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."
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