Warning: date() [function.date]: It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /home/draco3/public_html/modules/displayword/displayword.php on line 77
Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /home/draco3/public_html/modules/displayword/displayword.php:77) in /home/draco3/public_html/modules/displayword/displayword.php on line 77
Foolish Consequences by Sunfire
The only bits of HBP I'm taking are the H/G ones, nothing else from the book happens
1. Chapter 1 by Sunfire
2. Chapter 2 by Sunfire
3. Chapter 3 by Sunfire
4. Chapter 4 by Sunfire
5. Chapter 5 by Sunfire
6. Chapter 6 by Sunfire
7. Chapter 7 by Sunfire
8. Chapter 8 by Sunfire
9. Chapter 9 by Sunfire
10. Chapter 10 by Sunfire
11. Chapter 11 by Sunfire
12. Chapter 12 by Sunfire
13. Chapter 13 by Sunfire
She'd had reason enough to go along with it, at least at first. So her childhood crush had faded over the years? So she hadn't really seen him as more than another brother by the time he'd gotten around to noticing her? So what? She was still justified in giving him a chance. He was the Boy-Who-Lived, after all, and a great person in his own right. He was everything she should have wanted in a boyfriend.
Even if he hadn't so much as asked if she returned his feelings. Even if he'd been more worried about her brother's reaction to his kissing her than he'd been about her reaction. So what if he'd just automatically assumed she still liked him in that way without waiting for so much as a word of agreement from her? She'd still done the right thing by giving it a shot.
She had done the right thing by ending it, too, despite what so many had told her over the last few weeks. Despite the hurt and confused looks Harry kept giving her, despite the glares Ron and Hermione gave her whenever they saw their best friend looking so upset. She wouldn't have been justified in continuing a relationship when she didn't have feelings for him. She'd tried to see him the way she used to, tried to think of him as more than a brother, tried to enjoy it when he kissed her. But she wasn't the star-struck eleven-year-old she used to be, and she just couldn't make herself feel something simply because it would be convenient. So she'd broken it off, and rightfully so, as far as she was concerned.
Unfortunately for her, others didn't see it quite the same way. Not even her brother had managed to see things from her point of view, only seeing the effect the breakup had had on Harry. No matter that she had tried her best, no matter that she had been as careful as she could have been in telling her former crush that she didn't think they were working out, everyone still seemed to see her as the villain. It hurt that so many had turned on her so quickly for injuring the legendary infant hero, and moreover, it made no sense to her. She couldn't remember any such backlash when Cho had turned him down.
Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that most people automatically assumed that she was madly in love with him and were just shocked that she'd given up a chance to be with him. Maybe everyone was just that bored, she didn't know, but whatever the cause, it had made her life quite uncomfortable. On the whole, she was a social person, and while she didn't have many close friends, the subtle criticism she'd been receiving was difficult to handle. The fact that everyone, even the teachers, seemed to be upset with her, made it even worse.
It had been almost comforting to be treated as if nothing had changed, even if that meant being insulted. She'd almost smiled at the blond when he'd sneered at her, had almost thanked him for the cutting remark about her clothes. She was pretty sure she'd shocked him when she hadn't gotten upset at the barb; she knew she'd intrigued him, because certainly he wouldn't have asked her what was wrong otherwise. Of course, the inquiry had been made with a sneer and he had said something more along the lines of 'what disturbed your cesspool' but it had been enough to start them talking. It had been less than completely civil for the most part, and they hadn't become friends, by any means, but the encounter had been refreshing just the same.
It felt like nothing had changed when she was exchanging insults and anecdotes with him, seemed like people saw her the same as they had before her short-lived relationship with the famous sixth-year. His unchanged disdain was an almost masochistic balm to her injured psyche. But while that in part explained the pleasure she received from their encounters, it didn't excuse the fact that she'd started to crave that rude, uncaring presence. It didn't tell her why she'd started relying on it to make her feel a little more normal, a little more secure as her friends distanced themselves from her, and the reality she'd known fell apart.
They'd only talked three times, had barely held a real conversation, having filled the short spaces of time with barbs and verbal sparring. It simply made no sense that she felt so compelled to see him.
Sure, given the momentous row she'd had with Ron that night, nearly two months before, and the horrendous mess her emotions had been in afterwards, she could almost understand what had driven her from the Gryffindor common room to the deserted dungeon halls. She could almost understand why she ended up in the small room that had once been used as a private study hall for Slytherins of years past, the room where she had first run into him after seeking privacy after a brutal Potions class.
She could not, however, understand what had happened after she'd burst through the door that last time. He'd been studying quietly and had loudly expressed his annoyance at her presence and disruption, but she'd ignored him, simply unloading her inner torment and frustration on the one person that made her feel sane. She'd raged for several minutes, and after a few moments he'd stopped demanding she leave, and started listening. At least she thought he had. Most of that time was a bit of a blur, up to, but not including, the moment they'd started kissing.
She wasn't sure if she'd gone in search of him, if she'd chosen that room in the hope that he would be there, or if she'd just gone somewhere she knew her brother wouldn't find her. Nothing about that night made much sense to her, even two months later. She didn't understand why she'd gone there, why her fragile composure had chosen that moment to shatter around her, why the normally caustic blond hadn't hexed her for barging in on him, why she'd ended up kissing him with all the anger, hurt, and confusion that had been festering in her.
She supposed, on some level, she'd been within her rights, finding someone who could make her feel a bit better for a little while, regardless of who it was, or under what circumstances. How many people sought comfort in another's arms after a bad break up? It wasn't exactly a foreign concept, even at her age. So strictly speaking, she'd had reason enough to unload on him, to let him comfort her, even through his insults. She had not, however, had quite enough reason to sleep with him.
Ginny stared down at her hands, watching them shake with a kind of perverse fascination as the tears started to burn her eyes. One tear fell on her left palm but she didn't feel it, didn't feel much of anything as the cold, numb feeling continued to sweep through her. What the hell had she been thinking, she wondered absently. Sure, she'd been upset, really upset, but that didn't excuse her actions.
Malfoy was Harry's arch-enemy, the one person he hated more than Voldemort, even more than his aunt and uncle, and his cousin. Just because she didn't love him, didn't mean she didn't care about him, didn't mean she wanted to hurt him. Just because her brother and her friends still, nine weeks later, kept her at arms length, didn't mean she wanted to alienate them completely. And she would, she'd hurt Harry and drive everyone away when they found out what she'd done.
She was surprised they hadn't found out already, surprised Malfoy hadn't gone straight back to his common room and bragged to all his friends that he'd shagged Potter's ex-girlfriend. But he hadn't said a word, and neither had she, leaving everyone else completely in the dark. But how long could they realistically stay there? Panic swelled within the redhead as her stomach rolled once more, sending her surging forward to lean over the toilet as the rest of her lunch made a return visit. She retched and choked and coughed for what felt like forever, until there was nothing left to come up. For several minutes, she simply dry heaved as the sobs bubbled up and sent tears coursing down her cheeks in a near torrent.
What the hell had she done? And what in Merlin's name was she going to do now?
She had to do something, she knew; she couldn’t just hide in the bathroom forever, couldn’t keep what had happened a secret forever. She had to tell him. She had to tell him the truth, herself; he deserved to hear it from her, to hear it before it was all over the school. The mere thought of seeing him, talking to him, telling him, sent shivers of fear down her spine. How would he react?
Twin curtains of red hid her face as her head fell forward, her chin touching her chest and her arms wrapping tightly around her stomach as she considered the various, disastrous, possibilities. The sobs came quickly then, pouring from her lips and shaking her slender frame, leaving her hair and face and arms and hands and sleeves wet as she tried to wipe at the wetness pouring down her cheeks. On and on they continued, her eyes swelling and burning and her throat becoming sore as her voice grew scratchy from her cries. Eventually, she seemed to run out of tears, as her stomach had run out of food, and she simply choked and wheezed until the last of her energy drained away.
By the time she picked herself up off the hard tiles and splashed cold water on her face, the swelling and redness around her eyes had lessened, though it was still obvious, and her hands had steadied a little, though they still shook as she turned off the faucet. Brown eyes stared into the mirror, taking in the pitiful sight reflected back to her with resignation. It was no use waiting until she felt better, no use waiting for the evidence of her breakdown to fade; she'd feel just as despicable, just as scared tomorrow, and there was no hope of the tears staying gone for more than a couple hours.
The only thing waiting would do was give her time to back out, to convince herself not to do it, and she knew deep down that she had to do this. It was the right thing, and no matter how terrified she was of what she had to do, she was a Gryffindor for a reason, and she would do it anyway.
Such lofty determination gave her the unsubstantial strength to make it all the way to the Owlery, pen a short missive, and send it to the one person she didn't want to see. The words had been shaky and the parchment slightly tear-stained, but it would serve its purpose. She watched the tawny owl dive gracefully out the window and down to the ground below, where it glided over towards the lake. He must be there, she thought, her mind picturing him automatically, his shoulders hunched slightly over book and parchment as he hastily finished whatever assignment was due next.
It would take him seconds to take the scrap of parchment from the owl, read it, and know who sent it. It would take him less than ten minutes to pack up his things and make the trek inside and to the place she had requested to meet him. If he was coming, anyway. There was every chance that he wouldn't come, and that possibility sent fear and hope through her in equal measure. Both emotions swelled as she saw a single form reach the top of the hill overlooking the lake and head towards the school.
He was coming.
Her heart raced helplessly in her chest, racing as she turned and sprinted down the narrow stairs, not sure if she was going to run to the designated meeting point, or as far from it as she could get. Her sense of what was right seemed to wrestle control of her legs long enough to lead her where she needed to go, and her rampaging emotions lent her the speed to reach it first. Even so, she had mere moments to gain some semblance of calm, of control, before the door opened and he stepped through.
His eyes narrowed as they landed on her, then narrowed more as they swept over her disheveled form, her tearstained face. She knew how she looked, practically cowering against the wall, her arms banded around herself so tightly it actually hurt. She knew the fear was visible on her face, along with the tears, knew there was raw panic shining from her eyes, knew he could see the way her entire body trembled as she fought to stay standing. She couldn’t do anything about that, though, nor could she put off explaining the cause. That, of course, didn't stop her from tripping over the words.
"Thank you f- for coming, I-" She bit her lip viciously, suppressing the hysterical sobs that wanted to spill forth. "I-" Ginny swallowed, looking down at the floor as her heart threatened to beat its way out of her chest.
"I'm sorry." The tears made it past her pitiful defenses, falling to the stone floor silently as she tried to piece her thoughts together. "I didn't know what else to do, and you- you deserve to know first, fr-from me."
The redhead dug her nails into her arms, focusing on the sharp pain as they broke skin, then slowly raised her head, the desperate fear in her wet chocolate orbs bright and clear when she met his gaze.
End Chapter One
The dam broke the instant the words left her lips and she felt as though her legs had suddenly turned boneless beneath her, her body falling to the floor, her back sliding quickly down the stone wall with none of the graceful drama described in the novels she'd read. Her bum hit the cold floor with a shock of pain, but it didn't register. Ginny curled in on herself, her forehead falling to her upraised knees, her sobs echoing off the walls. He didn't say a word, didn't yell, or scream, or accuse her of anything. He didn't make a sound.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she wept, over and over, though she wasn't even sure he was still there to hear her. Maybe he'd left, maybe he'd left her there, maybe he wanted nothing to do with her. It would make more sense than anything else had if he'd simply fled, but several minutes later, when she finally choked down the tears and lifted her head, he was still there.
She wanted to take that as a good sign that he hadn't run away, hadn't simply walked out in anger or denial, yet any hope she might have felt withered before it could grow. He hadn't moved, hadn't spoken, hadn't taken his eyes off her. The complete lack of a response sent her stomach plummeting to her knees. Why hadn't he said anything? Why hadn't he reacted? She'd expected him to sneer and ask how it was any of his problem, or to glare and call her a liar, or even demand to know how he could be sure the child was his.
She wasn't at all prepared for his silence, his stillness. She let her watery gaze dart over him, take in the unreadable expression on his face, and let the tiny bit of hope that had festered when he'd responded to the owl die inside her.
"You don't have to- I mean, I didn't tell you so you'd-" she broke off again, unable to keep looking at his stoic features. "I just thought you had a right to know. I don't expect you to do anything. It's my problem."
As she forced herself to speak, Ginny curled into herself even tighter, hoping she'd stop shaking long enough to pull herself to her feet, but she'd barely gotten the last words out of her mouth before he was suddenly there, kneeling on the dirty stone floor in front of her, his face set and his words echoing with finality.
"The hell it is."
Her head snapped up, brown eyes widening as they met fierce grey. "That is my child, and I will be involved in its life. A wizard does not turn his back on his child, regardless of the circumstances under which it was conceived. No pureblood would back down from his responsibility as a father. It is beyond improper; it is an insult to the bloodline."
She simply stared at him for several tense, silent moments. The Weasleys were a pureblood line, but they had never existed in the same circles as most other families, so she had rarely come across the strict manners and behavioral codes that even now ran deep in the oldest Wizarding lines. Yet she knew that was exactly what she had just done. It was that knowledge, the snippet of a conversation she had once overheard between her father and uncle, and the steely edge to his expression that had her nodding wordlessly in agreement. And surrender.
He gave a short, jerky nod in response, then rose with a suddenness that had her almost jerking back, yet only took the slightest grace out of the movement. Seeker reflexes, she thought absently, stubbornly, desperately, refusing to let her mind think of another Seeker she knew, one she was going to hurt so badly when he learned of her situation, and how she'd gotten herself into it. The blond's restless movements helped her maintain her focus, such as it was.
Draco paced back and forth in tight, stiff circuits, one arm crossed over his chest, its fist providing a perch for his other elbow as he propped his free hand under his chin. The intensity he'd displayed seconds before remained etched into his features, the scowl that twisted his brow looking harshly thoughtful. Ginny had a moment to wonder what he was thinking before he laid the answers at her feet as his gaze swung back, nearly pinning her to the wall.
"We'll need to speak with the Headmaster so arrangements can be made for you towards the end of the year. You're two months into the pregnancy, right?" He barely waited for her to nod. "Then you'll be just over six by the time classes let out. Madam Pomfrey should be able to oversee things until then, but I'll owl our family Mediwizard and he'll arrange for a capable Midwitch to see to you after that. Mother can arrange the other details if you'd like, the birthing announcement and such. They'll have to wait until after the wedding of course, but we should be able to fit it all in after the school year is out if you'd rather not deal with the students."
He continued speaking, as much to himself as to her, detailing all the things that needed to be done, including himself in each and every one of them. She hadn't expected him to react so calmly, so surely. He had automatically claimed the child as his own, expressed an unshakable intention to be involved in not only the child's life, but her pregnancy as well. A scenario such as this had never entered her head in the week since she'd realized she couldn’t have simply gotten off schedule, but had indeed missed two cycles in a row. Perhaps that was why the word 'wedding' was such a shock.
She should have expected it, should have seen it coming. Having a child out of wedlock could ruin a witch, prevent her from finding minimal acceptance even in the closest of families, but with purebloods, it was even worse. It meant complete banishment, meant becoming a stranger to everyone who knew you for the shame it brought on the family name, an institution guarded above all else in the oldest lines. The Malfoys were certainly such a line, and while the punishment for the wizard involved in such a scandal was not nearly as bad as it was for the witch, it was quite logical for him to not even consider alternatives.
If he had denied paternity, had refused to claim the child, it would be different, as his name would prevent the insult of a test to verify the child's father. But he wasn't denying it, wasn't refusing. So it was quite simple, even if it did leave a knot of fear in her chest. The fear stemmed from more than just the idea of being married to Draco Malfoy for the rest of her life; he was wealthy enough, after all, that if it came to it, arrangements could be made that they would be forced only into so much interaction as was required for him to maintain a presence in the child's life. It also came from the idea of telling her family that she was going to be married to Draco Malfoy for the rest of her life— that she was going to be having his child.
Her future husband didn't notice her already-pale face whiten even further as she contemplated the repercussions. At least not until he'd turned on his heel and paced back towards her, his eyes narrowing at the sight, his feet carrying him swiftly to her.
"What? Are you ill? Do you need a toilet?" He looked somewhat disgusted by the thought, but didn't move away. "Should I get Pomfrey?"
She summoned the strength to shake her head, though her ears still rang with her rapidly pounding heart. "No, I was just thinking."
He appeared unconvinced, almost suspicious, and entirely ready to race to the hospital wing at a moment's notice. "About what?"
She stared at fists so tightly clenched her fingers had turned completely white. "My family. They hate you, your father." Brown eyes widened and grew moist with her mounting panic. "What are they going to do when they find out? What if they hate me too? What if they kick me out?"
Before she had a chance to get hysterical, he laid both hands on her shoulders with an imperceptible hesitation. "Well, if they kick you out, you'll simply move into Malfoy Manor a bit early." He caught her look of surprise and almost smirked a little. "Well, where did you think we'd live once we were married?"
Draco did allow himself the smallest expression of amusement at her sheepish look. "As for hating you, well, just hate them back. If they turn you out knowing full well that you're legitimizing yourself and our baby, then they deserve it. There isn't really any more we can do besides keep things quiet and marry as soon as school lets out, and if they expect more than that, they deserve nothing less than your hatred. And seeing as you'll be a Malfoy, I'm sure you'll be very good at that, if nothing else."
The smug, almost proud smirk took the sting out of any double meaning that might have been found in his last statement and she couldn't help the ghost of a smile that tugged at her lips. Apparently satisfied with the response, and having used the extent of his comforting abilities, the blond stood with a nod and held out his hand to help her to her feet.
She allowed him to help her up but made no move to follow him when he turned towards the door. He stopped, turned, looked at her questioningly, with only faint annoyance showing on his handsome face. "What? We should see Pomfrey while there aren't any other students about. You need an overall exam, and some vitamin potions."
She regarded him silently for a moment. "You don't like me." It was said as if she was no longer sure of its validity, and was confused by that.
Draco sighed and resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "You are the mother of my child, a Malfoy in blood, if not yet in name. That earns you a certain respect, even from me. Besides, you haven't been nearly so intolerable the last three months."
Another insubstantial smile at his not-quite-sarcastic words, and she moved to follow him. Her steps were a little less than steady and he quickly held out his arm in another display of the polished, pureblood manners she had never learned. She knew enough not to turn him down, though, having some idea of the insult it would give him, and slid her hand around his upper arm, steadying herself as they made their way through the deserted halls, up the surprisingly cooperative staircases, and into the hospital wing.
End Chapter Two
Madam Pomfrey was alone in her office, scribbling notes on pieces of parchment by torchlight, when the fifth- and sixth-year students arrived. It took her several seconds to notice their presence, seconds in which Ginny's grip on his arm tightened considerably. He glanced down at her in something that might have held a touch of concern, one white brow rising in question when she met his gaze, as if asking if she were all right.
She nodded, the motion jerky, her eyes swinging back to the nurse in silence, easily communicating the cause of her increased nerves. Neither had the time or inclination to think about the fact that they could speak to each other so clearly without the use of words, and be understood, because at that moment, Poppy Pomfrey looked up from her desk and spotted the unlikely pair.
She stood and made her way briskly out of her office, concern and chastisement in her gaze as she reached them. "Mr. Malfoy, Miss Weasley, what brings you here so late?" 'And together', she thought with a curious glance at the redhead's white knuckled grip on his arm.
The two students exchanged a glance, his questioning, prodding, hers unsure and fearful. Madam Pomfrey watched them with narrowing eyes as they looked from each other, to the empty hospital beds, to her office, to the door to the wing, back to each other. Having some idea as to a possible cause of their nervousness, she gestured back the way she came. "Why don't we talk in my office?"
The offer of privacy seemed to help somewhat and the youngest Weasley nodded shakily and was led into the small room by the tall blond at her side, his free hand reaching out to help her now-trembling form into a chair. He didn't even appear to notice the gentlemanly action, and the nurse had to keep her brows from rising at the display of the manners he had no doubt learned early in his pureblooded home. All purebloods, especially high born ones, were tutored extensively in the manners and protocols expected in their circles, but she had rarely seen them evidenced with any but their fellows, and despite the Weasleys' purity of lineage, they were not a Malfoy's fellow.
So why were the youngest of their lines sitting together in her office, exchanging silent, but meaningful glances, as she waited for them to speak?
She had been the school nurse for quite a number of years, and had encountered a multitude of situations and problems with the children in her care, but there was only one she could think of to explain the all-out fear in Ginny Weasley's eyes, the death-grip she maintained on Draco Malfoy's arm, and the almost reassuring look he shot her in response. A surge of pity flooded her and she gentled her normally brisk, professional tone. "What can I do for you this evening?"
Ginny swallowed hard, opening and closing her mouth twice before managing to force out a few words. "I- I need-"
The young witch broke off, obviously having to battle tears as the trembling in her limbs increased. So much potential, so many years of mostly carefree happiness, all evaporated before her eyes as they fixed on the two students. 'Such a waste', the nurse thought, even as she looked down at Ginny's grip on his hand and saw a flash of hope. That hope was fed, as was her respect for the young wizard - which had suffered a great deal when she'd realized their probable situation - when he straightened his shoulders and raised his head, cutting off the witch at his side before she tried again to state her problem.
"We need verification of conception." His voice was steady, though his eyes would not quite settle on her face, and the words were a tad more formal than he would likely have used if he were at ease, but that was no doubt a response to his stress. So many purebloods fell back on their behavioral codes when unsure how to proceed, and it pulled a bit of sympathy from the Mediwitch.
His use of the word 'we' instead of 'she' also helped the elder witch's opinion of the boy before her, and softened her gaze still further as she looked from one to the other. 'He will be taking full responsibility', she thought, something that would help them both in the eyes of society, but might actually harm them a little with their families. There was no love lost between the Malfoy and Weasley lines, she knew, and she had one moment to pity them for what would follow, then pulled her training and experience around her and stood.
"That can be easily done." She walked around her small desk and was about to lead them to a bed when she remembered the reason they had come into her office to begin with, and changed course. "We can perform the diagnostic spells here, it will only take a few minutes."
Draco nodded in response, the gesture somewhat stiff, but Ginny only swallowed harder and struggled to retain control. Poppy Pomfrey felt another wave of sympathy, and respect, as she gestured for the young witch to stand and watched the blond automatically help her to her feet, though his face remained stoic and he didn't meet anyone's eyes.
The Mediwitch began to pass her wand over the redhead with steady, sure flicks, muttering the necessary incantations under her breath as she did so. Soon various runes and symbols appeared in the air above Ginny's stomach and she lowered her wand, dismissing the images. Her expression was composed, professional, when she looked up at her newest patient and the subtly anxious wizard next to her, but the elder witch's eyes were soft and sympathetic, as was her voice.
"Well, I have verification. You are approximately eight and a half weeks along, and both mother and child appear in good health, though," she focused her gaze on the redhead's pale face, then on Draco's stilted calmness as she hardened her voice just a touch, "you need to get more sleep and eat a little more. You're exhausted, and are going to be underweight if you're not careful."
Ginny nodded shakily at the last statement, in contrast to the single quick nod the Slytherin gave her as the nurse's gaze shifted back to him. "We’ll see to it, Madam. Perhaps a few weak sleeping potions might help, in addition to the normal vitamin potions."
"Yes, I believe that would be a good idea; I'll have to order the vitamin brews, but I have something on hand that will do in the meantime. Before I can do so, however, I am obliged to inform Miss Weasley's parents of her medical condition, as per school rules."
No matter the gentleness of her tone, or the expectedness of the statement, Ginny still swayed slightly at the announcement, prompting Draco to reach out a steadying hand as he helped her back into the chair. It was a moving sight, though whether she felt more respect or pity for the future parents she wasn't sure. Either way, she had a job to do, and she made her way into the office's second room to access the inner-school Floo and inform the Headmaster of what was happening, and what the Weasleys would need to be told.
It was late, and the Weasleys would most likely be ready for bed, if not already there, but school policy was clear. In the event that a student required specialized care - including, but not limited to the procurement of treatment not immediately available on site - or was diagnosed with a condition that would have long-standing effects, a parent was required to be notified immediately. Present circumstances, unfortunately, qualified on both accounts. She had been required to notify parents of qualifying circumstances before, serious Quidditch injuries mostly, but there had been the incident with the Vanishing Cabinet, and of course the Petrifications three years previous, but this was only the second notification of pregnancy she'd done in her years at Hogwarts.
She was grateful, as she ended her conversation with Dumbledore, that it would be him and not her who would be left to break the news to Ginny's parents, having had previous experience with an emotional Molly Weasley when Charlie had been injured in a Quidditch match in his fourth year. That experience made her pity for young Ginny even sharper, being able to anticipate the scene that would unfold upon the Weasley matriarch's arrival. Apparently she wasn't the only one to have such foresight, however, as she overheard the Malfoy heir's words as she prepared to re-enter the main room of her office.
"Will it be better or worse if I'm here when they arrive?"
"I- My father," she bit her lip, looking away from him and Draco nodded, having known what her answer would be, but still having felt the compulsion to ask, so she wouldn't think he was simply avoiding the drama that would ensue. It was strange, feeling a need to not hurt her, even indirectly. He'd never cared about it before, even when they'd been verbally sparing so satisfyingly, even when they'd... well, perhaps he'd cared the slightest bit then. But nothing like how he felt now, the urge to protect her having grown steadily more noticeable since she'd delivered her news. It wasn't so strong that he couldn't ignore it a good deal of the time, couldn't keep his reactions minimal, but it was still bothersome.
At the same time, however, it was unavoidable, and he found himself wanting to remain at her side until the others arrived. "I can go speak with mother while they're here."
"How will she-" Draco cut her off, knowing exactly what she was trying to ask.
"The only one she'll be upset with is me. Mother can't abide foolishness, especially from someone she knows is capable of adequate sense."
Ginny regarded him for a moment before nodding in acceptance, seeing that he felt the subject closed, and instead focused on the challenging task of slowing her heart rate to a mere gallop.
End Chapter Three
She had just managed to get her breathing and heart rate down to a reasonable level when the door to the back of the office swung open, revealing Poppy Pomfrey with a soft but professional look on her face.
"The Headmaster is contacting your parents as we speak, Miss Weasley, and they will most likely be here within the next twenty minutes or so."
The news, expected as it was, still slammed into the petite redhead with the force of a speeding Bludger. Ginny could see her mother's fear and worry at seeing Dumbledore's face in the fireplace turn swiftly to outrage at his news, could see her rushing to get herself and her husband ready, Apparating directly to Hogsmeade, and storming to the castle. Twenty minutes might be generous, she thought with mounting fear. How was she going to face them; how was she going to tell them that not only was she going to have a baby, but that the father was none other than Draco Malfoy? Sure, they'd know the former, but she'd have to actually inform them of the latter herself, in person.
She reached blindly for the hand next to hers, brown eyes catching grey as she squeezed his hand in desperation. Surprise and discomfort flashed between them for an instant before he squeezed back and they settled in to wait. The ten minutes they allowed themselves passed with agonizing slowness, but when it came to an end, and he rose, it felt entirely too soon. Yet they daren't risk his staying longer, her parents would be there anytime, and his presence would only make things worse, so he left silently, almost hesitantly, and hurried through empty corridors, down to his rooms.
Draco quickly spelled his shoes to silence before creeping to his trunk and removing the two-way mirror hidden there, then slipped back into the dungeon halls. The mirrors had been an extravagance his mother had insisted on when he'd gone off to school to ensure contact should he need to get in touch with her. In that moment he was grateful for it, as he could not establish the temporary Floo-link outside the school that the Headmaster had used to speak with the Weasleys, and an owl would take far too long.
Still, a part of him wished for the delay an owl would afford as he activated the mirror and waited for his mother to respond. When she appeared in the glass, he could tell the activation alarm had woken her, and hated the look of controlled panic on her face.
"Draco, what's wrong, dear?"
It would have been pointless, of course, for her to ask if there was a problem — he would not have contacted her so late, and so directly, if nothing was the matter. He was equally direct, yet as delicate as he could be in his response. Blurting out the reason for his call would have been bad manners, and would only have upset her more.
"I am fine, but a situation has arisen that you should know of."
A trace of panic drained from her pretty features. "What kind of situation?"
"I have been foolish, Mother."
Icy blue eyes regarded him seriously for several moments. Her son would not lightly admit to such a grievous error, which meant the situation was a bad one. A serious one. "And what consequences have your foolishness led to?"
"We have slightly less than seven months to arrange a wedding and birthing announcement."
Narcissa Malfoy's aristocratic features froze, her eyes frosting with anger. "Might I inquire as to the young lady's name to include in the wedding announcement?"
Too formal, too polite. The question left him stilling his own expression and forcing the words out evenly, calmly, to hide mounting emotions. "Ginevra Weasley."
He expected anger, annoyance, disdain, but she showed none of those emotions as she stared at him through the spelled glass. Instead she looked at him thoughtfully, as if considering, weighing, what she saw. Whatever decision she reached, whatever assessment she made, she kept it from her voice as she responded blandly several minutes later. "I should like to meet this young witch. Inform the Headmaster I will be along shortly."
His mirror shimmered and darkened before he had a chance to respond, leaving him staring at nothing as he tried to absorb what had just happened. For all her social refinement, her cool public exterior, his mother was a passionate woman who had never before curbed her tongue when informing her son what she thought of his actions, yet now, when he had made what was, by far, his biggest mistake, she had barely said a word, barely even expressed displeasure in him. What did that mean for him, for Ginny?
Shaking off that last thought, he quickly and quietly replaced the mirror and made his way towards the hospital wing where he was sure Dumbledore would be by now. He and Ginny had silently agreed that he would not be there while her parents were, and he worried as to the consequences of his appearance. He worried as to the consequences of disobeying his mother more, however, and so continued on his way. As it turned out, he needn't have been concerned as he met someone almost as good as the Headmaster in the hall outside Madam Pomfrey's domain.
"Professor," he said, upon approaching the Deputy Headmistress.
"Yes, Mr. Malfoy?" Her tone was crisp, even more so than normal, and he ascertained she had been told about the situation involving one of her fifth-years. Well, he thought, that just made it easier for him to deliver his message, saving him from explaining the reason for the sudden visit.
"My mother wished me to inform the Headmaster that she would be here shortly."
The witch's eyes narrowed somewhat menacingly at him, making him wonder if she were mentally flexing her unsheathed claws. "I will deliver the message momentarily, Mr. Malfoy."
As she turned to enter the hospital wing, he called out, the words leaving his mouth before he had a chance to think them through.
"How is she?"
A voice he recognized from the howler Ron had received his second year thundered out into the hallway at that moment, causing the Malfoy heir to cringe, unable to bank his emotions as a smaller, broken voice responded.
"Ginevra Molly Weasley! How could you do this? To us, to poor Harry? I'm ashamed, young lady, positively ashamed."
"I'm sorry, Mum, I'm so sorry."
"You certainly are..."
Draco shuttered his expression and clenched his fists at his side. "I'll collect my mother in Hogsmeade, if that's all right, Professor."
McGonagall nodded stiffly as another shout reached them through the double doors. "Very well, Mr. Malfoy. When you and your mother are finished, however, the Headmaster would like a private word with you."
"Yes, Professor," he conceded before heading to the main doors and out onto the school grounds. Simmering emotion he refused to admit had been ignited by the words he'd heard Mrs. Weasley shout, and the desperate guilt and pain he'd heard in Ginny's cries, fuelled his furious pace until he reached the gates and realized he would need to go no further to reach his goal.
"I assume we are going to the hospital wing?"
"Yes, Mother, this way," he stated as calmly as he could manage as he raised his arm for her to place her gloved hand on, before he led her back to the school at a much more dignified pace than he had left it. She knew the way, of course, but it was proper manners for him to escort her anyway, and following behavioral codes older than Hogwarts itself was the perfect way to settle his temper.
The tactic proved partially successful, as he had managed to smooth his voice and features by the time they reached the hospital, but his hard work was almost undone as words of pain and frustration and shouts of anger echoed out into the hall.
"I'll not have that- that Slytherin," Arthur Weasley spat the word out in disgust, "have any part of my grandchild's life."
"He'll not deny paternity, Dad, there's nothing-"
"Then you'll deny it. A witch has just as much right to declare parentage as a wizard, even if she isn't as rich-"
"I'll do no such thing, even if I did stand a chance of winning, he is my baby's father and I'll not keep him from his child."
"You'll do as you are told, young lady. You obviously haven't the sense to make the decision yourself, so your father and I will make it for you, and we say he'll not raise that child!"
Unable to listen any longer, the Weasleys' declarations firing anger within him, and Ginny's lighting something else he hadn't the time to analyze, Draco pushed open the double doors and strode through, cutting them all off with a scathing hiss.
"He will do exactly that, and I will thank you, Madam, to cease attacking my fiancé."
Wide, tear-filled brown eyes swung to meet grey ones as he stalked quickly to her side and gently, but insistently, helped her into a nearby chair. His actions turned her father's face a molten red.
"Get away from her!"
The heir to one of the oldest, most prestigious wizarding lines in existence turned slowly to meet the two outraged gazes. "As she will soon be both my wife and the mother of my child, I will do no such thing. Nor will I allow you to upset her any further. She is in a delicate condition, and regardless of the foolishness on our parts that put her in such a state, she cannot afford the stress you are causing her, so if you will not calm yourselves, I must insist you leave. Now."
There was fury on their faces, but before it could be expressed, Madam Pomfrey stormed in, having finally finished ordering the potions she would need for her newest patient. "What in Merlin's name is going on here? I'll not have this in my hospital. Out. Everyone out."
"Ah, Madam, our apologies," Dumbledore intoned soothingly as he entered directly behind her, "perhaps we could discuss the circumstances at another juncture," he stated with a glance at Molly and Arthur, steel beneath his calm words.
Molly Weasley raised her chin, squared her shoulders, and looked down at her only daughter with uncomprehending anger and embarrassment. "I don't believe that will be necessary. Come Arthur, we have a room to clean out at home."
The tall, red-headed man nodded in concession to his wife, turning to the Headmaster as they swept from the room. "We'll send you the boxes when they're packed."
And with that, they left, the doors swinging shut behind them, leaving Draco standing tensely behind a now quietly sobbing redhead. Narcissa shot her son a meaningful look as he continued to stand there, blue eyes flicking from him to the young witch and back again.
The young blond took his mother's forceful hint and placed a hand on Ginny's shoulder, steel softening to ash when she looked up at the contact. Her face was red, splotchy, swollen, and utterly devastated, but he couldn't find the annoyance to step back when she turned into him, burying her face in his stomach as she cried. Despite the awkwardness filling him, and the sudden tension in his spine, he laid an arm around her back as she shook against him, and let her cry.
End Chapter Four
He took in the bags beneath her eyes with a protective concern he was slowly learning to get used to. "Do you need more of the Sleeping Draught from Pomfrey?"
Ginny shook her head even as she smothered a yawn. "No, I don't have any early classes tomorrow, so I can just sleep in, or at least take a nap after breakfast."
Draco grimaced at that, thinking of the rather voracious appetite she had developed over the last three and a half months, and the strange, sometimes disgusting things that satisfied it. Having never been around a pregnant woman, he'd required an explanation from Madam Pomfrey that had left him nearly squirming in his seat, to understand the young witch's cravings. Even considering that, however, he had a hard time stomaching the sight of the new dishes that were appearing innocently amongst the regular Hogwarts fare, let alone the idea of eating it. Yet Ginny did both, and with enthusiasm.
It had been his mother's idea to give the redhead a discrete method of ordering foods from the house elves that would satisfy her cravings and have the edibles - and he used that term loosely - served with the rest of the food so as not to arouse suspicion from the other students. It worked quite well, though many of her housemates now considered her the Weasley with the most unusual, and occasionally disgusting, eating habits. Even Ron, the previous title-holder, would probably have agreed with the assessment, had he been acknowledging her presence.
Ron was not the only one acting as though she didn’t exist; Harry and Hermione were doing the same, and while it was a constant source of pain for the witch, it was actually making things a bit easier on her as well. They could not start a fight with someone they were shunning, after all, and they couldn't talk about someone they were pretending they had never known in the first place.
Even with the animosity that had existed between her and the trio after her breakup with Harry, this new level of distance and near hatred had raised questions among the other students, but after a full week of attempts and several all-out nasty responses, everyone had stopped asking the trio of lions what had happened. That was all to the good as far as Draco was concerned, more than content with their situation staying solely between them, the three Gryffindors, and selected members of the staff.
He had not felt a single urge to discuss things with anyone other than his mother, had not felt the frustration wrought by enforced silence that he could sometimes see in his fiancé's eyes. He had never really been the type to chatter or gossip with his mates the way so many of his housemates seemed to do with their friends. He'd never really been the type to have friends, for that matter. Even when he was a little boy and his parents would arrange to have their friends bring over their children for him to play with, he'd ended up sequestered in his rooms, drawing or playing with his junior potions set or Quidditch books.
That didn't mean that he was completely antisocial, however. He had always at least tolerated a few individuals his own age fairly well. Most of those same purebloods were at Hogwarts with him, and he had continued to spend time with them fairly frequently. Even though he favored the company of Crabbe and Goyle more often than not, simply for the fact that they didn't try to talk to him, he still enjoyed doing his homework, eating his meals, and playing chess with several of the others.
Yet the last three months had seen him growing less and less tolerable of such things. The petty frivolity of the conversations that floated around the once enjoyable activities now grated on his nerves. Their immature gossiping annoyed him. He no longer seemed to care which witch had the best figure, or where each of them was planning to spend their summer holiday. The latter topic, in fact, had been known to stir an anger within the Slytherin prince that his housemates found both surprising and intimidating.
For all that Draco Malfoy had never hesitated to lash out at his fellow snakes when he was in a bad mood, or they had pissed him off, he had also never really gone after them as strongly or as frequently as he had been doing lately. It had gotten to the point that there wasn't a student in the dungeons, be they first-year or seventh, that dared discuss their future plans within earshot of their prince for fear of retaliation.
Intellectually, the blond knew that he shouldn't take out his anger and resentment on his housemates. He knew that he should be trying to smooth over the damage he had done with the students who would one day make up the social, political, and economic circles in which he would live, but he just couldn't make himself do it. Nor could he force himself to stem the outbursts that resulted whenever he heard them talking about the lives that lay ahead of them.
He simply couldn't keep from resenting them for that, couldn't keep from feeling weighed down and trapped by the sealed fate that awaited him. It was stupid to feel that way, he knew, as his life would have been nearly as predetermined and inflexible even if he'd never been with young Ginevra. His career as head of the Malfoy estates and manager of the family investments had been laid out for him before he'd been born, and he'd always known that his parents would have more say in his marriage than he would. In that at least, he had prevailed. No matter how foolish his actions had been, he was still directly responsible for the selection of his wife-to-be.
It was gratifying, in a way, to have been responsible for some aspect of his own future. Regardless of how little thought had gone into it, he had actually given himself the perfect opportunity to prove to himself, and everyone else, that he was a mature and respectable man, able to own up to his mistakes and take charge of his own life. And of course, there was the baby to consider. For as long as he could remember, he'd been drilled in the duties that befell him as the eldest, and only Malfoy heir. He had known since he was a child that it was vitally important that he sire children to carry on the family name, but never before had he pictured himself as part of a real family. No match his parents would have chosen would have perpetuated the close, happy family he could now almost imagine in his half-awake musings before he fell asleep.
Yet Ginny, somehow, fit into that vision rather realistically in a way that prevented him from ever resenting her for the situation they now found themselves in. Perhaps that was why he'd endeavored from the start, to keep the situation contained, and their personal situation private. He knew that while having their business aired through the castle would infuriate him, it would hurt her significantly, and he knew he would do his best to prevent that.
While he'd had no control over the Weasleys telling Ron, and him telling his two best friends, Draco had been content with their efforts, feeling as if everything was as under control as it could be given the circumstances. At least until a few days before when she had come to their thrice weekly meeting in the old dungeon study-hall even paler than normal, with dark circles beneath her eyes and an air of frustrated sadness about her. Even considering her recent mood swings and the rising pressures of her upcoming O.W.L.s, he'd thought her state was due to something else, something more. He'd been right.
It had taken more than a few subtle manipulations of topic to get the necessary details out of her, but being the Slytherin he was, that was far from beyond his skills of manipulation. In the end, she'd told him the whole sordid mess, from the long nights she'd been spending on homework adding to already mounting exhaustion that no amount of sleep seemed to cure, to the difficulty concentrating in class, to the growing mood swings that kept getting her in trouble for having an attitude or disrupting class, or any other number of infringements that could be applied. She hadn't even needed to name the most serious offender on that last score; Draco had had him as not only a professor for the past six years, but as his Head of House, as well.
The knowledge of her straights left him wanting, almost needing, to do something to help. With Slytherin speed, his mind conjured up a plan. Less than three months before, the idea wouldn't have even occurred to him, but now it seemed a just and logical option; one he chose to take. He'd done so the very next day, waking before dawn and making his way silently down to the Potions classroom, to the storeroom used to house potions ingredients, to the shelves that contained everything he would need to make a slightly more than standard Calming Potion. He'd nicked a few other things too, just the right ones to make it look as if the thief was going to be making the more illicit Concentration Draught, frowned upon in school for its enhancement of academic performance. Of course, in a way, that was exactly what the thief was planning to do, just not for the reasons Professor Snape would assume.
It had been slightly amusing to watch the Potions master sputter and fume over the ensuing days, the blond being of the opinion that the man deserved a little something in return for the way he'd been treating Ginny, though the professor had no idea that she had a solid excuse for her inability to control her emotions. Of course, that may or may not have made a difference in how he treated her; it was Snape, after all. Still, Draco got some pleasure out of the elder wizard's frustration and anger. He got even more pleasure out of what followed.
Neither the potion, nor the draught, took all that much time to prepare, only a few hours each, but they did demand a certain degree of skill from the potions brewer that made them. He, naturally, possessed the required skill and had both completed two days after his acquisition of the supplies. Which is when the real fun began.
The first thing he did was portion out the Calming Potion into doses that would be safe for even someone in Ginny's condition to take on a fairly regular basis, and gave them to her with detailed instructions as to how much to take, and how to take it. Once that had been done, he took the Concentration Draught, put it in two small jars, and brought it with him to his next Potions lesson, making sure to have left just enough out of the bottles to make it appear as if a few doses had already been taken.
Then, on his way out of the room at the end of the period, just as he was passing Snape's desk, he bumped into Potter and the boy-Weasel, using the contact to hide his additions to the taller boy's book bag. With an appropriate sneer, he'd told the wizards to watch where they were going, insinuating that the collision had been their fault. This of course led to a small altercation the Professor was obliged to come break up, during which he'd shoved the two red and gold prats to the ground. Two book bags had fallen, spilling their contents on the stone floor at the Potions Master's feet; contents that included two mostly full bottles of what Snape easily identified as Concentration Draught.
Out of all the detentions and lectures he had caused the Gryffindors to endure over the years, the ensuing explosion of Slytherin rage had been the most satisfying. Especially because Snape, knowing neither boy was capable of brewing the Draught, had extended the punishment to Granger as well.
Ginny hadn't said a word about the fiasco, which had made it all over the school at least twice by their next meeting, but he could see a little more color in her cheeks, a little less struggle in her eyes. A good portion of that was due to the Calming Potion taking the edge off her mood swings and allowing her to get through her classes a little easier, but he knew some of it was because of the punishment she knew her three former friends were enduring at Snape's ever-capable hands.
"How's everything else going?" he asked, focusing his thoughts and attention on the witch as she rolled up her now completed History of Magic essay and slipped it into her bag.
She shrugged, tucking an errant strand of red behind her ear with one freckled hand. "Fine, I suppose." She sat quietly a moment, then ventured a question of her own. "How are you?"
"Fine," he stated without any sign of the surreal feeling he still got when thinking about the fact that he was sitting with the youngest Weasley, voluntarily, and conversing with her without rancor or ill intent. For all that they had done exactly that three times a week for the past fourteen weeks, it still felt strange.
It felt strange to Ginny too, who kept wondering when the other shoe was going to drop. Not that things were going all that perfectly. Her family still wasn't speaking to her; had in fact, boxed up all her belongings, and sent them to Dumbledore over two months before, not to mention the fact that she was still pregnant, and engaged to someone she barely knew, and barely liked. All within months of her sixteenth birthday. Yet, it could be worse. She could not be engaged, but instead facing not only the pregnancy, but her whole life alone and unaided. The prospect of raising her baby without support either emotional or financial was enough to make her grateful for what she had. And afraid of losing it.
Yes, it could be worse, and she feared it would be. There were so many things that could go wrong, from everyone finding out what had happened before school let out and making the remaining two weeks of the year a complete nightmare, to Draco suddenly changing his mind about being involved with her and the baby, to his mother changing it for him. Sure, he had reassured her more than once that his mother did not blame her for the turn his life had taken because of the pregnancy, he had told her Narcissa welcomed her addition to the Manor, and their lives, but having never really met the woman, Ginny couldn't help but worry.
The only time she had even seen Narcissa Malfoy was when the elder witch had come to the school the night she'd told Draco, and then she had been so upset from the argument and resulting estrangement from her parents, that she hadn’t been in any shape to speak with her future mother-in-law. That, of course, would be fixed soon enough, as she would be meeting, and talking with, Mrs. Malfoy in a mere thirteen days when school let out for the summer and she moved into Malfoy Manor.
The thought left her feeling a little queasy, and more than a little thankful that her morning sickness had finally begun to taper off as she advanced towards the end of her second trimester. It was by no means gone, of course, but she was no longer having to race from her desk to the nearest loo and heave-up the entire contents of her stomach every morning. It was a good thing too, as even Madam Pomfrey's 'diagnosis' of a rare strain of Elven flu would have only held up so much longer.
Thoughts of the illness the nurse had conveniently provided for her brought her a tiny smile, as bitter as it was amused, and distracted her from the movements of her soon-to-be husband. Because of that, she was startled when he dropped a brown wrapped parcel in her lap.
She raised her eyes in question, but he was already buried in his Potions book again, leaving her with only one way of satisfying her curiosity, at least one that wouldn't annoy him. Not really wanting to bother him when she could answer the question herself, the redheaded witch untied the twine holding the package together and carefully folded back the brown paper. When she was done, she was left with several neatly folded standard issue uniform skirts sitting in her lap.
There was nothing particularly special about them, they actually looked just like the ones she already owned, though they were of a better quality material that felt fabulous against her hand. And, she discovered upon closer inspection, they were almost two sizes larger than the ones she had been squeezing her expanding waistline into with the aid of a few tailoring charms.
She spared a moment to glance down at her rounded stomach and wondered how long it would be before she'd have to start applying those same charms to her robes. If it weren't for the fact that they had originally belonged to Charlie, and had been a little extra baggy to begin with, she'd probably have needed to magically expand them a week or more ago. It was almost too bad her skirts hadn't belonged to an older, larger sibling to start with, too, because they had actually been close to her size and needed a fair amount of effort to get into now. Which brought her back to the topic at hand.
"You bought me new skirts?" She couldn't keep the question from spilling out, though she knew the interruption was likely to annoy him, as most things did when he was seriously engaged in his homework.
Either he wasn't as involved in the assignment as she'd thought, or he had been waiting for her to speak, because he simply shrugged and turned a page. "Actually, mother bought them."
He shrugged again, and responded with distracted nonchalance. "I may have mentioned to her that you'd expressed some frustration with the ones you had."
Ginny stared down at the skirts, which, the more she examined them, the more she became sure they had cost much more than anything she had ever owned. "But, there's only two weeks left, I don't need this many, they're too expensive-"
Grey eyes rose, pinning her with their sharp gaze and cutting off any further protests. "Mother doesn't like to do things by halves. Don't worry about it."
With that, he returned his attention to the book in his lap, seeming to forget she was even there as he finished the reading Snape had assigned that day. After staring at him for several more minutes, she finally turned her attention to her own lap, where she fingered the lavish garments with the slightest smile of a girl receiving her first taste of self-indulgence. She didn't raise her eyes again for some time, which is why she missed the only partially smug smile that twisted his lips as he watched her from beneath icy blond lashes.
End Chapter Five
Next to the events of her first year, finding out she was pregnant was the scariest thing that had ever happened to her. Telling the father was probably the second scariest, and the third was telling her parents. Even considering all that, however, even knowing everything she'd been through, she couldn't help but be scared now. Granted, this wasn't quite any of those other things, didn't quite compare, but in that moment, she didn't care. She was scared.
She tried to ignore the churning in her stomach, tried to focus on the scenery flashing by through the window in her small compartment aboard the Hogwarts Express as it barreled towards Kings Cross, but all she could think about was where she was going, and what she was leaving behind. She had known for over four months that this was what would happen, of course, but it was just now truly hitting her.
Her fifth year was over, summer had officially started, and she wasn't going home. She was never going home again. It was almost surreal, as if when she got off the train her parents would be waiting for her, to apologize, to say they had overreacted and they wanted to try and make things work. But she knew that wasn't going to happen, she knew that when she got off the Express, the only people her parents would be there to meet would be Ron, Harry, and Hermione. She knew the only person that would be there to meet her would be Narcissa Malfoy.
The thought of meeting the woman shouldn't have scared her as much as it did; Draco had told her time and again that his mother harbored her no ill will, though it was just as much her fault as it was his that they were in the situation they were in. She was pretty sure she should believe him, the elder witch's actions over the last few months had certainly left no hint of blame or animosity, but she was afraid to get her hopes up in case Narcissa held her responsible for destroying her son's future and invading their lives. The possibilities spun round and round inside her head, leaving her almost dizzy and even more nauseous than could be attributed to her lingering morning sickness.
The nerves only mounted as the day wore on, leaving her unable to get down more than a bite of her lunch and adding a gnawing hunger to her list of physical and mental ailments. By the time they rolled to a stop in front of Platform 9 ¾, she was a mess. It wasn't as bad as it had been the night she'd spoken with Draco and her parents, but she still had to clasp her hands tightly together to keep them from trembling. She also had to blink her eyes furiously and keep them focused straight ahead, and away from the young wizard gathering their luggage, in order to prevent the tears from forming.
It was just as well that she let him guide them off the train and through the crowd instead of staying actively aware of her surroundings, as it meant she didn't notice the stares and whispers they garnered as they disembarked side by side. For all the other students - excluding three, of course - it was a shocking sight to see a Malfoy and a Weasley making their way amongst their schoolmates, hand-in-hand as the blond wordlessly pushed their combined belongings before them.
Completely unaware of the spectacle they were causing, Ginny allowed herself to be led straight to the tall, stately blonde waiting for them at the end of the platform. The Malfoys were more than aware of the attention, however, and wanting to avoid as much of a scene and preserve as much as their privacy as possible, they postponed their greetings and quickly exited the station. As soon as they were away from the crowds, Mrs. Malfoy removed the silver pocket-watch from her stylish mauve robes and held out the chain for both children to grasp before activating the Portkey.
Mother and son landed with practiced ease, though the trunks fell rather heavily as each reached out to steady the small redhead. A simple spell shot off-handedly from the taller witch's wand had the luggage following them weightlessly as he slipped a hand automatically through the youngest Weasley's arm and led her up the drive to the front steps of Malfoy Manor.
The action was more than just a byproduct of the extensive lessons in high-born manners that he had received for much of his life, Narcissa noted with a hidden smirk, as she watched her only child lead the mother of his own child into their home. For all that he had always exhibited a bit more self-respect than she'd have wished for him to possess, always shown more preference to his immediate social circle than she would have otherwise preferred, her boy was no arrogant snob.
Sure, six months ago he most likely wouldn't have given the petite witch on his arm more than a passing insult in the halls, but he had risen to the occasion and taken his responsibilities in full the moment they were presented to him, and she couldn't be prouder of him for it. Even considering the circumstances that had brought it all about.
Narcissa Malfoy smiled as she stepped into her home and directed a house elf to take the still floating trunks to the appropriate rooms, then turned to face the obviously nervous redhead waiting with Draco in the entrance hall. Her son had informed her of young Ginevra's concerns regarding her welcome, and she couldn't help but shoot a mental sneer at the upbringing that had left the witch so prepared to face hysterics, to expect crass displays of emotion in difficult situations. If she'd been raised with proper pure-blood manners and codes of behavior she would have been prepared for calm, sophisticated confrontations.
Not that there would be a confrontation. No, despite the difficult spot that had resulted from the foolish actions that had led them here, she was anything but resentful to her. In fact, she was grateful to her in a way. In the space of time it had taken the redhead to tell the boy he was going to be a father, Ginny had made her son into a man, a mature and responsible man. And in a scant two and a half months, she would be making her a grandmother.
And beyond that, she appeared, for all that she had heard and seen, to be a decent young woman on her own. If nothing else, the witch had not made any demands - monetary or otherwise - of her or her son when she could have done so. According to Draco, she had even presumed to take the weight and responsibility of the child onto her own shoulders, had told him of her pregnancy only out of the opinion that he should know, and not the expectation of his help. That earned her a portion of respect from the blonde woman, even though it struck her as irrationally Gryffindoric.
She let some of that respect, and a touch of her sympathy, show on her sculpted features as she glanced from the nervous girl to the boy standing next to her. "Hullo, Draco, dear. I trust the train ride was satisfactory."
"Yes, Mum," he said with a soft smile as she bent to kiss both of his pale cheeks. "It was as uneventful as we could have hoped."
"Good," she stated with a nod and fixed pale blue orbs on wide brown. "Was it all right for you, as well, Miss Weasley?"
Ginny nodded a little quickly and attempted a smile, but didn't quite succeed. "Yes, ma'am."
Narcissa tut-tutted at the witch. "No need to be quite so formal, Ginevra, you're to be my daughter-in-law soon enough, after all."
A slight flush rose in otherwise pale cheeks and she swallowed before speaking, her voice as timid as her expression. "Ginny, please."
A genuine smile split the elder witch's face. "Quite right, dear, and you shall call me Narcissa or even mother if you feel so inclined." She chose not to notice the slightest blanching of Ginny's face at the latter suggestion, and instead led both children to the main staircase. "Come, you'll want to see your rooms, I'm sure. I had the elves clean out the guest suite in the family wing so you'll be close to both Draco and I, though not so close as to threaten anyone's privacy of course."
Mrs. Malfoy filled the distance with off hand descriptions of various pieces of artwork and paintings, to which Draco eventually added his own comments, though his contributions were somewhat less historical than his mother's. By the time they reached their destination, Ginny had the slightest of grins on her face and a hint of laughter in her eyes.
"Here we are." She opened the large oak wood door and gestured at the moderate sized sitting room that was revealed. "This will be for your personal use, though you're welcome to enjoy the parlor or sun room downstairs." Another gleaming wood door, this one with carvings of wood nymphs, led into a large, rather richly appointed bedroom done heavily in browns and golds.
"The closet is through there," she stated with a rather regal wave of her hand, indicating another door to the right on the opposite wall. The fourth door, also on the opposite wall, but towards the left, she identified as the 'bathing chamber' with another wave.
If there were any further bits of information about the rooms, Ginny didn't hear them, being too busy staring around at the rooms that would now be hers. Two rooms, a bathroom, and what she suspected would be a closet entirely too large to house her meager wardrobe, all for her. Having grown up thankful for a room half the size of her new sitting room and less than a third the size of the bedroom she was in now, made the transition daunting.
It was all so daunting in fact that when Narcissa ushered Draco out with a simple, "We'll leave you to settle in, dear; a house elf will fetch you for dinner," she wondered if she'd be able to manage it.
End Chapter Six
After spending several minutes contemplating the new and expensive turn her life had taken, Ginny tried to shake off the melancholy and the strong sense that she belonged anywhere but where she was. Thinking that she might feel less out of place in the rooms if she at least familiarized herself with them, she set about exploring.
Starting in the sitting room, she opened the drawers of the small writing desk and fingered the thick parchment, slim quills, and pallet of ink hues. She tested the firmness of chairs and settees, and admired the view of the back lawns. She even slipped off her shoes and felt the rich carpets and smooth wood floors beneath her feet. Unlike the slightly rough flooring at the Burrow, or the hard stones that chilled even the rugs in the castle, her toes felt no nip of cold or scratch of unpolished pine.
She didn't bother to re-shod herself before heading back into the bedroom, where the carpets increased in size and thickness, covering more than two thirds of the dark cherry boards. The redhead curled her toes in the colourful rugs and wandered over to draw a hand along the smooth marble surrounding the fireplace. She idly wondered if one of the decorative vases held Floo powder before turning her attention to the large window seat that took up almost half of the left-hand wall. Situated beneath a wide bay window, the seat was covered with cushions and pillows of rich coffee and dark amber and afforded a sweeping view of well-maintained gardens.
Resisting the urge to lay down on the four-poster bed she guessed to be at least twice the size of the one she enjoyed at Hogwarts, Ginny continued on to the bathroom which she found done in a lighter but similar scheme to the rest of the suite. Where the sitting room was bright copper, bronze, and chestnut, and the bedroom deep chocolate, gold, and amber, the bathroom was light tan, brown, and cream with subtle accents of the different metals found in the other rooms.
The counters, which spread out from a wide sink, were marble, veined in gold; the floor was a surprisingly smooth stone, and the raised section that housed the large sunken tub was tiled in a complicated solar motif. She almost missed the toilet, hidden as it was by a cream and tan curtain trimmed with bronze beads. It was in keeping with the opulence evident in the rest of the rooms, and did nothing for her comfort level. Nor did the fact that a cursory glance in the cabinets and drawers around the sink revealed a wide arrange of toiletries and cosmetics.
Following a hunch, the youngest Weasley left the bathroom and opened the closet. Just as she feared, the spacious, walk-in closet was not empty and barren, waiting for her small collection of clothing as she'd first expected, but half-filled with garments of various colours and styles. Casual, dress, and formal robes, gowns, and even suits were arranged neatly on racks. There were even drawers of undergarments, shelves of shoes, and a few boxes of accessories. Her stomach, which had begun its downward journey as soon as she'd entered the suite, and had resided temporarily in her knees when she'd seen the items in the bathroom, dropped heavily to her feet.
How much time, effort, and money had Narcissa Malfoy used putting these rooms together? And how could she ever repay her? Surely she would she expect to be repaid, wouldn't she? The questions and doubts rebounded on one another, making her relieved in some ways, as it all showed that she was indeed welcome, and guilty in others. She had turned their lives completely upside down, dashed all the hopes and plans either Malfoy might have had for Draco's future; how did she deserve any of this? And what was she supposed to do with it?
Ginny was a simple girl, by design and preference as much as necessity, and the kind of easy wealth evident around her was anything but easy for her to adopt. Yet that was apparently what she was supposed to do. She would be a Malfoy soon, after all. The discomfort she felt didn't ebb at that thought, though, and she let her head fall back on a sigh as she tried to think of some way to speak with her future mother-in-law about the situation.
That was when she saw the trunks.
They were as much out of place next to the toffee coloured walls and brass fittings as her hand-me-down robes were next to the rich fabrics on the racks. Perhaps that was why they had been placed on the highest shelves, well above the line of sight. Perhaps, however, it was their contents, and their meaning, that warranted them that spot. When and how they had made their way here from the school, where she had heard her father tell Dumbledore they'd be sent, she didn't know. But she knew without a doubt that they were the same ones as her parents had sent the Headmaster after cleaning her things out of the Burrow.
Everything she'd left at home - all the clothes and toys and books from her childhood - was in those trunks. Everything her parents had saved as she grew up, everything she'd painstakingly accumulated to fill and decorate her small bedroom, was stuffed inside them. A dull pain spread through her chest. Her life was in those trunks, her connection to her family.
A family that had turned her out, turned away from her. A life she could no longer live. Ginny squeezed her eyes shut and wiped roughly at the tear that spilled out. Those trunks were no longer her life, but her past, just like her family was now. She was no longer Ginny Weasley, but Ginny soon-to-be-Malfoy. She may have felt out of place now, but she'd be damned if she felt that way for long. This place was the only place she was welcome; the people in it, the only people who would have her. It was painful, and it was scary, but it was her life; her baby's life. Besides, she was a Gryffindor, even if many of the other lions refused to acknowledge it anymore. She had more than enough guts to make herself fit in here. And she would, she decided, do just that.
Her stomach seemed to agree with her as it slowly climbed back up into its rightful place, and promptly growled at her. With a tired smile, the redhead exited the closet, resolutely keeping her gaze from drifting upwards, and re-entered the sitting room to locate and don her shoes. As luck would have it, she had barely finished the task when a small house elf, who identified himself as Doc, appeared to announce dinner.
She followed the creature through the tastefully decorated halls, down the carpeted stairs and across the entrance hall. Her hunger was strong enough to keep her from gawking too much as she traipsed through a side hall and into an elegantly appointed dinning room that featured a gleaming wood table that would have fit five times as many people as would be sitting there tonight.
She felt a moment's discomfort as she stood there beside the table, still in her ratty school robe, wondering if she should have changed before coming down. High-bred families dressed for dinner, didn't they? Would she be expected to do the same? Her doubts were quieted at least somewhat when the Malfoys entered the room from another door. Draco had shed his robes, but she still recognized the slacks and shirt he wore as those he'd had on earlier that day, and Narcissa had opened her expertly tailored robes to show the straight-lined dress she had on beneath it. Maybe the evening meal wouldn't be so formal after all.
That thought was a reassuring one, and allowed her to sink into the chair Doc was pulling out for her, even let her smile almost convincingly at both blonds, though it didn't hide the grimace that twisted her features as she sat. For all the wonderful scenery, the trek through the manor had been a long one, and long treks were something she hadn't been able to do comfortably for over a week.
"Do you need a potion for your back?" Draco asked with a frown at the circles under her eyes, ones that appeared to have darkened in the mere hour they'd left her alone.
Ginny shook her head. "No, it'll feel better once I'm off my feet for a while." She refrained from mentioning the fact that her feet, swollen as they were becoming, might need more time and a bit of elevation to feel better.
The wizard pretended he didn't know what she'd left out, and initiated some small talk as their first course was served. Conversation, as it was wont to do when people had not seen each other for a while, or had not ever truly met, flowed steadily though superficially for the duration of the meal. Ginny found the perfect opening to thank her future mother-in-law for the idea that had let her order special foods at school, for the skirts she had sent, and for the rooms and their contents. All were done with a shy, self-conscious genuineness, but were brushed off with a smile and wave of the blonde's hand, as Draco knew they would be.
The fact that Narcissa seemed unconcerned with the effort and money she'd expended on Ginny's behalf made the young woman feel a little better about accepting and not being able to pay back any of that expense. The fact that the elder witch appeared pleased with the thanks and practically preened at the compliments the redhead gave the design, decoration, and color schemes of the rooms made her feel much better. For his part, Draco enjoyed watching the byplay between the witches in his life, especially the look that his future wife gave the plate that appeared before her with each course. Narcissa enjoyed it as well, though more for the reactions Ginny's reactions garnered from her son, especially when the most strange and unappetizing combinations of cravings were served and quickly eaten by the redhead.
"Feel free to make any requests of the house elves that you wish, Ginny dear," the Malfoy matriarch stated over desert. "They have full access to anything you might feel a proclivity for. And will respond at any time such a penchant may strike."
The young witch's eyes widened ever so much at the offer, imagining the midnight cravings she could satisfy as she had not been able to do while restricted to the dining schedule at Hogwarts. "Thank you, Narcissa that is a most generous offer. I'm quite sure I'll put it to good use."
She had stumbled over the use of her given name just a touch, but the blonde witch couldn't help but feel overly pleased with the sophisticated phrasing. Maybe she hadn't had the proper training, but the girl was smart and apparently learned quickly. Yes, she thought, Ginevra would fit in quite well at the Manor. The thought caused the sides of her mouth to turn up ever-so-slightly as the last of the plates disappeared from the table and she rose.
"Shall we retire to the parlour?"
Ginny nodded and started to rise from her chair only to find Draco beside her, one arm reaching out to help her to feet. He'd done the same thing on the train that morning, had in fact been doing much the same whenever they'd been alone at school for at least a week. It was as if he could tell when she needed help and when she didn't, as he hadn't started until her growing belly began making such things difficult. It rubbed against her independent streak to need his help, even in little ways, but she was growing accustomed to his being there, and his constant offer of aide, and she didn't even think to turn down the arm he extended to her once she was on her feet.
Neither noticed the grin flash across Narcissa's face as Draco led his future wife into the parlour. They did notice it, however, once they had settled and the elder witch began to pull out several white albums filled with announcement designs, flowers, and fabric swatches. The young wizard visibly resisted the urge to squirm when his mother announced her intentions.
"Just because you didn't have a choice in scheduling the ceremony doesn't mean you can't make the best of the circumstances. A wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and every witch should have one as close to her dream as possible."
The witches smiled at one another, in sympathy, in thanks, and then, as blue and brown caught the expression almost hidden beneath his neutral mask, in amusement. "You needn't concern yourself with the details, Draco; leave it all to us girls."
The look of relief on his face and the speed with which he excused himself turned smiles to grins and filled the parlour with soft laughter.
"For all his finer points, my son is still a man; you'll have to excuse him the inherent flaws, dear."
Ginny nodded noncommittally with just a hint of defensiveness in her voice. "He's been ... well, I expected a wizard faced with such circumstances would run as far as he could, but Draco never even tried. He's been... great. Before all this I thought he was... well, he's shown himself to be a lot more than I'd ever suspected."
This time, Narcissa managed to hide the grin that threatened to emerge as she looked at the young witch before her, watching the redhead as she spoke. There was more than just her opinion of Draco that exceeded her suspicions, the blonde was sure. There was certainly more there, beneath her gratitude, that Ginny hadn't become aware of yet.
"Yes, he's always had a way of exceeding one's expectations," Mrs. Malfoy stated quietly, her gaze remaining fixed on the freckled features for a moment longer before she opened an album and brought the conversation back to the topic at hand. They had a wedding to plan, after all, and only a little over a week to do so, if they wanted the ceremony to occur while it was still possible to hide Ginny's rounding belly. As it stood, they'd need a few well-placed beauty charms and some creative tailoring to accomplish the task.
Yet accomplish it they did. The days following the redhead's arrival at the Manor were filled with all manner of tastings, viewings, and deliberations. The preparations kept her too busy to think about what they were actually planning, and what it meant. No, those thoughts were left to wash over her as she stood before the assembled guests in the sweeping gardens behind the Manor ten days later.
Surprisingly enough, the full realization that she was officially Mrs. Ginevra Malfoy, forever linked to the blond Slytherin for the entirety of her life, as well as that of their baby, wasn't quite as daunting as she had expected it to be. It was just as overwhelming, however, and she felt as if surrounded by a clear but heavy fog as she received the congratulations of their guests.
Professor McGonagall had looked pinched but hopeful as she wished them well, Hagrid had been crying, and Professor Snape scowling. The Headmaster, as the presiding Ministry official, had been privy to the expressions of the bride and groom as they had conducted the hand-fasting, and so he looked much more optimistic than any of his staff as he shook her hand. That of course, could have just been the seemingly permanent twinkle in his eyes, or so the new couple told themselves.
End Chapter Seven
In the just over two months that she had resided at Malfoy Manor, she had more than enjoyed the style and sumptuousness of her suite, but in the last month and a half she had truly come to appreciate everything that had gone into its creation as she and Narcissa attempted to do the same with the large room that would be their new nursery.
It had been Narcissa's idea for Ginny to help her design, put together, and decorate the space in which she would soon be spending much of her time. It was an idea the redhead had learned to be thankful for, and resentful to, in nearly equal measure. For all that she enjoyed the process, and felt a sense of pride and accomplishment at preparing for her baby, she found herself battling said child for the time and energy to do so.
As the weeks progressed she grew larger and larger with the tiny but heavy life within her, and between the mounting exhaustion, swelling feet and ankles, aching back, and increasing mood swings even Draco's Calming Potion couldn't always regulate, she was having trouble juggling the demands of the nursery and her own protruding stomach.
Her mother-in-law would have taken over for her if she'd asked, of course, but she wanted to be involved. Besides, the hours they spent discussing wallpaper and curtains, stuffed animals and animated murals, changing tables and baby blankets, were not only distracting, but pleasurable. During the preparations they had made for the wedding, she'd gotten to know the older witch, and found herself liking what she saw. She'd heard the woman described a few times before this had all started, remembered the terms 'trophy wife' and 'cold' but she couldn't manage to equate them with the woman that argued good-naturedly with her over exactly which flowers went the best with her wedding robes.
That difficulty had only increased as they began the nursery and became buried in teddy bears and toy brooms. More than just the intricacies of interior design and decoration, or even wedding guests and reception menus, they had spent countless hours discussing their lives and above all else, their pregnancies. When she'd been little, and thought about having kids of her own, she'd always pictured herself sitting at the kitchen table with her mother, pouring over baby albums and sorting through her old baby clothes to find mend-ables for her baby.
While things didn't quite measure up to her dreams of a long romance and happy ever after, it was nice that some small bits resembled her original plans. Granted, Narcissa wasn't her mother, but she was kind and supportive and understanding in a genuine, if less enthusiastic, way that was comforting. She wasn't sure if her hormone-driven emotions could have handled the inherent hysteria of Molly Weasley. But Merlin, she wanted it anyway.
Taking a deep breath, swallowing past the familiar wave of depression that had been sweeping over her at unpredictable moments for a month now, she centered her thoughts, remembered her resolution, standing beneath those trunks her first night in the Manor, and reiterated it. That was her past, this was her future, and she would not allow the former to ruin the latter, no matter how differently her hormones felt about it.
Managing to keep control of herself - no little thanks to the efforts of her potion-brewing husband, who had been working on adjusting his Calming Potion - Ginny focused back on the blonde witch who had apparently been talking to her.
"-at your last check-up?"
"Yes, everything went fine." Ginny asserted, scrambling to remember what she had been asked. "The midwitch says we both look to be in perfect health; though I dare say Draco looked anything but when she started the visual wand-scan."
Narcissa glanced over her shoulder from where she stood, adjusting the height of the new blue and white shelves they'd installed the day before. "Quite understandable. I remember the look on Lucius' face when the midwitch asked him if he wanted to stay and watch that exam. I can think of few occasions where he excused himself with so little dignity, and so much haste."
The witches exchanged wry smiles at that. From all that the blonde had told her of Draco's father and the husbands of her friends, Ginny knew she was lucky that hers was so willing to remain involved in all the various stages of her pregnancy. It really shouldn't have surprised her so much as it did; he'd been with her from the first, after all. From the moment he'd learnt he was to be a father, he had been unshakable in his determination to be a part of not only the baby's life, but hers as well.
That particular distinction brought her a strange sort of comfort, though she hadn't yet allowed herself to look any closer as to why. Instead, she turned her attention to something he had politely but definitively declined to help with. The room was roughly the size of her bedroom and sitting room combined, and had a closet and bathroom attached as hers did. They were so similar because, as Narcissa had explained at the onset of the project, they had started out as matching guest suites.
The one Ginny now lived in had been enlarged in certain areas, and the walls between the rooms in this suite had been taken out wherever structurally possible, leaving it basically one open room with several support beams here and there. The supports had been transformed into the sides of shelves, the posts holding a netted hammock that contained a collection of stuffed toys, and had even had posts and hooks added in one case, on which were now hung toys and a miniature robe and cloak set.
They had decided on a scheme of blue - in all different shades - white, and cream. The décor lent towards a seascape with sea gulls soaring amongst white clouds on the ceiling, dolphins diving in crashing waves on the walls, and fish swimming around kelp and coral reefs on the plush carpets. Spells that had taken them both the better part of two weeks to find and cast could be used to animate the different decorations and even add appropriate sound effects.
The theme was carried through the bathroom and closet. All in all, she was very pleased with the result of their efforts, finding it cute but calming, something she was sure she would be thankful for once she was forced to spend the majority of her time in the room. Another thing she would be thankful for was the room's location. Situated as it was between her suite and Draco's, it would enable them both convenient and quick access. Like the baby it would soon hold, the room tied her to her husband in a concrete way that she had managed to partly ignore up until that point.
Sure, the life growing inside her was as much a part of him as it was her, and the baby unarguably connected them, but to have it symbolized so obviously had taken a bit of getting used to. And so had living in the Manor. Before she had a chance to go over all the trials and tribulations she and Draco had gone through in the last two months, Doc appeared at the door carrying a large box wrapped cheerily in paper depicting the English World Cup Team as if drawn by a child.
"Another baby gift, Doc?" Narcissa asked after turning from the shelves. The house elf nodded, or at least it seemed to, but with the box covering its head, it was hard to tell. "Very well, you may give it to Mistress Ginny."
The box bobbed as if the creature had bowed in response to the order, and wobbled over to where the redhead - who still felt strange every time she was reminded of the title the elves used for her - sat on the plush rocking chair beneath the window. She took the package with slight confusion, looking it over carefully after taking it from Doc, who snapped out of the room, leaving her glancing between the box and her mother-in-law. Narcissa's carefully poised features did not hide her own curiosity.
She and Draco had received several baby gifts in the aftermath of the birthing announcements that had been selected and sent out the month before. They had, in fact, received a gift from everyone they'd expected. The entirety of their wedding guests, as well as a few of the Malfoy family's society friends hoping to stay in the family's good graces, had sent presents to the prospective parents. Neither witch could think of anyone else who would be sending them something, however.
Not sure what to expect, Ginny peeled the wrapping from the box. It was a Spell Rocker. Guaranteed to rock your baby for thirty minutes from one swish and flick to the next; comes in three convenient speed settings for baby's enjoyment, proclaimed the box. It was rather plain-looking, but sounded practical enough. She'd seen enough babies at family reunions when she was younger to know that a rocking motion could be a large help in putting a baby to sleep or keeping them asleep. But that still left the question of who sent it. Turning the box over, the redhead spotted a piece of parchment folded and Spellotaped to the side. Figuring that it must hold the answer, she pulled it off, opened it up, and stared at it for several moments.
"Ginny, dear, are you all right?"
She nodded absently at the worried inquiry, all her attention riveted on the sheet of parchment.
Congratulations. Never mind mum and dad, gnomes up the arse, you know. Maybe it's a temporary condition; we'll keep a look out. Sorry we couldn't bring it ourselves, but, well, you understand. We love you, Gin. Give the little one a kiss for us when he or she shows up. ~Your brothers, Bill and Charlie.
Brown eyes finally focused, meeting blue with tears swimming in the chocolate depths. "Yeah." The word came out a little shaky and she swallowed, then tried again. "Yes, I'm quite all right. Just surprised. It," she gestured at the Rocker, "It's from Bill and Charlie. They, they must have gotten the announcements we sent. I'm sure Mum threw the others away, but we sent theirs straight to Gringotts and the dragon reserve. She couldn't throw them out."
But she could keep them from coming to see her. She did understand, after all, understood that her oldest brothers knew the explosion that would ensue if Molly Weasley found out they'd been in contact with their sister. Yet they'd still gotten together, found a gift, and sent it to her anyway. They still wanted to be a part of her life, of her baby's life; even knowing that she was living at Malfoy Manor, they were willing to take the first step, and that knowledge gave her hope. Maybe the rest of her family would come around. Bill had said so, in his elegant scrawl. But before the feeling could take hold, she shoved it down.
Hope was great, but it left you open to pain if what you hoped for didn't happen. She couldn't handle it if she let herself believe she might have her family back only to never get more than a few token peace offerings by owl. So she intentionally placed the parchment atop the box and hauled herself to her swollen feet.
"We should get the bassinet finished so it can be moved into my rooms, you're right about running in here every hour or two. It'll be easier if the baby sleeps with me for a couple weeks."
The blonde simply watched her for a moment, measuring her with ice blue eyes, before nodding ever-so-slightly and waiting for the young witch to waddle over to the bassinet so they could finish the decorating spells they'd planned for it. Ginny only made it half-way before she bent over with a sudden, sharp pain. The redhead cried out, her hands pressing against her stomach.
"Ginny, what is it? Does it hurt?" Narcissa asked as she rushed to her side, reaching out to steady her as she whimpered, the painful sound answering her second question while the sudden wetness at their feet answered her first. "Oh dear, your water's broken." The words were spoken with a forced calm that didn't fool either one of them.
"All right then, let's get you to bed." Her voice gained strength as she began to think logically once more, steering the now groaning Ginny towards her rooms and summoning Doc at the same time.
"Fetch the midwitch and Master Draco immediately, Doc, Mistress Ginny's having the baby."
The creature's eyes widened even more than their natural bulbous state, and he leapt to obey his mistress's command, disappearing before his younger mistress tried to contradict her mother-in-law in a panicked voice. "No, no I'm not, I can't be, it's early, it's too early; the baby's not supposed to come for another two weeks."
Narcissa did her best to soothe the girl as they reached their destination and the blonde helped her position herself as comfortably as possible on the large mattress once she'd cast a cleaning shield on the sheets so the younger girl wouldn't be lying in her own fluids for the duration of the labour. She had almost succeeded in calming her down when Draco burst through the doorway, eyes wide and hair in disarray, demanding to know if Ginny was alright, and how long she'd been in labour.
It was fortunate the midwitch arrived at that moment and issued a stern command for the father to behave or be Silencio'd. The blond wisely grew quiet, but paced restlessly as the woman started asking Ginny questions and checking her status with swift sweeps of her wand. In Draco's opinion, ages passed, and still nothing actually happened. Ginny moaned and whimpered and cried out every few minutes as the pain spiked, but it seemed to lead nowhere.
He stopped asking what was taking so long after his third question nearly earned him a hex from the panting redhead.
He asked his mother to confiscate the witch's wand before the first hour was out, for fear of his safety.
He tried to defend himself for most of hour two when Ginny started cursing at him.
He stopped talking altogether by the end of hour three.
He was pacing again at the onset of hour four, and sitting unsteadily by the end of it.
He moved to the chair below the window ten minutes later once he realized the full extent of his view in the first seat.
He was at his wife's side half-way through hour five, looking down at his tiny son as Ginny held him in her arms.
His son. He was so small, and both redder and more wrinkled than he'd expected, but he was still perfect.
"What's his name?"
Draco pulled his eyes from the baby to meet his mother's gaze. Wizarding tradition stated the parents did not announce a baby's name until after the birth, and he could see the eager light in the elder witch's eyes as she waited for the answer. It was Ginny who gave it to her, speaking in a tired voice scratchy from screaming.
"Doron Alexandros Malfoy."
He could see it on his mother's face the moment she had pulled up her old lessons in Greek and translated the first name.
"Perfect," she whispered, and Draco had to agree as damp eyes the color of steel fell on the face of his son. It was perfect, because in Greek, Doron meant gift, and whatever circumstances had led to his birth, whatever changes he had forced in his parents' lives, he was a gift. Perhaps not the only one he'd been given, the blond thought as he watched his wife run a finger lightly over their son's cheek.
End Chapter Eight
She'd never thought of herself as a vain person. Growing up in your brothers' hand-me-downs had that effect on a girl, not to mention the fact that diet was a four-letter word in the Weasley house. She'd never spent time or energy on beauty charms, even at the height of her crush on Harry. Yet here she was, annoyingly conscious of the weight she'd yet to lose after her pregnancy, and the circles under her eyes from long nights with a newborn. The first few weeks she'd been too tired and sore to think about any of it, but once Doron had started to settle in, she'd realized what she looked like, and it had actually bothered her.
She found herself sparing an extra fifteen minutes of much needed sleep to get up a little early and make herself look less half-dead, and at least marginally as put together as her blond housemates managed despite their own lack of sleep. She even went so far as to devote her free period before lunch to a run around the school grounds. The redhead told herself that it was just because she had heard that exercise could help you sleep and give you a little extra energy. She refused to think about why else she was doing it, flat-out ignored whom she might be doing it for, whom she might want to look good for.
She had gotten pretty good at ignoring things. A good portion of the previous year had required her to ignore the entirety of her House, to ignore the absence of her family during and after school had let out. She'd had a break over the summer, for the most part, having only to not notice how adorable a certain individual was starting to look to her first thing in the morning. Once the new school year had begun however, she'd once more had to ignore her fellow students.
Between the word of mouth that the birthing announcements - though restricted in their delivery - had wrought, and the fact that she'd had to start the term a week late to give herself and Doron time to recover and settle in, she'd been the center of attention upon her return. She wondered if it would have been better or worse if he'd been born on-time and she'd had to miss three weeks. Either way, she'd have had to dust off her aloof and seemingly uncaring façade, which had become her number one defense against the staring and whispering and pointing that followed her through the halls.
It was probably just as bad for Draco with the Slytherins, given the animosity between their Houses, but he at least wasn't receiving the treatment from the other three Houses as well. For a start, the wizard was always spared the majority of the blame and resulting scorn that a witch had to deal with, and for another, most of the students were afraid of him. She had been tempted to follow suit and hex the next person she heard say anything about her, but hadn't thought herself truly serious until an apparently mis-Sorted Ravenclaw had been stupid enough to make a comment about Doron within her earshot.
She'd been proud of her Bat-Boogey before, but that day she had outdone herself. She had been sure it had cost her there for a second when she'd spotted Professor Snape watching the encounter from down the corridor. But he had simply met her eyes for a moment, then turned and walked away. The incident, or at least the story of her ability and willingness to hex, had spread quickly among the student body and the more obvious staring and cutting remarks had tapered off.
All in all, it had gone to her advantage, earning her a knowing smirk and nod of approval from her husband, and surprisingly enough, some apparent slack in the Potions classroom, where instead of taking points from her for distracting the class, Snape began taking points from whoever was trying to goad her into a reaction.
Some of the other teachers, now aware of the situation, also helped keep the students from bothering her too much when they were around, which combined with her growing proficiency at ignoring people - and hexing them when that didn't work and there were no professors around - had made the past months bearable.
That and the fact that she didn't have to live with the students anymore.
The issue of their living arrangements had been a problem they hadn’t even considered until Ginny and Draco had faced returning to the school. The prospect of leaving their baby boy at the Manor while they spent their sixth year at the castle, or of taking him with them, where he would be exposed to the derision of the student body, had left both new parents less than comfortable. So the Malfoys had done the only thing they could. They came up with a third option, taking advantage of the fact that underage and unwed parents weren't the only area in which the magical community was significantly more old fashioned than Muggle society.
As the wizards and witches of the Magical Education and Families division agreed that Doron needed both his parents involved in his life on a daily basis and would be better off at home than at the school, the two sides were able to reach an agreement that suited all involved. It hadn't hurt that the Wizarding world's view of underage mothers was significantly less harsh, and in fact rather sympathetic when the witch in question was married, especially when she became a member of one the richest and still influential families in Britain. It had also helped that the Headmaster had made a persuasive argument on behalf of his students, and that the senior Mrs. Malfoy could be rather poignant herself (especially when her history of generosity towards the Board of Governors was taken into consideration).
Within the parameters of their new arrangement, Draco and Ginny attended classes during the day as they normally would have, while Narcissa and Doc took care of Doron. Once classes let out, however, the new parents used a specially approved Portkey to return to the Manor. It was a small bit more work, going back and forth everyday, staying up a good portion of the night with an infant and then making it through a full day's classes. It was made even more difficult as Ginny had somehow managed a high number of O.W.L.s the year before, and Draco was still pushing for top marks in his seventh-year N.E.W.T courses.
Their evenings were among the most difficult time, as both students took turns doing their homework and watching Doron so that one of them was up late finishing papers while the other was putting the baby to bed. The Malfoy matriarch offered her services, of course, and even offered Doc's when they insisted that she needed a break. But neither parent was willing to shirk their duties or cost themselves the small amount of time they had with their son.
Splitting up most of that time in such a way, however, left Ginny that much more thankful for their daily meals, which were almost always the only time they could all be together as... a family. The two words reverberated through her.
It was strange to think about it that way, though it seemed to fit in a simple, yet still shocking way. A year ago she'd had a dramatically different vision when she'd thought of family. She'd seen herself with her brothers and her parents, crowded noisily into the Burrow. She'd seen herself with some quietly respectable wizard, scraping it together to buy themselves a modest little place near her parents after a lengthy and romantic courtship and a big wedding behind the Burrow.
She had not seen herself sitting at the large gleaming wood table in the elegant dinning room of Malfoy Manor with Narcissa, Draco, and a seven month old baby in the middle of her sixth year. Yet that was exactly where she was. Malfoy Manor was now her home, its occupants now her family. The idea had been simmering under the surface of her thoughts for months, but she had never truly admitted it to herself, perhaps for fear of admitting that the Burrow and those that lived there no longer were her family in the ways that really mattered.
Her steps faltered as she thought of the people she'd once assumed would always be behind her. It still hurt, so many months later, but it had gotten better, and it had a lot to do with the people she had thought would always be her enemies, who had proven they were so much more. That really shouldn't have surprised her, though, and in a way it didn't. She hadn't honestly thought of Draco as the little jerk she'd seen him as before, not since the night he had so adamantly told her it was as much his problem as hers.
No, she'd thought of him as the father of her baby, her housemate, and lately, she'd started thinking about him as her husband. Even after they'd been married, even after she'd given birth to their son, she hadn't thought about him as her husband in the strictest sense. But well, things did change, she supposed as she made her way through the halls and to the main doors. They had designated the doors as their meeting point at the beginning of the year, and it had fast become her favorite place to go, as doing so meant it was time to go home.
Ginevra Malfoy's lips curved up in a smile, genuine and refreshing as she said it in her head, the first time she had referred to the Manor as home and known she meant it in every sense of the word. Yes, she was going home, and for two weeks. The smile widened as she sped her pace and was soon at her destination.
She had barely been there more than a few seconds, however, when she spotted a white-blond head coming towards her at an excited, but sedate pace. Ginny shook her head as she thought of Draco and his refusal to act undignified. He always had to conduct himself with a higher level of decorum than his peers, she'd noticed. Especially after they'd been married and had Doron. It was as if being a husband and father made him feel that he needed to act that much more adult. She could, of course, understand the pressure of that responsibility, and indeed caught herself expecting that same level of maturity from herself.
It felt at times, however, as though she were just playing house. She worried the surrealism of it all would eventually fade and leave her stranded in a reality she was grossly unprepared to handle. When that happened, she found herself remembering what else that reality contained, or at least, who else, and that made her feel a bit better. There were other times, however, when the feelings provoked by thoughts of her new family were a little less than comforting and she did her best not to think too much about them, or at least one of them in particular.
Such avoidance was impossible, though, as he approached and flashed her a smile. It was a smile too, not a sneer, or a smirk, or even a grin, all of which were expressions she had thought him much more capable of, and comfortable with. But that smile had made an appearance more and more often since Doron was born, though it had yet to look any less shocking on his normally stoic features. Nor had it become any less able to send her stomach into errant little flip-flops that left her remembering with alarming clarity exactly why she now had a seven-month-old baby.
Her cheeks grew hot, brown eyes dropping nervously to stare at her now twiddling thumbs, making her miss the way the blond's smile widened just a touch at her blush. By the time he was in front of her, she'd managed to get her expression back under control, and when she raised her gaze once more, his was void of his satisfied amusement. Due to their well-developed abilities to hide such things, they were able to join hands and grasp their Portkey between them without any noticeable or revealing reaction to the other's touch.
They kept up their suppression of steadily growing feelings admirably throughout the dinner that they shared with Narcissa and Doron after arriving at the Manor. However, they abandoned such pretenses several hours later, neither sparing the thought or energy required to do so as they focused the whole of their concentration on the task at hand.
Doron seemed to appreciate the effort as his parents entertained him with the many various toys that filled his nursery. He appreciated the ride his father gave him on his shoulders, and the way his mother bundled him up and then proceeded to chase both him and his father through the light coating of snow in the fields behind their home.
Narcissa simply enjoyed the view from the drawing room window as she watched her son and daughter-in-law casting furtive glances at one another as they played with their son.
End Chapter Nine
Ginny adjusted her ivory robes for the fifth time in the last ten minutes, adding and then removing the diamond pin Narcissa had lent her for the occasion. She tugged at the cream silk blouse that peeked out, placed it's lapels under the ivory satin, then pulled them back out to lay atop the robe and attached the pin to the right-hand lapel. Then the redhead turned from the mirror and made a circuit of the entrance hall before returning to her previous spot and prodding at the elegant upsweep that allowed only a few well-placed curls of scarlet to fall to her shoulders.
It was silly, she knew, to fuss over her clothes and hair, as today was for Draco, not her. Yet she still circled back to examine the charms she'd used to turn her eyelids a shimmering cream, darken her lashes, and put the slightest peach shine to her lips. She turned this way and that to take in the effect of the cream-colored heels adorning her feet even as she chastised herself for doing so. Today was about him, not her, she kept telling herself. It didn't matter how she looked.
She knew that was a lie, though. It mattered how she looked, if only to her, because she wanted to look nice, wanted to be someone he would be proud to have on his arm at the day's end. She wanted to do justice to the esteemed name she had taken almost a year before and had finally accepted, and even embraced, as her own. Ginny ignored the little voice in her head that added that she also wanted him to find her attractive, and focused on the social implications. She was a Malfoy now, after all, and she needed to look the part.
A small knot of apprehension loosened in her stomach, though, as the elegantly attired Narcissa Malfoy reached the bottom of the steps, stared at her for a moment, then let a smile curve her lips.
"Oh, Ginny, darling, you look wonderful." The elder witch gestured for her to turn in a circle and nodded as she came back around to face her. "The colors go wonderfully together, I like the cream and ivory, and the way the diamonds and the white stitching on the robe contrasts. And you hair stands out beautifully."
The redhead smiled shyly at the praise. "Thank you, mother." She was proud of herself for the lack of hesitation as she responded, having only recently let herself refer to the other witch as such. She could still remember the first time she'd done it, several weeks before. The blonde had seemed to freeze as she'd helped take off Doron's outer-robes, and then turned to her son's wife with the softest smile she'd ever given her. She hadn't said anything, simply responded to what Ginny had said, but there had been moisture in her eyes, and she'd ordered the former Weasley's favorite dessert from the house elves that night.
Draco had worn a rather satisfied grin the first time he'd hear her say it, too, making her that much more determined to use the term from then on. Even so, it had felt strange for quite some time, rolling off her tongue a little unsteadily, but it also felt like she was finally admitting out loud what she had known for months. Narcissa and Draco and Doron were her family.
And now, part of that family was graduating.
A small flutter of nerves erupted in her chest, forcing her to resume her litany once more. Today was for Draco, it was about him, not her, and she had no reason to be nervous. Except for the small detail of today being the first time she had taken Doron out in public. Sure, he'd been to a few places, stores and parks, but never in a situation where he was being presented obviously as her and Draco's son, in front of all those who condemned them for becoming parents.
She swallowed past the urge to run upstairs and tell Doc to change the ten-month-old out of the dress robes she'd placed him in before getting ready herself.
Narcissa smirked and patted her shoulder as she noticed the rising panic. "Calm yourself, dear, it will be fine. Besides, we all knew it had to happen sooner or later, best that it be when most everyone's attention will be elsewhere."
Ginny nodded, knowing she was right. Most of the people there would be watching the graduates, not the audience, and they couldn't keep him closed up in the Manor forever. Besides, she thought with a partially forced smile as she spotted the house elf levitating Doron gently down the staircase, she was proud of her son, and nothing anyone said or implied would make her feel any different.
Feeding on that thought, she gathered her outer-robe, cast a quick Scourgify and Tiddying Charm to put the little blond's robes to rights, and gathered him close in preparation for the activation of the Portkey as Narcissa held it out. She was sure that Apparation would have been the easier option, but for all that she had gotten her Apparator's license a month before, she still hesitated to trust her son to her as-yet unperfected skills and had asked to travel via Portkey instead. Her mother-in-law had deferred to her wishes, and agreed to Portkey to the school, though it was not her preferred method of travel.
Ginny was glad for it as they arrived on the front steps, her landing smooth from repeated practice all year. She was also glad for the fact that her classes had let out the day before, enabling her to stay at the Manor to get ready that morning, as the three of them made their way into the Great Hall, where seats were already filling with the formally attired family and friends of the graduates.
She felt it the moment the others in the room recognized the trio making their way to the seats reserved for the Slytherin families. It was like having an offended Hippogriff staring down her neck, but she simply followed the woman that was as much a mother to her as her own once was, raised her chin defiantly, and held her son a little closer to her. They perused the program in silence for several minutes, each finding Draco's name with a smile, then busied themselves with Doron until the candles on the dais, where the High Table normally sat, flared to life, and the Headmaster and other Professors made their way into the Hall.
The crowd quieted as Dumbledore ascended the dais, all attention focusing on him as the ceremony got underway. It was almost exactly the same as the ceremony she remembered from the last Weasley graduation she'd attended, though technically speaking, this could be considered her last, as Ron was a member of the graduating class today as well. That, of course, meant that the rest of the Weasley clan was there too, a fact which she expected to slam rather painfully into her. It hurt, of course, knowing they were there and that they would not be so much as acknowledging that she was there with them. Yet it was a dull kind of pain, the kind one felt from a wound that was almost healed.
That, however, was really what her estrangement was now, still a wound, a hole in her chest that ached and stung from time to time, but one that was steadily healing, slowing filling with the life she had made and the people that were in it. People like the baby in her lap that waved his arms as he spotted his father in the group of green-robed Slytherins standing behind the Headmaster. She held his arms gently against his sides, bouncing him on her knees to keep him quiet as the ceremony continued, but she could tell Draco had seen his actions, could see the smile that threatened to ruin his serious expression as he waited for the opening speech to conclude and his name to be called.
He had a while to wait, as the students were called alphabetically, each by his or her respective Head of House. By the time the Potions master intoned the blond's name, House, and the honor he had claimed by finishing first in his House and fourth in his year, Doron had grown restless once again. Perhaps that was why he squealed and laughed and waved his arms with such energy when his father stepped forward and took the roll of parchment from Professor Dumbledore. Ginny, however, thought it had more to do with the fact that he hadn't seen Draco since early that morning, and he was simply excited to see him.
Whatever the cause, the redhead didn't have the heart to quiet him until Draco had received his diploma and ranking award and stepped back to rejoin the other Slytherins, a poorly suppressed grin on his face as he flashed his wife and baby a small wave. She grinned back, taking one chubby little arm in her hand and waving back, consciously ignoring the looks and whispers their display garnered from several members of the crowd. She couldn’t quite ignore the feel of eyes on her that came from the assembled seventh-years, though, brown drifting over the green, blue, yellow, and red robes to find one bushy-haired Gryffindor staring intently at her, and the little boy in her lap.
She met the older girl's eyes defiantly, questioningly, and was surprised when Hermione gave her a small, hesitant smile in response. The expression was slightly more aimed at the ten-month-old than the former sixth-year, but Ginny recognized a white flag when she saw one. There was enough relief and happiness in her to send the year's top student a nod in acceptance, and enough lingering hurt and resentment to keep the gesture short and stiff. The witch seemed to understand the sentiment and smiled again, a little more readily before the redhead shifted her gaze back to the Headmaster as he handed out another diploma.
She spent the remainder of the ceremony bouncing an increasingly restless Doron on her knees, clapping when expected, and pretending she didn't know the older boys when first her Harry's, and then her brother's names were called. It sent a distant pang through her when she heard her family clap and holler for them as they had for Hermione, knowing she wouldn't see them after this graduation, or at her own the next year. But like the knowledge of their presence, it was a dulling pain that lessened as she felt her mother-in-law's hand on her arm, felt her baby wiggle on her lap, and met her husband's gray eyes with her own.
Yes she was healing, and she was moving on, and eventually, she knew she would be truly happy in her new life, perhaps happier than she had been in her old one, thanks to the people standing not only behind her, but with her.
End Chapter Ten
Ginevra Malfoy could hardly keep a hold on the squirming, squealing, ten-month-old as he spotted his father walking towards them after the graduation. Draco quickly handed his diploma to his mother as if he hadn't spent the past year killing himself to earn it and reached for the boy with a wide, unrestrained smile.
"Hullo there, little man," he said as she handed the laughing bundle over. "Are you proud of Papa, Doron?"
"Fourth in his year?" Ginny asked with a grin, her expression softening as she watched her two blondes. "How could he not be?"
The witch's pronoun use didn't fool him, and the newly graduated Slytherin's grin softened in kind, grey meeting brown for several, meaningful seconds before moving to ice blue. Narcissa smiled back and leaned forward to hug him, though she was careful not to smash his son between them.
"Congratulations, dear, you more than earned it."
"Thanks, mum. I couldn't have done it without your help with Doron."
The regal witch waved her hand in a magnanimous brush off, even as she wiped discreetly at her eyes in response to his genuine thanks. "Nonsense, he's my grandson. Besides, he was ever so much better company than you were at his age."
The young parents laughed, Ginny shaking her head as she did so. "Yeah, he's saving it all up for when he gets older."
The comment prompted another laugh, one in which the elder witch joined in. The small family was still laughing when a throat was cleared politely behind them. "Mrs. Malfoy?"
It was oddly comforting to the three how quickly the redhead turned at the question, as though that had been her name for her entire life, instead of just the last year.
"Yes?" Ginny asked as she spotted the Headmaster.
"I was wondering if perhaps I could steal you away for a few minutes?"
Brown flicked to grey, then blue, receiving two curious but accommodating nods. Before she had a chance to step towards him, however, the professor made another request that earned similar results. "Would it be too much to ask for the youngest Malfoy's company while we speak?"
Ginny grinned at the eager twinkle behind the half-moon glasses and took her son back from his father and followed the white-haired wizard from the Hall after promising to return momentarily. That speedy of a return became somewhat questionable, however, when Dumbledore led them into a small room off the main corridor, and she spotted the four people standing in it, apparently waiting for her somewhat nervously.
"Hey there, Gin-girl."
Her eyes widened at the sight. She was so focused on it, in fact, that she didn't notice the Headmaster slip back out of the room with a nod at the four men. "Bill?" the former Weasley asked in shock. "Charlie? Fred? George?"
Each of her brothers smiled tentatively as she spoke their names, hope and apology in their eyes. "Sorry I haven't come to visit sooner, but we got some new dragons at the beginning of the year that couldn't be left alone until recently."
Bill nodded as if in agreement with his brother. "And the goblins have really been pushing us lately. I was in Spain for most of the year, and just got back to England last week."
"And we didn't even know-" Fred insisted before being cut off by his twin.
"That you'd accepted their peace offering."
Fred picked it back up with a grin. "Else we'd have sent the little one some toy wands from the shop."
Ginny got a sudden vision of Narcissa accidentally picking up one of the twins' novelty wands the way her-
She cut herself off, not wanting to think about who had once gotten so mad about the toys lying around the house. This was the first time she'd seen any of her brothers since two summers before, the first time she'd received definite proof that they hadn't been lying when they'd said they wanted to be a part of her life, and she didn't want to ruin it.
"I think he might like some toy wands."
The acceptance of their white flag caused matching grins to split the twins' faces and she couldn’t prevent her own mouth from turning up at the corners. The baby seemed anxious to share in the joke as he started bouncing in his mother's arms, effectively drawing everyone's attention.
"He's adorable Gin; even if he doesn't have red hair." The witch smiled at the well-deserved praise.
"Would you like to hold him?"
The man nodded his head so quickly his ear-ring bounced in the light and she carefully handed him her son, instructing him how to hold the baby, though she knew he'd babysat herself and several of her other brothers over the years. He listened intently anyway and gently positioned the boy in his arms.
"What's his name?" George asked as he watched the baby grab hold of Bill's finger.
"Doron Alexandros Malfoy."
"Your gift, eh?" She met her eldest brother's eyes, then let brown drift to her son's smiling face.
"We thought it fitting." It was quiet for a moment at the indirect reminder of the boy's father. Then Fred spoke up, preventing the conversation from dying or turning less than pleasant.
"How old is he now? Nine months?"
"He'll be ten months on Monday. He was fifteen days early."
"So his birthday's August eighth, right?" Charlie asked as he remembered the expected date on the birthing announcement. Ginny nodded and watched with a smile as he took the little boy from Bill. "He doesn't feel like he suffered any from his eagerness."
"No, he's always had a very healthy appetite," she said with a laugh, starting an enthusiastic conversation with the wizards about everything from Doron's favorite food, to his favorite toy, to how much of a mess he made when she and Doc gave him a bath.
The siblings were laughing and playing with the very accommodating baby when the door opened over twenty minutes later. "Ginny, are you all right?"
Five pairs of eyes swung to the entrance and widened as they caught sight of the blond head peaking into the room. The first four grew round from surprise and a little apprehension, but the fifth did so from another emotion entirely.
"Draco," she exclaimed before standing and hurrying over to reach for his hand and pull him into the room. "Come meet my brothers. This is Bill, Charlie, and you remember Fred and George." She pointed to each as she said their names, the redheads nodding warily at their little sister's husband, all remembering the way Ron had always described the Slytherin who'd gotten Ginny pregnant the year before.
For his part, the blond spared them a quick nod before glancing from his son - apparently happily ensconced in the arms of one or the other of the twins - to his wife. "Is everything all right? You've been gone nearly half an hour," he lowered his voice, grey locked with brown, "we were starting to worry."
All five redheads looked shocked at the knowledge that they had been speaking for so long, the wizards looking a little panicked at the revelation. "Thirty minutes?" Charlie asked.
Bill turned to his little sister with an apology on his face. "Gin, we-"
The witch waved off his words before he had a chance to speak them, though her disappointment showed on her features. "It's all right, I understand perfectly well what she's like. Go on back before you're in any more trouble than you are already."
The brothers all exchanged looks as they heard the excitement fade from her voice, and saw they way Draco wrapped an arm around her waist in response. Then they began to file from the room, George going to hand Doron back to his mother on the way when the boy nearly lunged out of his arms to get to his father. The elder blond laughed, a full, genuine chuckle at the baby's antics, and released his wife long enough to take him from the redheaded prankster.
"Come 'ere you."
Doron blew bubbles from his mouth in answer, drawing a laugh from both of his parents, and the blond settled him on his hip and wrapped his free arm back around Ginny. The three presented the picture of a happy young family, making her brothers rethink a few of their assumptions about the young wizard their sister had been forced to marry.
Ginny watched them leave with a bittersweet smile, starting to wonder how long it would be before she saw them again. Draco pulled her thoughts from that melancholy tract with a few teasing words.
"See, I told you he liked me best."
She rolled her eyes and leaned back just far enough to smack him lightly on the chest. "Oh hush, he just hasn't see you much today, is all."
"No, I don't suppose he has, especially since you've kept him from me for the last half hour." His teasing smirk took out the sting that might have otherwise been in his words, then turned serious. "Dumbledore was a ruse, I take it?"
The soon-to-be seventh-year nodded. "Yeah, they didn't want to risk approaching me themselves in case someone saw them and told... her."
Her hesitation, and the deliberate way she hadn't said either 'my mother' or 'Molly' wasn't lost on him, and the graduate stepped back and turned to face her, his free hand raising to cup her cheek in the most intimate of gestures they had shared since before he'd learned he was going to be a father. "You never did answer my question. Are you all right?"
She let out a long breath. "Yeah, I think so. I mean, seeing them was great, I want them to be involved in my and Doron's lives, I want him to know as many of his uncles as he can, I just..." She let her head drop forward as she trailed off.
"If you want to see them, we can always invite them to the Manor for tea or something. Mother would relish the chance to entertain."
She raised her head and smiled softly at him, knowing his opinion of her family, and how much he really didn't want them in his home - in their home - and the concession he was making in offering to invite them. "No. If they want to see us, they can ask to come over, but I'm not going to kill myself trying to make it happen. As much as I'd love to have them around, it's not my fault they weren't to begin with, and they're going to have to be the ones to make the effort to fix that."
Gray eyes remained locked on hers for several moments at her words, the proof of her determination and strength evident, even as her still healing wounds shown on her face. The conviction in her voice stirred him as her stubborn refusal to cower from his insults once had, and he found himself leaning forward, pulling her face to his with the hand on her cheek, and pressing his lips to hers.
The kiss lasted barely a minute and possessed none of the desperate passion their first, and last, encounter had, so many months before. But it left both breathing heavily as they pulled apart. An almost awkward silence hung between them, neither sure what to do. Then a light giggle broke the tension and they smiled first at their son, then at one another. They left the room a moment later, their hands clasped tightly between them as the young couple made their way back to the Great Hall, memories and possibilities spinning thickly in their heads.
End Chapter Eleven
It was hard to believe that she'd been married for a year, yet that exact fact was the reason she was sitting at a table for two at one of the most exclusive restaurants in all of England, wizarding and muggle worlds alike. It was a statement towards the time she had spent as a Malfoy that her eyes only widened a fraction at the fact that there were no prices on the menus and what that implied as to the cost of the meal she and Draco were about to order. Less than a year before, she would have protested the expense, but she had gotten used to, if not completely comfortable with, the easy way her new family could, and did, spend their vast funds.
Besides, she couldn't possibly have brought herself to dim the somewhat hopeful and almost nervous look in her husband's eyes when he had asked her to go to dinner with him. The sight of him standing at the door to her rooms that morning had been a welcome one, and the fluttering sensation his request had caused in her stomach made her think of the first time she had been asked on a date.
It was an ironic comparison, considering the occasion for their dinner was their one-year wedding anniversary. At the same time, however, the circumstances fit her mental connection quite well as it was the first time they had ever gone anywhere together. Sure they lived together at the Manor, their bedrooms were down the hall from one another, and they had gone to the park, and any other number of places with Doron, and usually, Narcissa as well, but they had never gone anywhere alone. It was strange to think that they had been married for a year, had a ten and a half month old son, and had never been on a date.
Well, they had never been on one until tonight. She glanced as nonchalantly as possible over the top of her menu at that thought, expecting to see the top of the white-blond head of the young man sitting across from her. Instead, she met the grey eyes that had been fixed intently on her. In the slow seconds that followed, she wondered how long he'd been staring at her, and what he'd been thinking when he'd done it. A mere thirteen days before, those questions would have bothered her, but they wouldn't have sent her heart thudding into her throat. Tonight they did.
Any time she had caught him looking at her in the past two weeks, any time they had brushed against one another, or he had lain his hand on her arm, her back, her face, she had felt as though a rogue contingent of Cornish Pixies had taken flight in her chest. And, it appeared, as his gaze suddenly fell to his own menu and remained there for several silent minutes, that she was not the only one experiencing such sensations.
It made her feel a little steadier that he was finding their courtship as disconcertingly exciting as she. At least, she thought it was a courtship. They had been acting as if they were courting for almost two weeks now. The day after his graduation, they had been awkward and unsure around one another, but by nightfall, he had seemed to reach a decision and had walked her to the door of her suite once they'd put Doron to bed.
He'd done that every evening since, though on the third night, he'd started giving her a soft, almost chaste kiss before leaving for his own rooms. On the fifth night the kisses had grown ever-so-much-less chaste. On the ninth day he'd started finding reasons to instigate casual touches between them as they did everyday things. On the eleventh day, only two days previous, he'd started giving the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, impression that he didn't want the touches, or anything else, to remain so casual.
It was a heady sensation, being courted by Draco Malfoy, she had discovered. He moved surely, steadily, in small but significant steps towards his goal. Of course, there was the fact that they were already married, already had a child together, that probably lent him a sense of security, a lessening of the uncertainty that would otherwise have existed between a couple so early in their courtship. But still, it was exciting and new and left her - and him, she liked to think - with a feeling of anticipation and view of the possibilities that existed in a marriage that had started from necessity. She was rather thankful for that; after all, she was seventeen now, and memories of their single, life-altering, time together were sometimes more frustrating than they were satisfying.
Perhaps that was why she placed her menu on the table, purposefully met his eyes, and gave him as meaningful a smile as she could without feeling a complete fool.
He didn't seem to notice her uncertainty, just looked at her blankly for an instant, then jumped the slightest bit in his skin - in a not entirely figurative manner. His surprise at the message she was trying to send him glazed his eyes for a second before they seemed to focus with a snap, zeroing in on her with a heated intensity as they locked with brown over the width of the table. In that moment, her teenage self was overcome with a sudden and strong urge to forget the surely delicious food waiting to be ordered and instead Apparate directly back to the Manor to take advantage of the fact that Narcissa had taken Doron to her weekly Witches' Tea at the Bulstrode estate to be admired by all the ladies who had yet to be granted grandchildren.
Despite her age, however, she was an adult in all the ways that truly mattered, and she was more than aware of the fact that she had more than just herself and her hormones to think about in this particular situation. Both she and Draco knew they needed to take things slow, to not rush into anything, or push their stable and productive relationship into anything that might adversely affect not only their marriage, but also their son. So after a few long moments of 'what might have been' flashing between grey and brown, the couple grappled their attention back to their menus and set about ordering.
The conversation through the first course was somewhat stilted, and a little awkward, but by the entrée, discussion had steadied and picked up speed. By dessert, they had become embroiled in a comfortable and even lively discourse on all the things they wanted to do with Doron before Ginny had to resume her classes in a little over two months' time.
"I think he would enjoy the Magical Creature Reserve in Wales. It's in the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains. The muggles have a national park nearby, Snowdonia, I think it's called, but it's perfectly invisible to them."
Brown eyes practically sparkled with her enthusiasm. "Oh, I remember it. I've never been there, but I heard Charlie talking about the Cambrian Reserve once. He went there when he started his Creature Care training before he was transferred to Romania."
He covered his grin with a bite of chocolate cheesecake as he watched her gesture excitedly. Yes, they would definitely be going to the Reserve this summer, he decided as she continued, listing the various animals she had heard resided there.
"They're supposed to have a Hippocampus, you know, and a Graphorn, and a Jobberknoll, and I heard they had a Dugbog too. Oh, and a Fire Crab. I've always wanted to see one of those, their shells are supposed to be so beautiful, and all..."
He made no effort to curtail her animated, and amusing, litany, simply watching her as she went on. A few minutes later, he pushed his empty plate to the edge of the table for the waiter to retrieve, his eyes barely leaving her face, brightly flushed as it was in excitement. The movement, however, caught her attention and she slid to a halt.
"Sorry," she said with a sheepish grin.
He was careful not to look as though he'd found her babbling amusing, in case she grew defensive in her embarrassment and took it the wrong way. "No need to apologize. We might want to get going, though, Mother will be home with Doron within the hour, I would think."
She nodded in agreement, both rising and making their way out of the restaurant. It still felt strange to her, even after all the shopping she had done as a Malfoy, never having to deal with the exchange of payment, instead relying on the establishment taking care of the transaction directly with the family account at Gringotts. The practice was perfectly natural to Draco, however, and he didn't even spare a thought for the money they had spent on their meal, his entire focus resting on the pretty young witch on his arm.
Grey eyes swept intensely over her as they Apparated to the front drive and leisurely began the walk up to the Manor. His wife was especially beautiful tonight, he thought, taking in the well-tailored robes she wore over an elegantly-cut gown. Both were complimentary shades of blue that looked stunning next to her porcelain skin and ruby hair. She was wearing a pair of sapphire earrings with the ensemble, and he felt a thrill of pride that she had adjusted so seamlessly to her new life.
He had been a little worried when he had first planned their marriage that she would have trouble getting use to, and fitting in with, his world. She had grown up so differently that he'd been unsure how difficult it would be for her, but she had settled in remarkably well from the start, as though, he thought, she had been born for sophisticated opulence rather than the humble poverty of her first family.
She certainly wore silk and jewels well, the blond observed appreciatively; once more taking in the splendid outfit she was wearing from the strip of dark cerulean satin she had used to hold back her long curls, to the inch-high heels of the same color that enclosed her feet. He remembered the shoes from an excursion they had made a few months before. The three of them had taken Doron to see the Enchanting Gardens in Wizarding Oxfordshire and she had spotted them in the window of a small shop, the expression on her face prompting Narcissa to steer them all inside long enough to make the purchase.
She'd been a little uncomfortable buying the expensive shoes, insisting that she would have nowhere to wear them. The elder witch had simply stated that they would find somewhere. It would appear, he thought, that she had finally done just that. He would have to thank his mother again for insisting she buy them, as they made her just tall enough for her head to rest in the crux of his neck and shoulder as he pulled her against his side and led her through the front doors and into the back parlor.
He reluctantly released his hold on the petite redhead long enough to pour them both a cup of tea from the silver service Doc had laid out for them when they'd appeared on the front walk. The blond couldn't help but reach out to her once more, as he handed her the cup and sat beside her on the chaise lounge. She readily curled into his side as if they had always sat together that way, though in actuality they had only ever done so once before, the previous night. Draco suppressed the urge to sigh, instead sipping at his drink and running a hand lightly up and down the silk covering her left arm.
They sat like that for several minutes, the only sound the crackle of the fire, until the wizard felt the need to express some of what he was thinking. "You look lovely tonight," he said quietly, placing his cup on the table beside them and turning to face her. "The robes and gown are quite splendid on you; are they new?"
He was sure he already knew the answer to that, being certain that he would have remembered anything that clung so perfectly to her slender curves. The cut of the fabric drew the eye unerringly to the gorgeous figure she had somehow managed to reclaim after Doron's birth.
"Yes, actually," she paused as a blush crept across her cheeks. "I just finished them yesterday."
Silvery pools narrowed in slight confusion as he went over her words in his head. "Finished? You mean you made them? Yourself?"
She ducked her head as the blush darkened. "Mother took me shopping during Christmas Holiday for something to wear to your graduation, but I couldn't find anything I liked or that I thought would still fit well enough by the end of the school year, so I just bought a bunch of different fabrics and..." she shrugged as well as she could given the position she was in, lying against him and holding a cup of steaming tea in her free hand.
He shifted slightly so he could see her face better. "You mean you made the ones you wore to my graduation too?"
She nodded again but didn't say anything. "How did you learn to make clothes?"
Ginny took a sip of her tea before responding with a shrug. "I learned to tailor my clothes pretty early, with almost everything having belonged to at least one of brothers first. When it was cheaper to buy the material, we made stuff for me. I eventually got good enough to make them myself and the more I got a chance to make, the better I got at it."
He stared down at her. "I'd say you got pretty bloody good. They look like you had them done professionally."
She smiled shyly. "Thanks." She paused for several long moments, as though gathering her courage before continuing in a hesitant tone. "When I was little I had these rolls of parchments filled with sketches and pictures of different clothes I wanted to make. I always used to tell my brothers that one day I would be this big-time fashion designer and I'd have a chain of my own shops with all the clothes I made."
The redhead shrugged again, the self-conscious movement causing the tea to slosh against the sides of her cup, threatening to spill onto the lush fabric of her robes. "It's silly, I know, but I still have those sketches. I don't know that I could ever make myself get rid of them."
Draco didn't say anything to that, thinking of a scroll of parchment in his own room, buried at the bottom of a trunk, it's length covered with potions formulas he'd painstakingly altered and invented over the years.
"I once thought I'd open an apothecary and sell all the potions I'd designed. I came up with all kinds of formulas, from ones to treat acne, to ones that cleaned ink out of cloth, to ones that made pumpkin juice taste like wine."
Ginny smiled. "I never really pictured you as a dreamer." She smiled as she set her tea down and turned against him so she could look up at his face. He shifted so she could position herself more comfortably and wrapped his arms around her.
"I'll have you know I dream quite a lot, and very well, thank you."
One red brow rose at the almost defensive, and plainly teasing voice. "Really? What else do you dream about besides opening your own apothecary?"
Silver turned to steel and locked onto brown with a heated intensity that caused her breath to catch in her throat. "I'm not sure you're ready to hear that just yet."
Ginny swallowed hard and remembered the fact that however long they had been married, their relationship, such as it was, was still new, and fragile, and that they needed to move slowly and carefully with whatever was developing between them. Still, it was hard to hold to that thought with ash-colored pools burning into her. In an effort to defuse the mounting tension before she lost her slippery grip on her hormones, she wretched her gaze from him and moved to put a little distance between them on the lounge.
Before she had a chance to do that, however, Doc appeared in the doorway to inform them that 'Mistress Narcissa and Master Doron' were on their way up the front walk. The couple rose at that announcement and moved in unspoken agreement to meet them at the front doors, where they were accosted by an exuberant ten-and-a-half-month old who was more than a little excited to see his parents after several hours apart. Neither said a word about what had passed between them as they played with their small son, but as the days and nights wore on, neither forgot, either.
End Chapter Twelve
The Manor was too quiet. There was no sound of conversation floating out of the parlor as Ginny and Narcissa spoke over tea; no crying, squealing, or laughing echoing down from the nursery as the baby woke or played or demanded food; no footsteps above or below as Ginny or Doc or Narcissa or even he himself, chased Doron through the halls. It was just quiet. And it was driving Draco mad.
All his life the extensive halls of Malfoy Manor had been shrouded by the complacent lives of its inhabitants, and that had been fine, it had been normal, until Ginny and Doron had brought the carefully decorated house back to life. For the past year and a half there hadn't been more than a few hours' quiet in the whole place, and he had learned to find the noise soothing.
And now it was gone.
It was only temporary, of course, as his mother would be back from her Witches' Group in an hour or two, with a squalling Doron in her arms, no doubt. Yet the time it would take for that to happen would be less than pleasant. So unpleasant, in fact, that he had come to dread the three days each week that Narcissa took the baby out for the day to shop and play and visit with her friends.
As annoying as it could sometimes be to have his son demanding his time and attention and torturing his eardrums, he'd gotten used to it. He'd gotten used to hearing him, to seeing him, every day. He'd gotten used to playing with him, gotten used to helping Ginny and Doc change his clothes when he spit up, and then helping to feed him so he could spit up some more. He'd gotten used to telling his wife all the frustrating and adorable things Doron had done while he'd been with him, and hearing her tell him the same.
All summer they had raised their son side by side, and when one or the other had been too tired, taking over for a hour or two so the other person could have a nap, or read a book. They had spent every meal, three times a day, every day, eating together, feeding their son together, cleaning up after him together. They had put him to sleep together, and more often than not, spent his nap times talking, or playing chess, or walking the gardens.
They had gone to Wales and seen all the magical creatures she had been so excited to see. They had gone in to London several times to take Doron shopping for whatever they felt he needed at the moment. They had taken him to as many different parks and gardens and fairs as they could find. They had celebrated his first birthday with as much pomp and circumstance as the Malfoy vaults could conjure, even for the small assemblage that had attended.
They had lived together that summer, truly lived as a family.
And then summer had ended and he'd been left to entertain himself. It hadn't been that difficult at first. He'd had Doron to occupy his time, had in fact, enjoyed having his little boy all to himself, had even enjoyed the days his mother took him for what she called 'her right as a grandmother to show off the newest Malfoy.' Then the novelty of it all had begun to wear off and the growing quiet had started to get to him. Sure, Ginny was only gone for about eight hours a day, but even when she was home, it wasn't the same.
She was a seventh-year now, and owing to the number of classes she had done well in the last two years, she had a fair amount of N.E.W.T level classes that demanded her time and attention. It wasn't all that much different than the previous year had been for him, but this time around he had no homework of his own to keep him busy. That wasn't to say he didn't like not having homework, or that he didn't appreciate the opportunity to spend more time with Doron, because he certainly did. He just wanted to enjoy it with his wife.
The former Slytherin paced restlessly through the main corridor on the second floor, passing his rooms, then Doron's, then Ginny's before turning around and doing it again, mentally tallying the days until Ginny's graduation. Too many, he decided with a growl, spinning on his heel and heading down to the room he had recently set up for his potion brewing.
The blond managed to distract himself for half an hour before he felt his hands itching once more for the feel of red silk hair and freckled porcelain skin. It was like a drug, the feel of her, and he wanted more. It had been almost six hours since she'd left to attend classes and it would be another two before he could see her again. That had become the highlight of his day; seeing her walk through the front door and drop her book bag carelessly on the floor as she bent to pick up their son.
He loved watching her with Doron, whether she was giving him a bath, playing with him, or even just holding him. He liked it more, of course, if he was holding her at the same time. Perhaps that was the real highlight of his day; wrapping his arms around her as she held their baby in her own arms. Or maybe it was when they kissed him goodnight and she would stand in his arms for a few minutes and just watch the growing boy drift off to sleep.
Then again, it could be argued that any part of the day that included his wife and son was his favorite. Not that he didn't like having his mother there too, he liked that very much, but as the months wore on, he found himself growing possessive of his little family. He wanted to spend time with them that no one else was privy to, that nothing else could intrude on. He wanted Ginny and Doron to himself, to take care of, and be taken care of in turn. To love.
Yes, he told himself, he loved them both. He'd loved Doron from the moment the word pregnant had spilled from her trembling lips. He'd loved him even more when he'd first seen Ginny hold him, had first held him himself. And, he supposed, he'd loved her in a way, as soon as he'd known she carried his child. He'd loved her in a way when she'd taken his name, loved her in a way when she'd given birth to their son. But he'd started to love her in another way as they'd lived together, raised their baby together. He'd started to love her even more when he'd gotten to know her, not as his wife, or even as the mother of his child, but as Ginny.
He was pretty sure she felt the same about him, that she'd developed feelings for him outside of his role of husband and father. He knew she was attracted to him. More than just the knowledge, and memory of, their one time together, he saw the look in her eyes when they sat close together on the couch in the drawing room, and felt her pulse race when he kissed her goodnight each evening. He heard her breath quicken and grow shallow every time he deepened those kisses, every time he added a caress and she returned the gesture with some of her own.
Yes, he knew she was attracted to him- was pretty sure she loved him. They had been engaged in what could be called a traditional courtship - despite their untraditional circumstances - since shortly after his graduation. Yet they had only taken things so far. For fear of upsetting the balance they had found in their new lives, they had been taking things slowly, carefully. But he was tired of slow and careful. They had been tiptoeing around one another's feelings and reactions for months, and he wanted, needed, to take them to the next step.
It wasn't just the physical aspect of their relationship that he wanted to advance, though that was definitely something he was looking forward to; it was the sense of finality, of complete commitment between them that he wanted to take care of. He wanted them each to know that they were in this not just for Doron, but for themselves. Above and beyond what was expected of them by society, he wanted her to know that she was his wife in every sense of the word.
But how to go about doing that? He couldn't just tell her, that wouldn't be big enough, grand enough, for what she had become to him. So he had to show her. He needed to make a grand gesture, a romantic gesture, to proclaim his love and acknowledge hers. He needed something to tell her that he wanted her in his life forever, and not just as the mother of his child.
Draco wandered aimlessly through the halls of the Manor, talking with some of the portraits he passed, and ignoring others completely as his mind sorted through the possibilities. By the time his mother and son had returned he was no closer to solving his dilemma than he had been an hour before. By the time Ginny got back from school he still had no idea what he was going to do. By the time they put Doron to bed, he had been granted no epiphany.
He lay awake for hours, pondering the question, thinking and rethinking everything he knew about the woman sleeping just down the hall. Then, in the shadows before dawn, it began to take form. The perfect plan unraveled behind ash-colored eyes, spinning and weaving its way through his brain until his exhaustion couldn't even dent his excitement and determination.
He set to work on it as soon as she had left for school, devoting several hours each day to Floo-calls and owls with the very best wizards and witches in the business. It took several months - not including the Christmas holiday, which he spent entirely with his little family - for everything to come together, but eventually it did. With the kind of timing only a Malfoy could orchestrate - and finance - all was in perfect order when he and his mother left for Ginny's graduation, an almost two-year-old Doron perched contentedly on his hip.
It was going to be the ultimate surprise, he thought as he watched her descend the stage after the ceremony, pride swelling in his chest as she held up the roll of parchment that officially proclaimed her a graduate of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Doron seemed to appreciate the significance of the occasion as well as he clapped for his mummy and returned her huge grin.
"Congratulations, dear," his mother exclaimed as she swept the younger witch into a hug that, while it might be considered reserved to some, was completely genuine.
"Thank you, Mother," his wife responded, brown eyes sparkling.
He let them talk for a few minutes, let her soak in the sense of accomplishment that she so richly deserved, then he asked Narcissa if she might take the toddler back to the Manor for them, as there was something he and Ginny needed to do for a while. The blonde witch narrowed her eyes slightly, wondering not for the first time just what he'd been planning, and nodded. Ginny gave him a similar look of curiosity and suspicion, but went with him without inquiry as he led her from the school and Apparated them directly to the location.
When they arrived, it was in front of an empty storefront in one of Wizarding England's most popular, and most expensive, shopping districts. The former Slytherin ignored the questioning look on her face, instead taking her hand in his and unlocking the door with his wand.
"Happy graduation, Ginny," he said with a smile, watching the confusion dance across her lovely features.
"Draco, what is this, where are we?"
The smile slowly morphed into a smirk as he gave another swish and flick, disabling all the charms that had been placed on the shop to make it look uninhabited. Suddenly there were shelves floating here and there along the walls, waiting for merchandise to be arranged artfully upon them. There were dozens of mannequins poised in various positions and waiting for the spells that would make them move this way and that to best display the clothing that would cover them.
There were chaises and padded benches and straight-backed chairs scattered throughout the large room for customers to sit on as they considered the options, several round daises where measurements could be taken, and a half dozen rooms portioned off with curtains suspended magically from the ceiling for witches and wizards to change in. Brown eyes swept over it all, taking in the tasteful colors that accented the walls and carpets, blending with the paintings of models and famous fashion designers that graced the walls.
"I don't understand..." she trailed off, a small note of wonder in her voice as it began to make sense.
"You have as long as you want to get things ready, I have a team prepared to announce the opening any time, and there's a few assistants on hold for when you have too many customers to handle it all yourself."
She simply stared at him in wide-eyed silence. "This is all mine? My own clothing shop to sell my own clothes?"
He nodded, grey locked with brown as he stepped forward and wrapped both arms around her. "All yours."
The softest of smiles curled his lips. "You wanted it, and I want you to have everything you want... because I love you."
Her breath caught for an instant, froze in her chest as her heart relearned to beat. Then a patent Malfoy smirk spread across her face. "Well, it's about time you said it."
End Chapter Thirteen
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.