartender gave him a sharply amused look. Draco smirked. "A specific one. Not too tall, pale skin, red hair." Nice boots.

The guy jerked his chin towards the stage. "Virginia," he said. "She's up next."

Draco turned to look, and watched the changing of the guard on stage (far more interesting than anything that ever happened at Buckingham Palace). And there, over on the right, the flash of flaming red hair. Same boots. Wearing a couple of artful twists of green and purple beads tonight.

He found a table, on her side of the room, towards the back, as she hooked a knee around the pole, arched over backwards, body a taut curve, hair falling towards the stage. There were other girls up there, half a dozen of them, twined around their poles like boa constrictors. But they didn't hold his attention long, his gaze sliding back to her - Ginny Weasley - and goddamn, she had not looked like that at school. Ever. Had she? Freckles, he thought. She had freckles. Plenty of skin available to check (as she curved herself around the pole, stretched out a leg, toe pointed) but he couldn't tell from here. She was just pale and arresting, under the lights.

Had she seen him? He couldn't tell.

The guard changed again, and not too long afterwards, the newly-relieved girls were filtering out onto the floor. Draco watched Ginny saunter through the crowd, sway of hips and jingle of beads, to the bar. Where the bartender gave her a glass of champagne and a nod in Draco's direction. She tossed back the alcohol, and turned his way without looking. Watching close, and when her eyes met his she didn't flinch, didn't even look surprised, just kept striding towards him. Draco nudged his chair out, raised an eyebrow. She stopped beside the other chair at the table, weight and a hand on one hip and yes, yes she did have freckles, spattered all over her skin, her shoulders, the swell of her breasts, her stomach, the arc of her hip.

He looked back at her face, and she said, "I should tell the Daily Prophet."

Draco smiled. "I should tell your brother."

Ginny didn't even flinch. "I should call security."

"That any way to treat a paying customer?" Draco asked, already reaching for his pocket.

So when she snorted and said, "You don't have any Muggle m--" he was holding up a twenty, the silly paper folded between thumb and finger, and she swallowed the rest of it. Looked at him, steady brown eyes, and he looked back, the money between them.

Then she took a step forward and lifted her knee, nudged her toe in beside his thigh as she braced her foot against his chair. Draco ran an admiring eye down her thigh, and tucked the note into the top of her boot, rubbing his thumb over the leather.

She leaned back. "Come on, then."

It wasn't precisely a private room, more a collection of semi-private corners, but it was the illusion that mattered, right? There were only two other "couples" in the room, and Draco couldn't see them at all once he relaxed back into the chair Ginny led him to.

The beat of the music was the faintest undulating pulse in her muscles. She ran purple-manicured fingers down her torso. "You know the rules, don't you Draco?" His attention jerked back to her face; her smile was the close relative of a sneer. "You aren't allowed to touch me."

She started moving in earnest, a roll of her hips, not much more than before but with intention now, and of course - of course, and she knew, didn't she? - as soon as she told him he couldn't he wanted to. "Virginia's awful close to your real name, isn't it?" Draco said, wondering if he was trying to distract himself.

"I honestly didn't expect anyone I knew to come anywhere near this place," Ginny said, raising her arms, lifting her hair up to let it spill down again, over her shoulders. She stepped closer, in between his knees and leaned forwards, tilting her head, her hair brushing over his arm like a swathe of fire. "Of course," she added, lower, "the punters love it, the virgin girl getting her kit off for them." Like an example, she slid a thumb under the beaded strap on her shoulder, letting it drop down her arm. The way she pressed her arm across her body, smoothing her palm down her thigh, pushed her breasts up further and the valley of her cleavage was begging to have his thumb smoothed along it.

His hand was barely two inches off the armrest of the chair when Ginny said, "Ah!" and raised an admonishing eyebrow, stepping back (out of reach). Draco hadn't even realised he'd been moving. Returned the hand to the armrest, gripped firmly.

She stepped back again, hooking her thumb under the other strap. Shimmied a little, a twitch of her hip catching Draco's attention, and when he looked up again, she'd peeled the straps down her arms, half baring her breasts. She leaned forward, hands on thighs, eyes on him.

"Do you enjoy this?" he asked.

Her smirk widened into a smile. "Hell yes," she said, and simply sank, down into a crouch, hands skimming along the inside of her thighs, knees spread. "Of course, this is the first time I've performed in front of someone I know." And back up again. "Not that I really know you, of course."

She turned, hips rolling, and just as Draco was distracted by the flash of the beads over her buttocks, the shadows they cast on her thighs, he realised she had her top off, dangling it off one finger as she turned back again.

"You don't," Draco agreed, not paying any attention to what his mouth was saying, just as long as it wasn't saying what he was thinking.

Ginny stepped forward again, dropping the slither of beads that had been her top beside his chair as she wedged a knee between the chair arm and his thigh, straddling his lap. Arched her back slightly, hands in her hair again, the riotous tumble, and his hand was up, ready to cover her spine, feel the skin of her lower back, and she just looked at him, eyebrows arched. "Rules say no," she pointed out, rolling her hips not nearly close enough to his.

"They do," he agreed again, but he left his hand where it was, almost feeling the heat off her body, and he watched her eyes, her burning brown eyes, because rules said, did they? And what did Ginny say?

She spun away, brushing past his hand (a whisk of warm skin against his fingers). She was dancing wild, with abandon, a twisting undulation of flesh that he appreciated (hell yes did he appreciate it) but what he was watching was her face, as she tossed her hair, looked back over her shoulder (at him). She'd hooked her thumbs under the beads at her hips, offering teasing glimpses.

She watched him. Kept his gaze as she turned side-on, bending forward from the waist. The stretch of her thigh was impossibly elongated. She slid the twine of beads down and off in one smooth movement, and then she was naked, but for the boots, the only thing on her skin her own hands as she danced. As she caught his eye again, strutted towards him, lifting her knee to lean her booted foot on the edge of his chair, between his lolling thighs. She looked down at him with a challenge in her eyes, and how could Draco not answer?

He tucked two fingers in the top of her boot and tugged. Ginny half-wobbled, tilted forward, balanced herself with a palm against the back of the chair, just beside his head. She arched over him, a sky made of pale, freckled skin, and his palm itched with wanting to touch her, to splay fingers over her stomach and slide up, between her breasts (and they were heaving with her breath; she'd been exerting herself). He wondered, if it were allowed, would he still want to so much?

"Draco," Ginny said, half steady. She looked down at him, her face shadowed and unreadable, and then she added, "You should go." There were sequins on her face, Draco noticed for the first time. Two of them, beside the outer corner of each eye. They glittered, and he wanted to lick them off. They'd taste like deception; salt sweat and bitter glue.

"That's not how this works," he said, fingers still pressed between leather and her skin. "By my reckoning, I've still got a good two minutes to go."

She didn't move. Didn't lean back. Didn't try to move his hand. "I will have you kicked out of here."

He kept her gaze for a long, beat-pressed moment - not a blink - and then smiled, looking down as he delved into his pocket with his other hand. "I'll go," he said, tucking a second folded twenty-pound note into her boot, letting it go. "But every dance you do tonight's going to be a little bit for me."

She stepped back, out of his space. Laughed. "You're still arrogant, Malfoy."

He stood up too, straightening his coat with a smile. "Yes, but am I wrong?"

A short check in the Ministry directory on Monday morning told Draco what he suspected. He went down to the (heavily warded) Auror training chamber. As he came down the corridor, the trainees were starting to filter out from their morning session, all in their violet tracksuits. The first ones out (probably dashing off for a smoke, one do-gooder obviously heading for the library) eyed Draco speculatively, but these were third-year trainees, too aged for true uncertainty.

And there was Ginny, not even hitching in her conversation as she spotted him leaning against the wall. He waited; she came to him, not quite walking the easy, capable lope of her fellow Aurors. There was just a hint of strut, the slightest preen to her gait. "People will talk," she said.

"Lunch?" Draco asked. She looked surprised, so he added, "I enjoyed our chat the other night."

"I thought that was just because I wasn't wearing any clothes," she said, and a trainee walking past dropped a book. Draco watched him pick it up and hurry off, then turned back to Ginny, eyebrow raised. She said, "I'll just get changed."

They went to a cafe Draco knew nearby - small, cozy, discreet, not much patronised by other members of the Ministry. Draco wasn't at all ashamed of being seen together, but he wondered, as she settled into her chair opposite him, if the same was true of Ginny. In any case, the place did a quick lunch, and had an excellent wine list.

Ginny dangled a hand over the arm of her chair, eyed the place so thoroughly Draco might have wondered if she was planning on going into business herself. "Bring all your cheap girls here?" she asked, after their orders were taken and the wine was brought (offered, sampled, poured for them).

"Forty pounds for a few minutes isn't my idea of cheap," Draco remarked.

Not even the hint of a blush, and he watched for it. Hadn't she been easier to embarrass at school? Didn't he remember that? She just smirked and picked up her glass. "Sorry." She didn't sound it. "Didn't mean to insult your standards."

"I don't usually do lunches," Draco said. "Unless they're meetings. Mostly Ted and I use the opportunity to rifle our boss's desk looking for useful tidbits."

A snort of laughter was stifled behind Ginny's hand. "You're kidding," she stated.

Draco just smiled, and leaned back as the waitress placed his plate before him. The waitress went through the checklist of parmesan, black pepper, anything else? to a string of refusals.

Miffed, she finally left, and Ginny picked up her fork, not really giving it her full attention as she eyed Draco speculatively across the table. "Why did you invite me to lunch, then?"

Draco shrugged. "Why are you a stripper?"

That got him a dirty look. "Are the two things related?" she demanded. Before he could finish chewing enough to answer, she twitched her fork dismissively, and said, "It's not something I am, anyway. It's just something I do."

Even with her hair dragged back, her face plain, wearing everyday robes that she might have had passed down to her by someone... even with all that, there was something wild and bright in her eyes, and Draco wanted to disagree. Instead, he said, "Fine then. Why do you strip?"

"The money," Ginny said simply, spearing a snow pea and holding it up like a challenge. "Do you have any idea how much they pay Auror trainees?"

"Fuck all?" Draco guessed. "But they tell me money can't buy happiness."

"It can buy independence. It can get me my own place. That'll do for starters." She finished her glass of wine. "I suppose you still live at home with your parents."

"Parent," Draco countered. "Singular. Remember?"

From the way she wouldn't meet his eye, concentrating on her lunch, he figured she had remembered. "Sorry," she muttered.

"Don't be." Draco poured again for both of them. "I'm not. And I wouldn't call what my mother and I do 'living together'. She spends the majority of her time at the Manor, and I stay mostly here in town."

"Lucky you."

Draco shrugged. "What's so good about independence?"

Ginny snorted. "There speaks an only child. I'm the youngest of seven, Malfoy, and the only girl. I'm living with Ron and Hermione right now, which is only good compared to the fact that I never had two moments to myself at home."

She sat back suddenly, tried to cover her tirade with a diffident shrug. The gesture irritated Draco. He stifled the urge to reach across and tilt her chin back up to its defiant angle.

A moment later, Ginny did it herself, tossing her hair (or trying to; less effective when it was braided back). "Anyway, that's what I want, and I'm going to get it. What about you?"

He blinked. "Me?"

"I'm sure you have ambitions," she said more like a demand. "Perfect society marriage, like your friends? A promotion... what department are you in again? What do you want?"

Draco watched the freckles on her unpainted face and remembered them scattered all over her as she leaned, discomposed, sweat-sheened, over him. "I want to fuck you while you're wearing those boots and nothing else."

Her hand didn't falter, bringing her wine glass up for a long sip. But when the waitress broke in over the table, clearing the plates, Ginny looked away, taking a breath Draco couldn't hear over the chink of cutlery on china.

They came back with everyone else. The lift was crowded to capacity, Ginny pressed back into Draco, her hand very near his on the rail. She fit against him, her shoulders between and in front of his, that body he'd seen naked. He watched her pulse throb in her throat.

"Stop," she whispered, not turning.

Draco kept his hands on the rail, in his pocket. "Going to call security?" he asked, quiet in the space beside her ear. The lift reached a floor and the population shifted. She moved, tilted, her hip pressing back against his. Tell me I can see you again, he didn't say.

Silence stretched in their corner of the lift; she didn't move away from him. Eventually, she said, the faintest movement of her lips, "I still owe you half a dance."

"Is that what you want?" Draco asked. Leaned over her shoulder a little, tilting his mouth close enough that when he spoke no one else in the lift could hear. "Me back in that chair?" In front of her, watching her and not touching? "Is that what you want, Virginia?"

Her eyes were closed, but her breath was steady, and Draco thought she was going to say yes, and he wasn't sure what he would do.

Then the lift tinged, announced the floor - hers - and the doors opened. Ginny turned, looked him in the eye, said, "I finish at one on Friday night."

She left; the door closed.

At one in the morning that part of Muggle London was just hitting its stride, people coming and going in varying stages of drunken excess. (Mostly men, but not all, Draco was idly interested to note.)

Ginny came out alone, pausing to let a couple stagger by and taking the opportunity to scan the street. She was dressed in normal Muggle clothes, a pinstripe shirt and a knee-length skirt, but her hair was down and she was still wearing the boots, the heels crisp and sharp on the pavement as she came across the street towards him. Her hips swung, and her eyes weighed heavy on him, pressing against his chest and making each breath a little harder to get.

Draco stepped forward off the wall, but when she reached him, she pushed him back again, her momentum carrying on as she stepped right up into his space, her hand at his neck, her breath against his mouth for the moment before she kissed him.

For a moment it was simple -- not innocent, never chaste, pressed to his surprise-parted lips with Ginny's fervour. But for a moment, that's all it was. Then Draco leaned forward, sliding a hand into her hair as he angled his mouth against hers. Kissed her back. As if he could have stopped himself (even had he for one idiotic moment been inclined to).

Draco gathered her to him (as her hands slid over him), hand in her hair, at the small of her back. Her tongue darted against his, the kiss tangling. Ginny tasted like she'd been drinking cheap champagne, dry and tacky under her tongue, and she leaned against him, her whole body. That body he'd wanted to touch so badly when it was forbidden. That body he'd seen naked. Draco hadn't been nearly prepared for this, for the fact that she could kiss him so wild and sure.

He thought about her thinking about this. About her dancing tonight for a dozen different men and all the while thinking of kissing him like this. Every movement of her body somehow his. His hand hip tightened on her hip, pulling her closer even as he pressed his thigh between hers. She hitched in a tiny breath against his cheek and kissed him more fiercely, Draco's tongue matching hers as--

"'ere, knock it off!"

The interruption was like ice down his spine, and even worse was Ginny slipping out of his grasp. But she kept hold of his hand as she turned to face the fellow who'd spoken. One of two Muggles, standing a little way off and wearing strange matching dark blue suits. Draco blinked at them and tried to pull himself together.

"Sorry, constable," Ginny said, sounding... Draco didn't know. Amused, breathless, a touch contrite. "Haven't seen my boyfriend in a month."

Draco blinked again. The other guy smirked. "Yeah, well, move along, eh?"

"Sorry, yes, of course." She tugged him away from the wall, her hand firm gripping his. "Good night!"

Draco let himself be led down the street, glancing back (the two blue-suited men were walking on, one laughing) as she pulled him around the corner. "What was all that about?" he asked.

He got an amused glance from her, eyes bright. "We just almost got arrested."

"What?" Draco looked over his shoulder again, uselessly. "They were Muggle enforcers or something?"

Ginny laughed out loud at that. (And she was still holding his hand as they walked along.) "Thanks, Draco. I was starting to think you'd gone bizarrely Muggle-aware."

"Only certain parts," he shot back, and stopped, tugged her against his side, his other hand on her hip, not kissing her, not quite.

"So," she breathed, her grin lingering. "The Leaky Cauldron's just down the road. Your place is on the Floo, I assume?"

He considered suggesting Apparation, wondered if he could manage it when he was this distracted by the way she fit perfectly against him. Realised what she'd actually said. "My place?" he repeated.

Ginny's grin curled into a smirk. "Told you, I'm living with Ron and 'Mione. I'm not taking you back there."

The building that housed the Malfoy London apartment was indeed on the Floo. Draco could feel Ginny's appraisal all the way up the stairs, spiking as she brushed past him in the door. He watched her looking around, taking in the arch of the entry hall, the pillars he'd always thought a little bit stupid and a little bit impressive. Three steps down into the living area, decorated in a steady campaign of elegant one-up-manship between Draco and his mother. (Nothing of his father still here; the place had been stripped clean and scrubbed down in triplicate, and Draco didn't care. He knew what Lucius used to get up to here. The sanitising was welcome.)

"Nice," Ginny declared, turning around in the middle of the room with a grin. "I think I'll get one just like it."

Draco laughed with her, knocking the door shut with his heel. She tossed her handbag onto the couch, turned back to him, all tight grace, her hair flaring, and the laughter left her mouth only an instant before he kissed her. He could still feel it, though, warm and rippling between them. It didn't quite flee before the rising tide of urgency that she matched, mouth open and giving and demanding. "Ginny," he said, hot and damp against her arched neck, and, "yes," she breathed.

In his bedroom, she didn't strip. Just took her clothes off, no thought for finesse or performance in the fumble of her fingers and his on buttons and fastenings. Shirts tossed aside, her skirt dropped into a circle at her feet and kicked away. Draco traced his fingers between her freckles, around her nipples, down over her ribs as she kissed him with her breath coming shorter and harder.

And then she was sitting on the edge of his bed, pulling off her underwear and getting it snagged on one heel of the boots she was still wearing, and Draco might have stopped breathing altogether. She shifted backwards, lying back across his sheets. "Come on, then," she said, not sounding nearly unaffected.

He settled, welcomed, between her thighs. Unable to stop touching her, running his hands over her skin, up her thigh, around the curve of her waist, licking the salt-must sheen of sweat along her collar bone. As he pushed inside her, she arched her back a little, her head falling back. One leg lifted to twine over his, with the smear of leather on his skin, and the sharp prick of her heel against his leg.

Time seemed to pass slowly, but the days ticked by. Ted took to throwing scrunched up balls of parchment at Draco. "It's like I have to send you a Howler just to get your attention," he said. Draco started hitting the parchment balls back with his paperweight, aiming for Ted's coffee cup, and the whole thing devolved into a game of office quidditch. Which was, of course, about the point Penny Clearwater walked in and copped a parchment ball right between the eyes. After that, running messenger for the latest salvo in the wrangle with Games and Sports was the least Draco could do.

He loitered, bickering, in Ron Weasley's office for half an hour, but the only person to come bursting in was some young git Draco didn't recognise, shrieking, "Disqualified on a technicality, we're in the finals! -- oops, sorry."

Ordinary people, Draco supposed, would owl her. Ordinary people might be sure whether they wanted to or not.

He'd found a tear in his bedsheets, a small jagged rip that he knew had to be from her boots, some point when she'd writhed, jerked, pressed her feet too hard against the bed. Maybe when she'd half gasped his name, fingers biting into his shoulder, ferocious exaltation on her face. He wouldn't have noticed if she'd shredded the sheets, around then.

Or maybe it had happened as she slipped out of bed, waking Draco up as his hand fell off her stomach. His eyelids hadn't wanted to stay up, but he'd wanted to watch her dress in the half-dark. (They'd left the light on in the living room, he realised.)

"You're leaving," he'd mumbled, and she'd looked up from buttoning her shirt. He couldn't remember if she'd looked surprised.

"I need to get home," she'd said quietly. "Or Ron'll do something stupid like try to ground me."

Draco had thought, overprotective git, but he wasn't sure if he'd managed to enunciate it.

Ginny had huffed a little laugh, leaning over the bed. "He thinks I work in a Muggle bar. No one knows the truth but you."

Had she kissed his forehead, or had that simply been the first thing he dreamed as he slipped back into sleep?

Parchment whipped through the air and Draco ducked it on instinct, sliding his gaze across to Ted's desk. "What?"

"I said, post's in. We've both got cards from the honeymooning lovebirds."

Draco's had a sultry tropical mermaid on the front, who made suggestive eyes at him and flicked her tail, then tried to bite his fingers when he turned her over to read the back.

Vanuatu's brilliant, Blaise had written. I'm going to resign effective immediately and spend the rest of my days drinking pina coladas on the beach. Send more sunburn charms. Beneath that, the writing switched to Pansy's saucy, curvaceous lettering. Weather gorgeous; wish you were here. After two slashed x kisses, she'd signed off, B+P, and then, PS: Saw her, thought of you, she seemed your type.

He turned back to the front. The mermaid glanced over a bare sun-darkened shoulder, lifting a challenging eyebrow. Draco dropped the card on his desk.

"This one's for you too," Ted announced, flicking a small curl of parchment across the office.

Draco caught it. Just a scrap; a short note. He didn't recognise the whiplash spikes of the handwriting addressing it to him.

Inside, it was just an address - apartment number, building, street - and then Saturday afternoon sometime? - Ginny.

The building was on the Floo, though the fireplace was considerably shabbier than his own, and he was an inch deep in ash. Apartment number three was upstairs, with the door open, and Draco loitered on the landing before stepping up into the doorway.

The apartment was full of the disarray of a move half done; piles of books on the floor, furniture standing uncertainly in places it wasn't going to stay, magic trunks snapping their lids idly and waiting to disgorge their loads. The windows didn't have curtains or blinds yet, and the sunlight that streamed in had disrupted dust idling in its beams.

Ginny came out of another room, and stopped. Her hair was braided back, but loosely. She was wearing a ratty t-shirt and rattier jeans, and her feet were bare on the floorboards. "Oh, hello," she said.

"Hi," Draco replied, leaning against the doorframe. "So, uh, this is it."

"Yes," she said with a tight smile. "My own place." She gave a little flourish with both hands. "Everyone else is coming over tomorrow for a flat-warming dinner. But, well..." She shrugged, tucked escaping hair back behind her ear. "You know what this means better than they do, in a way."

Draco looked around again. It wasn't big. It wasn't particularly well laid out, and the kitchen nook looked more nookish than kitchen. But it was hers. She was standing in the middle of it, glowing with sunshine and pride. No other word for it; she was beautiful.

"It's great," he said, and she beamed. "So," he continued, still in the doorway, "are you going to stop now?"

She tilted her head, watching him. "Stripping, you mean?"


"Well," she noted, "I have what I wanted, don't I?"

"I guess so." He looked at her, and remembered her fingers digging into the back of his neck as she kissed him, her tongue tripping over his and over liquid syllables that didn't make coherent words but contained the rhythm they were making together. He took a breath. "You need a new ambition, now that you've attained the old one."

"Way ahead of you, there," Ginny said, and her chin came up a little. "What about you?"

She wasn't a mermaid. Then again, he liked his girls with legs. "I thought I might try to take you to my mother's garden party."

She smiled, a quick flash, and there, right there, that was a hint of a blush. "Well," she said, "only if this means I get my picture in the Prophet."

Draco took a step into the apartment, matching her smile with his own. "I make no promises."

"Then neither do I," Ginny said, coming forward to meet him, and Draco figured maybe this was the way things worked.