Ginny stopped in the doorway of Draco's room and knocked on the door. Draco was sitting on his bed, his back to her, facing out the window, but when he heard the knock he turned to face her, shoving a letter he was writing into an envelope. He pushed the envelope into a drawer and slammed it shut.
" What's wrong?" Ginny asked him.
" Nothing." Draco replied, plastering a fake smile on his face.
" If it's nothing, then get ready because I'm showing you around the neighborhood today." Ginny told him.
" I don't really feel like going out today."
" Or is it more like, you don't feel like going out today with me?"
He was silent.
" Or maybe it's something like, you don't feel like going out in this neighborhood, because it just happens to lack mansions?"
" Leave me alone." He grumbled. " I don't have to tag along to everything you're doing, do I?"
" I'll find you something to do then." Ginny told him. " My mother said you'd be tall enough to help get the cobwebs off the ceiling in the hallway."
" Can't you just stand on a chair?"
" Are you the one that's disabled?" Ginny exclaimed. " Last time I checked, you were perfectly healthy. Come on, I have a lot of work to do, and if you could even take away ten minutes of work from me, it would be much appreciated."
Draco stood and followed her out into the hall. Ginny handed him a feathery duster and motioned at the ceiling. " Nothing like good old-fashioned cleaning to get the blood circulating." Ginny told him and walked off.
Draco looked down at the bundle of feathers tied neatly to a stick. He vaguely recalled a maid of the Malfoys using one of them to clean his bureau in his room. Now he was the one holding it, as if he were brandishing some sort of outlandish sword. Draco raised it and swept across the ceiling, twirling it into a spider web. The web wrapped around it, covered in dust and no longer sticky.
He looked down the hallway to make sure nobody was around, and he then took out his wand and cast a cleaning charm. Immediately, the hallway was devoid of cobwebs. Draco sat down on the ground in the hallway, leaned against the wall with his back, and waited for some sort of absolution to relieve him from any more work.
" Draco?" A familiar voice exclaimed all of a sudden.
Draco's eyes snapped open. Lavender was standing at the end of the hallway, her arm looped through Ron's casually. " If I hadn't seen it before my very eyes, I wouldn't have believed it."
Ron sighed. " I've been meaning to tell you, Lavender." Lavender's arm dropped to her side as Ron released her hand. " Draco's, uh, he's here today to talk with my mother. You know how Ginny's working with them, right? He just wants to negotiate some stuff with my Mom."
Draco stood up and nodded. " Yeah, I was just about to leave, actually."
" With a duster in your hand?" Lavender's eyebrows raised.
Draco looked down at the cleaning item in his hand and dropped it to the floor, as if he had just seen it there for the first time. " Oh, it was lying on the floor, I just picked it up." Draco lied again.
Ron looked nervous. " You said you needed to stop at our house to use the bathroom, didn't you? So go on, Lavender."
Lavender nodded, gave Draco a suspicious look, and then slipped into the rest room. Ron waited until the sound of water running blocked out the sound before saying: " Draco, get out of my sight right now. Lavender's got the biggest mouth in…"
" Then why'd you bring her here?" Draco exclaimed. " Can't she hold it until she gets home?"
Ron shook his head. " You have no idea what being polite to a lady is, right? How to behave on a date? You've probably never been on one."
Draco felt his face burn. " Shows how little you know." He said. It was true though, Draco knew it deep inside. He hadn't dated.
" Go!" Ron mouthed, as the sound of the bathroom doorknob hit their ears.
Draco disappeared into the nearest room and then closed the door. He turned around and saw Ginny, her bare back facing him, only a flimsy white slip covering her legs and bottom. He bit his tongue and glanced around feverishly to find someplace to hide before Ginny turned around. He ducked into the closet and waited.
Ginny was changing into an outfit suitable to clean in. She tied her long red hair up into a bun on her head and was now pulling a soft earthy brown sweater on. She didn't have too awful of a figure, she had wide hips and a nice bust, and she often wore baggy clothing, so it made her disproportional, chubby. She didn't look chubby now.
He averted his eyes as Ginny started putting on a skirt. She paused, then turned to the closet. She was going to find some other skirt to put on!
Draco was suddenly overwhelmingly glad that he hadn't wore his usual silver-gray suit and green tie, for all of Ginny's clothing was bright and cheery and he'd stand out like a weed in a rose garden. His white shirt and khaki pants blended in with the wall and the wedding dress. Draco observed the wedding dress closely – it had the words Molly O'Brennan written in marker on the collar-tag. Molly Weasley had worn this when she was going to be married. It would be Ginny's dress, too.
He ran his hand over the silky smooth sleeve.
Ginny pushed her clothes apart and a couple dresses smashed into him, pushing him back against the wall. Ginny drew out a pair of black pants and then walked off. Draco allowed himself to breathe out again.
Ginny fixed some things up in the room and then walked out. Draco waited until the door was closed and then he went out of the closet too, his clothes rumpled. He looked into the closet again. Ron, Ginny, Arthur and Molly all had their clothing in one closet now, and their three beds left little to no floor space in the room.
Draco went out into the hallway as well and then pretended he was leaving the room next door. Ron and Lavender were gone, but Ginny was in the hallway, staring at the feather duster with a flimsy smile. " Nice job with the cobwebs." She said to Draco with a grin. " See what a little effort could do?"
He shrugged. " Yeah, sure." Draco could sense his cheeks were still flushed. He wondered what would have happened if Ginny had noticed him in her room. He'd probably never hear the end of it – him being a pervert, a sicko.
" I bet you're hungry." She fumbled in her pants' pocket. " Here." Ginny handed him a slip of paper. " We received a handout from a restaurant. Maybe you'd like to go there?"
Draco looked it over. "Do they deliver?"
She burst out laughing. " You are so anti-social! Everyone knows I'm your nurse by now, it's not like they'd care to see us outside together. Besides, since when do you care what other people think? You used to make fun of anything with a spine, and now you're so self-conscious."
He frowned. " I'm just asking…"
" Then don't waste your breath." She grinned. " Let's go?"
Draco nodded, finally. " Alright."
The restaurant was nearly empty, just a couple of groups of people huddled alongside the walls of the room. Draco was dressed in his trenchcoat, the hood pulled up over his head so that he threateningly resembled a Death Eater. His eyes glittered from an otherwise impenetrable darkness. Ginny sat down at a booth instead of a table, so that the tall cushioned sofa-like extensions from the wall hid them.
Draco lowered his hood, then let it drop entirely so that it lay on his back. The waitress came up to them, and he was taken aback to see that it was Pansy. Pansy blinked, then exclaimed: " Draco! Where have you been hiding?"
He shrugged haplessly.
Pansy looked at Ginny. " Oh, I see." Pansy said, as if it explained everything.
" My father's sick." Draco told Pansy. " This is the nurse, Ginny Weasley."
Pansy's broad white face wrinkled in muted dislike as she shook Ginny's hand. When Ginny wasn't looking, Pansy wiped her hand off on her hip. This reminded Draco of the first time he shook Ginny's hand, and even though his reaction was the same, he was slightly angered at Pansy.
" Have you been the Malfoy nurse long?" Pansy asked politely.
" A month and a half." Ginny replied.
" What have you been up to?" Pansy questioned Draco. " Ever since the seventh year, you just fell off the face of the Earth. Everyone else had gotten up and moved on, you know."
Draco cleared his throat uncomfortably. " I've been busy working."
" You were always too busy." Pansy grumbled. " What'll be your order?"
Draco's indecisive expression prompted Ginny to speak up: " Two omelets, please, with a side of French Toast."
" I'll have Hennessy…" Draco began, but Ginny shook her head and said: " Two waters, that's all."
" Hmm." Pansy jotted it down. " Anything else?"
" No, thank you." Ginny managed a smile. Pansy walked off and Ginny looked at Draco. "I'm sorry, I didn't know she'd be here."
" She doesn't bother me." Draco told her.
" Really? I thought she used to be your girlfriend."
He shrugged. " It didn't last very long. As she said, I was always too busy. I had to study pretty hard to be Head Boy, just so that Potter wouldn't have the joy to grace the position."
Ginny sighed. " Harry's getting married Christmas week, you know. Just two weeks from now, to Hermione."
" Tell him to rest in pieces."
" It's going to be a real black-tie affair. The party will be huge. Harry's inheritance from his parents is enough to have a huge bash. They're already looking for a big house, and Harry wants to get out of his apartment."
Draco shrugged. " So?"
" Hmm. Nothing." Ginny mused. Pansy came by and set their water, French toast and omelets down in front of them. " Thank you." Ginny told her.
Pansy didn't reply. She went back through the swinging doors into the kitchen.
" She's jealous over you." Ginny told Draco.
He shook his head. " Why should she be?"
" Wouldn't you want to give her another try?" Ginny asked, carefully. She crossed her fingers under the table. She didn't want Draco to like Pansy.
Draco grasped her hand under the table and she gasped. His fingers unwound her index and middle finger and he told her: " Don't worry, she's out of the picture." He let go of her hand, but Ginny could still feel her fingers burning. She wondered if he felt anything, if he felt that little spark that went through her fingertips and into his. That tiny current that for a moment existed in between them, was it lost on him?
He looked as if he had done something as simple as brushing away a fly. There wasn't a single trace of concern or deep thought on his face. That empty expression made him seem even more like a cover-model for a romance novel.
Draco began to eat and Ginny did too.
" On the card, the wedding invitation card…" Ginny began.
" It said, bring your own casket." Draco finished. " For Potter will deliver the most dull speech in the history of mankind as we know it."
She laughed. " No, it said, bring a date. I don't know who to take with me. I was going to go with Ron, but he's taking Lavender." " Don't go." He replied, arrogantly. " You'll probably read all about it in the Prophet anyway, they never get enough of their favorite front-page hero."
Ginny nodded to herself and decided to change the subject. Obviously she wasn't going very far with Draco's one-track mind. " We should be going back, just in case I'm going to be needed around the house."
Draco nodded and helped pile their empty plates together. " Thank you for dinner." He said. " It was a change from your cooking."
She grinned and pulled out her coin purse and began to lay out the money and tip. She did so slowly, deliberately, hoping that, at any moment, Draco would jump in and offer to pay for her. However, he was nowhere near doing that. Ginny's copper-yellow, cheery coins glistened sadly in the waning restaurant light as Draco led the way out of the restaurant. She felt unexpectedly sad inside.
Very late that night, Ginny dressed for the night and climbed into bed. She reached over to her night lamp, turned the light off, and then tucked her hands under her pillow. An envelope rustled underneath it.
Ginny pulled it out and then saw that it was a letter to her, with her name on it. She pulled it out slowly and read:
Thank you for being a good nurse and a good model for the painting. I finished it last night and put a glaze over it to keep the paint from chipping away, and then I put a sheet over it for safekeeping. I guess this isn't much, but I hope you can make another one of those scarves for yourself with it.
She reached into the envelope and pulled out a money satchel. The money that Draco was going to deposit into the bank – the money that the goblin told him wasn't enough to settle the debt the Malfoys were in – was all in the satchel. A good week's worth of pay. So the Malfoys were going to pay her after all.
Ginny felt warm tears burning in her eyes as she flipped the letter over in her arms, almost expecting to see some sort of catch to it. Then, she realized his letter didn't even mention any desire to sell or give her the painting. He was going to keep it.
Her stomach danced nervously. She counted the money. It was too much, she couldn't possibly accept it. It wasn't even minimum wage for a month and a half of nursing, but to the Malfoys it was more than they could possibly afford.
He hadn't even consulted his mother for it.
Then she saw it – the extra side note. Her stomach dropped and she flicked her light on, anxious to know what it said. Then, she read it:
P.s. Thanks for being a friend too.