Ginny rode the boats after a speech that had felt interminable. One year a renowned violinist had been invited to speak and had opted to just play for the departing students and their family. That sounded like it had been wonderful. The Ministry functionary who had spoken this year had been much less enjoyable than a concert would have been.
Draco met her on the other side of the lake and held a hand out to help her from the boat. "Have fun rowing?" he asked.
"Could have been worse. At least we didn't have to go through a maze filled with hybrid beasts," Ginny said.
"That might have been a better to end things than that speech," Draco said. "At least you would have had a fighting chance."
She grinned at him, but her grin faded when she saw the flash of seriousness in his eyes. All around them students were climbing out of boats and laughing as the prepared to reunite with family after the ridiculous, watery end to their Hogwarts career, but he stood, his expensive shoes sinking where the edge of the lake had been trodden into thick mud by all the former students and their boats, and looked at her as if suddenly stricken.
"Draco?" she asked.
"It's just that patricide is right out," he said. "If it had been anyone else, but I just can't."
"It's over," she said, and despite all the people milling past them, they might as well have been alone for all the attention either of them paid to anyone else.
"He gave you that diary," Draco said slowly. "He didn't know what it was, of course, only that it was Dark, but Dark artifacts are always bad news and you were a… fuck, Ginny, You were eleven."
"And it's over," she said, "and I don't like to talk about it." She wished with all her heart that he would just stop. Tom Riddle was the nightmare she didn't expect to ever quite go away, but she'd survived and she knew, despite it all, that Draco had survived the man as well. That didn't mean she wanted to reminisce.
"And I was just… I was so gleeful about it all," he went on, as if she hadn't spoken. "I was such a shitty little… I never stopped to think that - "
"Draco," she said, stopping him. "You were a shitty twelve-year-old and you didn't do anything but… we need to get back over to where my parents and brothers are waiting before they get worried."
"Your brothers," he said, making a face. He still wasn't a fan. Well, she wasn't that fond of Lucius Malfoy either, for reasons she'd just been forced to recall. Family get-togethers were sure to be just a delight going forward but she'd put up with them to get the man at her side.
She looped an arm through his and said, "You can dote on me and watch Ron's face get redder and redder."
"You do know how to talk to a man," Draco said. They'd taken a dozen steps when he added, "I do like Percy, though."
Ginny stopped and the boy behind them, a Ravenclaw she didn't know, swore at her when he almost bumped into them. "Percy?" she asked, as the Ravenclaw went around and looked back with scathing look she ignored. "How long were you out in the sun waiting for that speech." She set a hand across his forehead. "Clammy?" she asked, as if checking for heat exhaustion. "Do you feel faint? Need to sit down?"
He pushed her hand away. "He was the only one who cared when you, the diary, that whole thing."
Ginny started walking again. "And you know this how?" she asked.
"I ran into him at the Ministry," Draco said, hurrying to catch up with her. "He informed me, in some detail, along with his thoughts on Potions import regulations and werewolf registration. He's for the former and against the latter, in case you were interested."
"I'm sorry," Ginny said. "So, so sorry. You have to have a meeting to get to, and tell him to write it all up and send it to you, otherwise he never stops."
"If it had been anyone but my father," Draco began again, but at her pointed glare he finally stopped.
"Dinner tonight?" she said.
He groaned and let her, at last, change the subject. "Granger. What did I ever do to deserve that?"
She looked up and spotted her parents, standing with George and Percy and Ron, Hermione's arm hooked through Ron's, and waved frantically at them. "Not just Hermione," she said. "Ron will be there too."
Draco pretended to pout. "It's as if you don't love me," he said.
"I know," she said. "But I do." Then she ran off, leaving him flabbergasted, and wrapped her arms around her parents and listened to the predictable fuss. George ruffled her hair and tried to slip some kind of novelty item down her robes as Draco made an attempt to commiserate with Ron about the long speech.
"I quite liked it," Percy said with a sniff as he took his glasses off and began to wipe them with a handkerchief. "I thought Under-Secretary Chato had some good insights into the philosophical underpinnings of the development of charm research and its applicability to modern education."
. . . . . . . . . .
Draco excused himself from the table to join Theo on the stone veranda. Ginny smiled at him, and Granger frowned, but he'd made nice about as long as he could stand. Theo handed him the Muggle fag and he took it with relief.
"Filthy habit," Theo said.
"I swear, I cannot stand that woman," Draco said. "If a smoke will get me through the rest of the night, that's better than telling her where she can shove her opinions about… what the fuck was she talking about again?"
Theo shrugged. "Damned if I know," he said. I stopped listening when she started to cite Goblin case law."
Draco looked back into the room. He'd instructed the elves to set the table with the most formal arrangement possible and, since none of them liked Granger, they'd been happy to oblige. He'd never seen so many forks at one place before, and he'd been to any number of formal dinners. Unfortunately, Granger knew the start on the outside and work in trick and his attempt at social intimidation had just made her smirk. Even Weasley hadn't seemed bothered by the excessive silverware and that made Draco feel like sulking.
Granger seemed to be holding forth still, lecturing them all on the rules and how things were done. Ginny was holding her wine glass and nodding, Weasley was gazing at Granger with rapt adoration. Harry Potter seemed to be ignoring her in favor of asking Luna something.
Luna had arrived wearing a hat with giant feathers charmed to stay upright and hadn't taken it off. Granger seemed to get distracted fro her lecture by the way the purple feather danced around one of the crystal bobs in the chandelier and Draco controlled his snicker at the way Granger's eyes kept going to the top of the feather.
Watching her, Draco decided he was going to bribe Granger's departmental secretary to lose two-thirds of her paperwork. He doubted it would cost much, and the pleasure of seeing her get more and more frustrated as years went by and one of her bright ideas after another ended up accidentally in the wrong file or got jammed in a drawer no one could get open would be well worth the investment.
Pansy pushed her chair back and made what from anyone else would have been a polite excuse. Draco suspected she'd just said, "You're boring me, Granger, so I'm leaving."
When Pansy held the door open, he could hear Luna say, "So when are you and Pansy moving, Harry?"
"When are you and wonder boy moving?" Theo asked Pansy.
Pansy took the fag from his hand and took a long drag. "Three days," she said. "Harry got the idea we should hire landscapers into his head, and they're there now, putting in plants and making it look like we care about things like that."
"Do you?" Draco asked curiously. He'd never have pegged Pansy as one to move out to a rural village and hide away in a tiny cottage but she was doing just that.
"Anything would be better than working with Granger," she said. "The only downside to Harry is that they're friends." She made a show of shuddering. "It's like falling for someone and then discovering he has an aquarium filled with sea horses that he breeds or something."
Theo made a sound suspiciously like choking before he gasped out, "Sea horses."
"She's talking about some plan she's got to start up magical primary schools," Pansy said.
"Not a terrible idea," Draco said.
"Then you work with her," Pansy said.
Draco made a face. "Why do you hate me so?" he asked.
"I could give you a list," Pansy said, "but I'm too lazy to write that much." She leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. "I'm going to go grab Harry and escape the brightest witch before boredom makes me become one with your upholstery. We'll see you at the wedding, though if you put out snail forks for that, I expect snails."
"We had snails," Draco said.
Pansy looked at him. "OK, fine," he muttered. "Maybe the fruit forks were over the top, but dessert includes fruit."
"Which I will miss because we're leaving." She kissed Theo. "See you next week at the wedding."
. . . . . . . . . . .
After they apparated into the cottage, Harry put his hands over Pansy's eyes and made her go up the brick walkway blind.
"I'm going to trip and break my neck this way," Pansy said. "Is this your revenge, Potter?"
In answer, he took his hands off her eyes and let her look around at the herb beds that he had had the landscapers fill with just one flower. From every angle, the faces of pansies nodded and smiled up at them.
"Harry?" Pansy said uncertainly. "What is this?"
"Pansies," he said. "I had them fill every bed, front and back."
"I... why?" Pansy asked.
Harry cocked his head to the side and the hint of a smirk danced around the edge of his mouth. "I've found I rather like pansies," he said. "Pretty things. Aren't as popular as roses, maybe, but I think I prefer them to any other flower."
. . . . . . . . . .
Draco stood at the head of the makeshift aisle and waited for Ginny to appear. A gnome that had been missed in the garden degnoming Draco had opted not to volunteer for the day before glared up at him from under a bush; he twitched his fingers toward his wand and the creature, not completely stupid, disappeared. Ron had been ordered to guard the food, and he stood, somewhat sullenly, next to the long tables filled with things that Molly had been cooking for weeks. Trays and bowls and dishes covered every flat surface and just the thought of the woman's cooking made Draco salivate. She might be a poor, blood-traitor who had raised a son he particularly disliked, but she could certainly cook. He looked over at Theo, who stood by his side in his best dress robes, and muttered, "You do have the ring, right?"
"Relax," Theo said.
"It's a bit hard to relax in this company," Draco said. While Marcus Flint and Graham Montague lounged, their feet kicked out in front of them, though Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy had port-keyed in from the continent to see their only child get married, and though Pansy smirked at him from her place at Potter's side, the bulk of the guests were people who would have been happy to have seen him dead a scant year or two earlier. He might be running much of their world in secret from his study, but these people still hated him for things he'd done at sixteen. He's overheard some Weasley cousin berating Molly for 'allowing' her daughter to marry 'that horrible Death Eater boy.'
He'd had no idea Molly Weasley knew, much less used, the sort of language she unleashed upon the hapless guest and relative.
"It will be fine," Theo said. "The girl likes you, and, though I have no idea why, the mother likes you. "
"I like her food," Draco said.
"And you make her daughter happy," Theo said. "That might have something to do with it."
"I thought you said you had no idea why," Draco said.
"And you think I always tell the truth?"
Draco didn't have the chance to spend more time castigating Theo for his lack of honesty because Ginny chose that moment to appear. She had an unfortunate tiara on her head that he recalled had been loaned to her by a relative. He hoped she didn't plan on wearing it often. Other than that, however, she was perfection. The robes were plain and elegant in their simplicity and the light cream tint to the fabric set off the colour of her hair. She was fire and life and purity blazing her way to his side.
"Close your mouth," Theo hissed.
Draco went to shut his jaw, realized it was not hanging open, and spared a dagger glare for his best man. Theo just laughed at him and then she was at his side, her hand slipped into his, and the Ministry official had begun the ceremony.
Even years later if you asked Draco what he had about he wouldn't have been able to tell you. Ginny would regularly insist that he had indeed vowed to rub her feet every night, or that he had vowed to get up with the babies and let her sleep. All he could remember was the fire burning at his side, that she had agreed to be his, that he had promised to be hers, and that, with words that seemed unremarkable and flat when you considered how many things they changed, she was and he was and they were and it was done.
. . . . . . . . . .
Ginny had been afraid Luna would lose the ring, and then she had worried that she would fumble when she slipped it onto Draco's finger, and then she had worried she would open her mouth and the words 'I don't' would come out instead of 'I do.'
None of those things happened and instead she put her hand into his and they walked back up the aisle, past the faces of happy, and some less than happy, friends, and more than one gob-smacked cousin. "Happy?" he asked her.
"Devastated," she said, "but I'll console myself with that bathtub."
In answer, he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it.
The photographer hiding in the bushes caught that moment, and Ginny turned what she considered to be her best side to him as she exclaimed in seeming outrage, "What are you doing here!"
"This is a private ceremony," Draco said. "It's closed to the press."
"C'mon," the photographer said. "Just one shot of the happy couple!"
Fred and Ron both appeared from among the guests and, one on each side of the photographer, ushered him out of the yard with perhaps more vigor then was strictly necessary.
"Bastard," Ron said to Draco apologetically when he returned. "Sorry about that. I don't know how he got in here."
"No harm done," Draco said.
Ginny managed not to laugh.
The rest of the afternoon blurred together into well wishes and food grab on the run and a moment where she truly believed Draco planned to smear cake on her face. He didn't.
The food was good, the cake was more than good even if one layer sagged a bit and the whole thing ended up a bit lopsided as a result. And at last they were on the dance floor, not alone while everyone stared at them and she whispered dirty jokes instead of sweet nothings into Draco's ear and he tried to keep from laughing, but in the midst of a crowd, able to dance unnoticed, her head on his shoulder as he murmured not suggestions of things they could do in the bathtub she liked so much, but endearments so sentimental she doubted anyone would believe her if she ever repeated them. "Malfoy?" people would ask. "That sneering cockerel? Said that?"
She looked up at the arrogant, pointed face. "Malfoy," she said.
"Malfoy?" he said back and she smiled. "What?" he asked.
"Thanks for deciding you wanted to be so ridiculously old fashioned as to woo me."
He tightened his hands on her. "Thanks for letting me," he said.
"Anytime," she said. She tipped her face back up to him and he brushed his lips across her mouth.
"Any time?" he asked softly. "Even right now, behind the shed?"
She hit him and he laughed.
. . . . . . . . . .
"You said you'd get them," Ginny said, pulling the blanket over her head as if that would drown out the sound of the wailing babies. "When we first found out I was pregnant, you swore you'd get up every night."
Draco used words he'd later tell Scorpius not to say in front of his grandmothers. "You didn't tell me it was going to be twins," he said, when his stream of invective had no impact on his exhausted wife.
"Runs in my family," Ginny said. She kicked him. "And it's your turn."
Draco knew when he had lost, and he stumbled out of bed and to the crib sitting against the wall with both babies in it. As usual, Cassie had woken first but her wails had roused her brother and now the two screamed in harmony as their father fumbled with bottles and diapers, not sure which to grab first.
"Oh, for the love of Merlin," Ginny said. She sat up and reached her arms out. Just give me one and you feed the other."
Draco did as he was told.