Chapter Twelve:

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
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