Chapter Nine:

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 fašade, 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.

A family.

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
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