Chapter Ten:

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
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