Possible Spoilers/Warnings: None
Author's Notes: Probably not what you had in mind when you gave your prompt, but I hope you enjoy anyway. There are a few consulting lingo: RFP = Request for proposal, deck = PowerPoint presentation. Finally, thanks a million to my lovely beta, Nowamlost.
Summary: All things change, eventually.
From: McGonagall, Minerva (UK - London)
Sent: Saturday, June 10, 2013 7:32 AM
To: Weasley, Ginevra (UK - London), Malfoy, Draco (UK – London)
Subject: Gringotts National Bank RFP Shortlist Result
Ginevra and Draco,
Congratulations, your proposal been short listed to present on August 20th.
I have attached details on the presentation format, time and place in the file below.
<< File: GNB_PresenationInvite.pdf >>
Once again, I want to thank you for the fantastic job you have done so far. Please continue the great teamwork.
Dumbledore & McGonagall Consulting Ltd.
Nothing changed and yet everything changed when I saw Malfoy again.
I don’t think he changed his behaviour in any way, but what I perceived is different. I suppose when you promise yourself to give someone you hate for years a chance, you start noticing things you never allowed yourself to notice before – like how he always arrives before me and leave after, like how knowledgeable he is about the banking industry, like how patient he is when he explained things with the juniors.
We still weren’t friends, but I was able to admit he makes a good business partner.
My thirtieth birthday landed on Sunday. I begged mum not to make a big deal of it but she insisted on making me a cake with an offending red number in the middle just in case anyone forget how old I really was. That, in itself, wouldn’t have been so bad had mum make multiple speeches that more or less went like, “Ginny dear, you are 30. What have you done with your life?” and my brothers not flaunt their happy marriages in my face.
I drank a whole bottle of wine that night, but as it turned out, depression was a poor drinking companion, and all I could think about as the fleeting oblivion turned into a massive headache was how right my mother was:
I am thirty. I work six days a week. I have no life outside of work. And the only significant men in my life are my brothers and Harry.
Old habits die hard, even when I tried my best to hold those snide comments in, they always eventually came out.
It was eleven, the night before the big presentation. Malfoy and I had just run through the presentation for a third time. Everything was as ready as it would ever be: the deck QA by McGonagall, the graphics formatted by the graphics department, the print order sent in, and the bound copies and posters to be picked up by our intern, Trevor, tomorrow at 7am. All that was left was the final presentation.
I was tired and nervous, and that was not a good combination: whenever I am both, I tend to ramble, which I did. “I will go pick up the copies from Trevor at 8. Let’s meet at the corner of Diagon Avenue and Gringotts Way at 9am and go to the bank together.”
“And make sure you are not late.”
“I won’t be.”
“And that you dress nicely.”
At that Malfoy finally looked at me and smirked, “Have I ever dressed poorly in front of you?” He pointedly pulled at the sleeves of his Armani suit, “If anything, I would worry more about you.” He eyed me critically.
“My clothes are perfectly acceptable,” I rolled my eyes, willing it to be so rather than knowing it. “You better watch you offensive mouth tomorrow. We don’t want you to offend Mr. Thompson before he hires us.”
The smirk on his face widened, “Weasley,” he drawled, clearly amused, “I will have you know that I am great with clients. But in Mr. Thompson’s case, I would probably have to bed his daughter before I can offend him.”
I raised my eyebrow in skepticism and crossed my arms. “I suppose you old moneyed families are all chums?”
And that, was that: this little bit of condescension and disdain made Malfoy freeze, like he had been splashed with cold water. The friendly banter we had going dried up. “No. I only meant he owed me a few favors from the Lemen and Sons days,” he said carefully. The mirth that was in his eyes a moment ago had gone.
Before I could think of what to say, he gave me one last tired glance and picked up his bag, “See you at 10, Weasley.”
I was presenting the pitch in a large meeting room in front of a long table. Behind the table sat the VPs and directors of Gringotts. Sitting in the middle was the CEO of Gringotts, Mr. Thompson, a short, ugly, goblin-like man. In the last two weeks, I had run through the presentation millions of times in my head and out loud, considered multiple scenarios and the model behavior and reaction to each, and derived answers to questions I thought might be asked, but none of my preparation prepared for reality.
Mr. Thompson simply did not like me, and right from the beginning, he put absolutely no effort in hiding the fact.
He held out his hand to Malfoy, and didn’t bother to look my way. I was taken aback, but it was not the first time I had met someone rude. It’s not me, I told myself, though it was hard to not lose confidence when he would not even glance up to pretend he cared.
When Malfoy presented (and I must grudgingly admit, he was a great, engaging presenter), Mr. Thompson was attentive. He listened to Malfoy with great interest, and even smiled a little. Yet, when it was my turn, he turned his attention to his phone and simply stopped listening. Self-consciousness gave way to annoyance, and, with each passing moment, it was becoming harder and harder to hold back the infamous Weasley temper. Things reached a boiling point five minutes into my half of the presentation, “Mr. Thompson, should I stop presenting until you are done with your phone?”
The room fell eerily silent as Mr. Thompson looked up, looking rather unhappy to be interrupted. “Miss –” he had to look through our printed deliverable to find my name, “Weasley, are you implying I was not listening to your presentation?”
“You were not, Mr. Thompson, if you were you should know what the last slide I presented was about,” I challenged, and when he did not reply, I added, “You should –”
“Are you trying to tell me how to do my job?” Mr. Thompson demanded, his face contorted in anger. “Are you forgetting your place?” His voice shot through the room like a thunder.
Did I just tell the CEO of Gringotts off in the middle of my presentation? I flushed at the sudden realization. A deep-rooted fear took hold of my being. Oh my lord, what have I just done?
“Mr. Malfoy, why is this girl presenting? She is unprofessional, idiotic, and shrewish. I am extremely disappointed that Dumbledore & McGonagall would waste my precious time with this nutter.”
The consequence of everything hit me in full force; fear, embarrassment, helplessness hit me in waves. How did it all turn so horrible, so quick? This is the end. I have lost us the deal. I am going to get fired. No one will hire me after this. I could feel my eyes water and my throat closed off. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.
Malfoy stepped in front of me to speak. I squeezed my eyes shut and prepared for the worst, but the voice that spoke was calm and composed, “With all due respect, Mr. Thompson, I believe Miss Weasley was simply asking for your attention as she was about to present a topic of your personal interest,” I nodded quickly in agreement, praying Malfoy knew what he was doing.
“Miss Weasley’s next slide is on our technology capabilities and our strategy to not only maintains operational efficiency through the system consolidation process, but also to streamline and improve your existing systems,” he pressed the next slide button and the slide appeared exactly as he said. Mr. Thompson’s expression noticeably softened. Malfoy was saving our deal, I realized, part relieved and part amazed.
“Gringotts may be the fourth largest bank in Britain, but in the last five years, it has the highest customer satisfaction, mostly due to your investment in mobile technology. Miss Weasley may be young, but she is one of our firm’s brightest and most talented consultants. We brought her on this pitch because she is our expert in the banking mobile and social space, and she is here to make sure Gringotts will come out of this merger even stronger than before.”
I listened with astonishment. Malfoy had, for all intent and purposes, praised me. He sounded so earnest, like he really believed what he just said, that his earnestness spread all around the room. Even Mr. Thompson looked somewhat convinced.
“With your permission then, may I let Miss Weasley continue with her presentation?” Mr. Thompson nodded as Malfoy turned everyone attention back to me. As he retreated, he took a step toward me and whispered in my ears, “You will be fine. Just explain it like you did yesterday night.”
“Thank you,” I croaked from the bottom of my heart.
It was the Friday after we found out we had won the project, and nearly everyone in our department went for drinks at the Leaky Cauldron. Minerva announced she was going to buy everyone rounds. Two drinks in, and the moment Minerva took her leave, Neville and Seamus called for shots. I knew then that I would probably regret tonight tomorrow.
Two hours later, it was declared we had officially drunk Leaky Cauldron out of Hendricks, the crowd decided to migrate to Three Broomsticks for some more drinks and dance floor. I followed them mutely, steps unsteady, gin sloshing heavily in my stomach - I nearly tripped over the steps at the exit on my way out, when an arm grabbed me from behind.
“Steady, Weasley,” said Malfoy, surprisingly gentle as he led me back to solid ground, “Wouldn’t want you to break your pretty face before the project starts.”
“You think I am pretty?”
“Maybe,” he said, neither committing, nor denying.
“I don’t have a boyfriend,” I blurted out, feeling like this was important information, though I was not entirely sure why.
Malfoy raised a quizzical eyebrow.
I waited for him to mock me, but he didn’t and I couldn’t figure out why. “Why are you being so nice?”
He looked at me thoughtfully, but didn’t say anything. It’s unfair, I thought, in the back of my head, he was so much less drunk than I was. “The presentation. You were being all brilliant and then you said all those nice things.” The question that had been on the tip of my tongue for days, but never asked, bubbled out in slurs, “Were you only saying everything to save the deal?” I frowned when he said nothing, “Just tell me, we are not even friends, I can take the truth.”
Malfoy shrugged nonchalantly. “Weasley, why would I need to lie about that?”
The project took off without warning and abruptly brought the leisurely coffee breaks and idle chitchats at the kitchenette to an end. We were not able to get a full team together in time, so Malfoy and I were stuck with a very sparse team, and subsequently had to conduct 8 hours of requirement meetings at Gringotts daily and spend hours preparing for the next day’s meeting afterwards.
It was 8pm two weeks into the project when Malfoy first made the suggestion. “If you want, we can work at my place.”
I looked up from my computer and stared at him like he had grown horns. “Sorry, what?”
His lips twitched. “My apartment. It is very close by, it has a nice view, comfortable chairs, a nice restaurant at ground floor we can pick up dinner from, and a great wine selection.”
“Malfoy, should I start making a sexual harassment complaint?”
He made an indignant noise. “For your information, Weasley, I don’t touch coworkers or clients.”
“Glad to hear that, don’t think we can afford any lawsuits here.”
He rolled his eyes. “I am only offering because we need to work together and I don’t think I can stand another night of Chinese delivery or these substandard chairs.”
I couldn’t deny he had a point, my back was killing me and I wasn’t exactly keen about the prospect of the delivery selection. I looked at my half finished work, the clock, and the empty office. “Malfoy, where’s your place?”
His place, as it turned out, was a luxury flat with a view of Hyde Park, which made me wonder why he even bothered working at all. When I asked him, he just shrugged and cited some noncommittal reason, like boredom. Situated as we were, I found that work, lubricated by a well situated desk, fine food, and wine, went by much less painfully. I found myself even looking forward to the migration each night. Working there was so comfortable; it was fast becoming a habit.
The dinner with Burrow was particularly brutal. Mum had once again invited Harry over, except unlike all the other time, this time he came with a young blond woman. Good for him, it’s only natural, I tried to convince myself. I knew I had no right to feel jealous or angry, but I still find the sight of Anna hard to swallow, even without Mum shooting me the that-should-have-been-you look all through dinner. Somehow, even though it’s illogical, I thought it was too soon: it had been just a year and a half since the end of our seven years relationship – shouldn’t there have been more impact?
I made my excuse to leave at the first opportunity, and headed to the first pub I could find. There were only five patrons at the Lee’s Family Pub when I walked in. Four were chatting quietly at the corner, and one was drinking alone at the bar. I made my way to the bar, sat down a few seats down from the lone drinker, and quickly ordered two of the house special.
I downed the drinks in two swigs before ordering another. While waiting for my third drink, I took a better look at the man sitting a few seats from me and nearly panicked.
Malfoy. He really seemed to have a knack of finding me in the weirdest of places, didn't he? I had half a mind to sneak away to a spot where he would be less likely notice me, when he said, “Weasley, fancy seeing you here.”
I grudgingly sat back down. “What brings you here? Drinking away your sorrows?” Malfoy asked, not missing a beat. “Fight with your family?”
I shook my head and fought the urge to burst into tears. I could have let the topic drop, I didn’t think he would pursue, but I felt compelled to explain myself, “It’s just that, more and more, I feel everyone moves on except for me.” I thought about George and his new born child. I thought about Harry and his new girlfriend.
“It’s like the world changes around you but your inside is frozen,” he chimed in, voice barely above a whispered, but the words echoed inside me louder than anything anyone had said to me for years. He knew exactly what I was feeling, I realized, and maybe that was why he was here too.
“Do you think this will change?”
He nodded. “All things change, eventually.”
The project settled down. We worked less hours now, but somehow I still find myself at Malfoy’s place all the same: football game, movie nights, cooking experiments. We never bothered labelling this as anything, but I knew we were on the cusp of something – what exactly, I didn’t know.
Luna and Rolf’s engagement party was exhausting. An hour of yoga followed by two hours of intense dancing at The Three Broomsticks had pushed me to my limits. While Luna was distracted by her other friends, I took the opportunity to escape out the front door from the loud music and the unsavory stench of spilled martinis and puke.
I was about to enter the subway station when I happened to look over at the direction of the dingy family pub I met Malfoy at a few months back. A shimmy of platinum hair caught my eyes and I turned back to take a better look. It was Malfoy but something about the way he slouched didn’t quite look well. I decided to head over to investigate.
The bells jingled as I entered and Malfoy looked up, wild eyed. I noted the number of empty glasses on this table.
“You look like hell,” I told him as I slipped into a stool beside him, “You okay?”
His eyes were set on the swirling scotch in his glass. “My father died,” he answered with much more honesty than I expect.
Father. His father. Lucius Malfoy: the right hand man of Tom Riddle, the mastermind behind the biggest pyramid scheme in history. The man that sold Fred the fake funds that ultimately caused him to lose his life savings. He was dead. I didn’t trust myself enough to say anything more than, “Oh.”
“Lungs cancer,” he murmured in a voice that’s very far away. I couldn’t help but noticed the subtle tightening of his jaw.
“I…” I paused to consider what I could possibly say without lying, “It must be hard for you.”
Malfoy gave a dismissive shrug. “We haven’t been close for a long time, not since I turned him in.”
His words sounded foreign to me for a moment before the implications came crashing down on me in waves. “You were the one that turned him in?”
“It was all done anonymously,” he answered, eyes narrowed in remembrance, memory dark on his face. “But father knew, of course. I was the only one who knew where he was.”
I ordered him a house special and watched the brown liquid flow down his throat silently. “Do you… regret turning him in?”
He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. “Once I knew for certain he was guilty of the allegations, I didn’t really see another option. I only wish mother never had to find out about what I did.”
I thought back to our conversation months prior, the pain on his face as he talked about his mother, and the puzzle piece clicked into place. “She wouldn’t let you protect her.”
“No, not after what I did.”
“I am sorry for your loss,” I said and meant it.
A heavy silent rolled in. I thought back to all the things I said to him early in our relationship and felt so very ashamed. It dawned on me I have never let him know how much my opinion had changed since then. I wondered if it mattered, I decided it did. “I used to think you were just like your father. I don’t think that anymore. I haven’t thought that for a very long time.”
He didn’t move, but I could tell he was listening. “I think…” I bit my lips, “I think you are a great man.”
The air around us finally cleared.
Saturday. I was working at Malfoy’s place again.
We made it a rule to eat at a different sit down restaurant on Saturdays instead of ordering delivery. We took turns choosing the restaurant, and, perhaps as a reflection to our slipping sanity, the unveiling of the restaurant of choice became somewhat of an event. The truth is: when you work sixteen hours days and most Saturdays, the line between your life and your work blurs so much that picking where to go for dinner with elaborate spreadsheets and charts makes perfect sense in your mind.
It was my turn to choose and I had decided to present my choice in a three page flow chart. It took Malfoy a full minutes to figure out we were going to Hawker, a Thai restaurant frequented by hipsters. “Really, I think you are outdoing yourself, Ginny.”
I snorted indignantly. “You are just jealous–” I stopped abruptly when I realized what had just happened. “You just called me by my first name.”
He considered thoughtful and shrugged, “So I did. I guess it’s about bloody time.”
I caught myself smiling. “Draco,” I experimented, the name rolled off my tongue far easier than I thought it would, “Ready to go?”
He stood up and held out his hand. “Let’s.”
And, just a little bit, my world started to move forward again.
Briefly describe what you'd like to receive in your fic: Ginny and Draco have to make peace because they're assigned a task that only they can complete - and they can only complete it together.
The tone/mood of the fic: Light-hearted overall, some angst is fine, but only if it has a happy ending, please!
An element/line of dialogue/object you would specifically like in your fic: Two-way mirror
Preferred rating of the the fic you want: Any
More canon, or more AU? Either
Deal Breakers (anything you don't want?): No non-con, self-mutilation, or adultery (these make me frowny) and please don't let anyone call Ginny 'Weaselette,' I beg you.
Are you willing to receive art instead of a fic? I'd rather not