Chapter Five:

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 fiancÚ'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."

"But, why?"

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
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