This was the hardest chapter to write, ever. I have restarted my intro at least a dozen times. A million apologies for the LONG wait. I just wanted this chapter to be perfect.
Here I go!
Breakfast was adjourned, apparently. Malfoy absently stirred what was left of his porridge as he watched everyone, except Ginny, file out of the dining room. Unlike him, the Order members were scheduled to attend a daylong conference. Because he and Ginny were not yet members, their day would not reap much productivity but instead, plenty of boredom.
"So," Mrs. Weasley unexpectedly cleared the table (leaving Malfoy to stare at the empty spot where his bowl of porridge once was) with a wave of her wand before continuing. "I'll be charming the entire house, except the conference room of course, with a fumigation spell. You two need to be out by 9:30 and may return at 5 p.m. You will remain in the muggle world."
"Mum..." Ginny whined, sounding just like an unsatisfied five year old or a banshee, Malfoy couldn't decide which.
"Grab your purse and coat, Ginevra, 9:30 is fast approaching." Mrs. Weasley then watched her daughter grudgingly climb up the stairs before timidly sitting across Malfoy.
"Draco, dear, I'm not at all asking you to befriend Ginny…but as a mother, I am asking that you watch over her while you two are out today. You're quite the gentleman and I know you wouldn't leave a young lady unescorted."
The Slytherin had already intended to shadow the younger girl; he knew she spent many summer days perusing the muggle surroundings of headquarters with Hermione and the two idiots.
He smirked. "She'll be watching over me, really. I'm not familiar with the area so I won't be straying too far from her, Mrs. Weasley. I don't mind if you interpret that as me watching over her to ease your motherly worries."
So he waited for her on the porch, Ginny eyed him oddly as the front door snapped shut behind her. She blatantly gawked when he began following her. She'd even sent him several curious glances over her shoulder as she walked but Malfoy ignored her.
They had lunch at a crowded restaurant. Despite the long wait, she managed to get a table for two (slightly impressed, he watched as she flirted with a muggle teenager) but did not plan on sitting with him (as if he wanted to join her)− but because Malfoy didn't want to wait for a table, he did, in fact, join her. She glared at him as he sat across her. The pair ate in silence. They were supposed to pay separately but their waiter charged both meals to Malfoy's credit card, the moron obviously assumed he and Ginny were involved. Ginny glared at the Slytherin when she realized he'd paid for their meal; she didn't know he'd paid involuntarily and Malfoy found it unnecessary to tell her.
After lunch, Ginny went into Odeon Cinema; Malfoy followed of course. He smirked when he realized he was ahead of her in the line for tickets. Malfoy then unknowingly gave the teenager in the ticket booth enough cash for two movie tickets. She handed the tickets to him just as he finished reading a "no refunds" sign. He carelessly threw the extra ticket over his shoulder (though surprised, Ginny caught it) before walking off to find a bathroom.
Five minutes before the movie started, Malfoy finally went into the theater. All the unoccupied seats were beside snogging and/or overly affectionate couples− except the seat beside the weasel girl. Shrugging, he sat next to her.
He fell asleep (exhausted from his passionate night with Hermione)… so he didn't realize he'd bought tickets for a movie about a bloke falling for his girlfriend's best friend.
Ginny, however, found it very ironic−
It was 4:45, Malfoy lagged three steps behind her; they were nearing number twelve Grimmauld Place. She regretted not riding a taxi but Ginny was afraid he'd pay… again. Tightening her coat around her petite body, Ginny stopped walking.
He was half a step away from her; the brisk wind danced with his long cloak, their waltz tickled her stocking-clad left leg. She could smell his cologne; his scent assaulted her tiny freckled nose. Ginny decided his cologne was the bottled manifestation his spectacular beauty.
Ginny stop! This borderline unfaithful snake is Hermione's boyfriend!
"You know Hermione and I are best friends, yes?"
"I don't care."
Ginny gracefully twirled to face him, he swiftly backed away from her.
"Apparently. Your daylong wooing has led me to believe you don't care I'm your girlfriend's best friend."
First he smirked. The smirk eventually became a grin. Then he was laughing.
"What is so bloody funny!" Her fists were tightly clenched and she was embarrassingly red, a red which rivaled her vibrant, fiery hair.
Yeah. The moron was still laughing.
… and then FINALLY, the infuriatingly unidentified hilarity subsided.
With a gesture, he wordlessly suggested that they keep walking. Though annoyed, Ginny complied. They walked side by side for a silent moment before he spoke.
"Well−" Malfoy coughed to smother another wave of laughter. "− I actually understand why you would think I was pursuing you romantically, it's rather comical.."
Her voice was muted by mortification; coherent thought was vanquished by utter embarrassment.
Next, he proceeded to list every instance she had overanalyzed−
"Misinterpretation 1: I was with you all day. Clarification 1: I'm not familiar with the area and your mother asked me to watch over you.
"Misinterpretation 2: Lunch, I sat with you. Clarification 2: I simply didn't want to wait for a table.
"Misinterpretation 3: I paid for lunch. Clarification 3: They charged both meals to my card without my knowledge.
"Must I continue?"
She was quiet.
In silence, they walked past various locally owned boutiques which littered the route home to headquarters. Sandwiched between the shops were small cafes. Ginny observed the boutiques and cafes with great interest, as if she hadn't perused each boutique or sampled a drink or pastry from the cafes at least five times already.
"Quit feigning fascination, Weasley."
"Only if you refrain from being so disturbingly observant." Was her response.
"Oh but you're just as 'disturbingly observant.' For without a frightening level of awareness , you would not have discovered my… involvement with your best friend."
Her soft footsteps became stomps of aggravation. "Relationship, Malfoy. I discovered your relationship with my best friend."
"You sound so delightfully jealous, darling."
Ginny visibly cringed. Had she not glanced at Malfoy, the feisty redhead would have given him a scathing reply to his cringe inducing remark. But because of the said glance, she noticed he wore a teasing grin− it was faint yet impossible to miss. He was amused by her reaction− the good-natured kind of amusement, not the malicious kind.
"I'm thankful for that cringe. Being 'disturbingly observant,' I interpret your cringe as a relieving indication that you do not desire me."
It was her turn to smirk. "You misinterpreted my flattery as desire. I did not confront you because I wanted to segue into confessing my feelings!"
He merely shrugged, presumably bored of the friendly banter.
Besides their out of sync footsteps… silence. Their at times hostile acquaintanceship (for lack of a better, more accurate word) had astronomically evolved into… what? An undefined area between being acquaintances and… friends? Maybe. Though she no longer questioned Malfoy's romantic intentions (she blushed a little, she'd blame it on the bitter cold if he asked), her doubt remained− what was the intent of his friendliness!
"Why are you being so nice to me?" She'd blurted out impulsively as they reached their destination.
She watched him lean against the iron railing in front of number 12 Grimmauld Place; Ginny absently recalled Ron and Harry liked to lean against the railing sometimes too. Unlike the male Gryffindors, Malfoy was poised so gracefully, as if he were posing for a cover of Witch Weekly!
"When she met both my best friends, as my girlfriend, she was very pleasant… despite how rudely and barbarically both Pansy and Blaise treated her in the past, indirectly and directly… she was genuinely cordial to them…" He shrugged. "I suppose I should try to do… Blaise?" As she giggled at the awkward remark, Ginny noticed his eyebrows furrow in confusion (the said awkward remark being the result of his confusion, obviously).
Her pretty eyes traced his line of vision; she followed his eyes across the street− only one person occupied a table of the outdoor patio of the swanky coffee bar, Bar Italia. She'd nearly forgotten about the existence of the pricey café, Ginny and her fellow Gryffindors (unlike the wealthy residents of the neighborhood) preferred the Starbucks a block away. But it was expected that Blaise Zabini be seen at a chic city hotspot, even if he was in muggle London.
…five minutes later the Bar Italia outdoor patio had two more occupants, Ginny and Malfoy, of course.
Had she not discovered Hermione's relationship with Malfoy early in the morning, the series of strange events would not have happened… and Ginny would have definitely opposed having coffee with Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini. But alas, she willingly sat in the company of two Slytherins, enjoyed the conversation, and munched on the scone Zabini ordered for her.
So, after twenty-nine minutes and forty-seven seconds, the Malfoy-Granger relationship earned Ginny's numb acceptation.
Then, after a day with Malfoy, his relationship with Hermione slowly began to earn Ginny's tentative approval. Approval she hadn't planned on granting until she'd spoken to Hermione, at least. But alas, approval was already being earned.
And only after graciously ordering her a scone did Blaise Zabini earn Ginny's attention.
Hermione set her mug of hot chocolate on the den's weathered coffee table. She then relaxed on a roomy, unoccupied sofa while Ginny lounged on an armchair beside the fire. She smiled inwardly, delighted that she needn't share the regularly crowded sofa since the house was sleeping; it was nearly 1 a.m. As Hermione was extinguishing the lights of their tiny bedroom, Ginny asked her to join her downstairs for some hot chocolate. Hermione obviously acquiesced. Malfoy had been conferencing with Dumbledore for hours, she overheard the headmaster say to her boyfriend, "I hope you're not too tired, my boy. Our discussion may be lengthy." So not really knowing what time to head to Malfoy's bedroom, she decided to accompany her best friend downstairs for hot chocolate.
Warmed by silk night robes, their hot chocolate, and the fireplace, Ginny and Hermione were ready for some much needed witch talk.
"Gin, Harry was mad with jealousy knowing you were out with Malfoy the entire day… a bit annoying, really. Though you must find it absolutely adorable." Inevitably, either girl would segue into the topic of Malfoy; Hermione hoped Ginny would give her day with the Slytherin an excellent critique…
Little did she know that Ginny was only interested in critiquing Blaise Zabini, in detail.
The "romance," for lack of a better word, between Ginny and Harry was steadily fizzling due to his preoccupation with Order business. Harry's neglect and Zabini's charm led to an easily smitten Ginny.
Ginny gave a brief eye roll before replying. "You also said that yesterday when I went to the market with Remus."
"I did no such thing!" Hermione sighed. "Ginny, what's wrong? Each time I've mentioned Harry, you've gloomily cracked a joke rather than a smile."
She studied her unpainted, un-manicured, bitten nails as she composed an answer in her head− her composition was slightly halted by her disgust at the state of her nails, Ginny made a mental note to schedule a manicure sometime soon.
"Harry's negligence has my attention astray."
"Oh? Has your attention strayed to anyone specific?" Hopefully not my boyfriend…
Hermione shifted uncomfortably− Ginny noticed. The redhead snuggled into her armchair with a smirk able to rival Malfoy's.
"A… Slytherin…" She'd whispered for dramatic effect. True, the freckled witch was being obnoxious and annoying but for her failure to inform Ginny of her relationship with Draco Malfoy, Hermione deserved the torture.
"My goodness, Ginny, he's got a girlfriend!" Hermione impulsively shrieked.
"You know Hermione, until this very moment, I was utterly convinced you weren't a jealous witch." Ginny remarked with a giggle, remembering the story Malfoy told at Bar Italia. As she'd munched on her coveted scone, Malfoy spoke of the eve of Hermione's moronic jealousy. Though she'd laughed, Ginny shook her head in response to his claim, certain Malfoy was exaggerating. Hermione reaction to Ginny's provocation proved that Malfoy had not exaggerated at all.
Footsteps, three different pairs of out of synch footsteps, interrupted Hermione's refutation.
"Malfoy, Dumbledore, and… and who?" The muggle-born asked rhetorically.
Except Ginny answered.
"Why the young man I've been trying to tell you about, of course…"
Hermione raised a curious sculpted eyebrow, confused. "I already said Malfoy, Ginny." She said this condescendingly.
"The third set of footsteps belong to Blaise Zabini, the Slytherin to whom my attention has strayed to."
Zabini listened as Dumbledore gave a very informal, sleep deprived "tour" of Order headquarters. He and Malfoy, side by side, walked behind the Hogwarts headmaster as he quietly called attention to anything he thought was worth spotlighting.
"And this," He motioned to worn, wooden double doors, "is my bedroom, the only bedroom on the first floor. I rarely rest here at headquarters… but when I do, this is the bedroom in which I slumber. Goodnight, boys. Draco, I expect you will take care of your housemate's sleeping arrangements?"
Yawning, Malfoy nodded, too tired to voice his acquiescence.
"No need, headmaster. Your hospitality is appreciated− though I won't be spending the night."
Dumbledore chuckled. "Your fellow schoolmates will be informed of your involvement with the Order eventually, Blaise. Stay the night! Forgo delaying the inevitable and join everyone for breakfast!"
Zabini massaged the back of his neck with a slight grin. "Headmaster, I didn't come here with any hopes of involving myself with the Order, though I am grateful for your offer and humbly accept. But my purpose was to propose my plan to end all questioning of Draco's loyalty to the Dark Lord. Having done so, I find no need to reveal my presence to my schoolmates. Perhaps another time."
A Daily Prophet article questioning the validity of his best mate's relationship worried him. Blaise feared the Dark Lord's inevitable curiosity− the consequences could be deadly, literally. He quickly formulated a plan which would hopefully solidify Voldemort's trust in Malfoy and protect the Malfoy-Granger relationship. Not knowing how to contact his best mate, Zabini wrote to the headmaster instead. Dumbledore's speedy reply instructed him to enjoy a cup of coffee at Bar Italia while he waited for Malfoy and Ginny Weasley. And just as he said, he'd made a stealthy arrival to headquarters after having coffee with Malfoy and the redhead who had too easily erased all thoughts of Pansy.
"I'll be attending a shindig in Barcelona, you see… Speaking of which, I think it would be a good idea for Draco to make an appearance as well. He's been absent from many Slytherin social events during the holidays, another nonattendance may raise suspicions."
Zabini snuck a glance at a brooding Malfoy… unsure if he'd be willing to leave…. unsure if he was mentally fit for a wild Slytherin party. Though he was utterly grateful for his best mate's quick thinking, Malfoy was very uncomfortable with the plan he, Zabini, and Dumbledore had spent hours formulating and perfecting. The forthcoming situation would certainly be a test for Malfoy's relationship with Hermione, no doubt.
Better to be tested than be improperly discovered, thought the dark-haired Slytherin.
The bearded headmaster smiled gently. "If you wish to join your housemate, Draco, I only ask that you return in time for breakfast. Goodnight!" And with that, Dumbledore entered his room.
His silver eyes skimmed the dimly lit home; Zabini fell a few steps behind him, following him rather than walking beside him. Malfoy wasn't angry− no, not at all− but whenever the bloke moped, Zabini always felt as if his best mate was angry with him. He hardly spoke, he avoided eye contact, he was unpleasant company, really.
They were nearing the front door yet Zabini had no idea whether or not Malfoy was simply showing him to the exit or accompanying him to Barcelona.
Both Slytherins then noted, to themselves and not to each other, the light flooding into the dim hallway and voices emitting from the den beside the front door.
After a brief peek into the den of mismatched furniture, Malfoy sighed as he turned to his housemate. "Wait for me in there," Zabini's eyes followed his gesture at the den. "I'm going to change into something suitable."
Zabini nodded in response, watching him walk away before entering the den.
"Good evening, ladies."
He wasn't surprised to see either Gryffindor. Upon hearing her distinct voice, they both knew Hermione was inside before Malfoy even peeked into the room yet he hadn't uttered a greeting. An affect of his brooding, of course.
Neither witch verbalized their acknowledgement− Ginny rendered speechless with girlish giddiness while her best friend only smiled weakly. In Hermione's eyes he saw the hurt she felt from her boyfriend's unexpected snub; obviously she'd seen him, they'd even locked eyes for a moment before he distantly looked way.
"…you should go talk to him, Granger." Zabini suggested as he lowered himself on the armchair across Ginny's.
Hermione's audience of two listened to her mumble her agreement as she slowly, not to mention stiffly, exited the room.
"I'm glad you know about their relationship, Ginny. Hermione will be needing your emotional support when Draco is unavailable..."
Ginny quickly read between the lines− her crush was essentially promising Malfoy's unavailability.
She found him sitting on his bed, clad only in his boxers. Had she not spotted the crisp emerald robes lying on the bed beside him, Hermione would have assumed he was ready for sleep.
Malfoy stood, approaching her with his apology obvious in his silver eyes. A strong arm found her waist, his forehead touched hers. His snub was so trivial, already forgotten really. But Hermione knew the symptoms of his brooding, he normally ignored her; she was a bit hurt only because though it was clear he was deeply troubled, he'd simply left her sitting stupidly on the sofa with no greeting and no idea what was bothering him. Ha, hurtful and embarrassing.
"Baby…" The endearing term caught her attention. The use of pet names definitely fell under the 'I'm in deep shit' category. "…our relationship will be suffering some changes in the coming weeks. I'm sorry."
"What kind of changes?" Came her fearful whisper.
"The inevitable kind." He echoed her fear, cocooning her in his arms.
The couple stayed locked in their embrace for awhile, they were both silent until Malfoy remembered his best mate was waiting. "I'm off to Barcelona with Blaise. I'll be back before you wake up."
"Are you leaving me again, Draco?" She sounded so hollow and a little defeated.
"…I just told you, I'm−"
"You're going to Barcelona, I heard you." Hermione paused. "…but are you leaving me a-again?" Her voice heartbreakingly hoarsened with her uncontained grief.
He felt her eyelashes fluttering (much like Snitch wings) against his bare chest, she was unsuccessfully blinking her tears away.
Hermione felt utterly pathetic, blubbering like a damn fool on his chest. She hadn't even noticed him lifting her chin while simultaneously lowering himself to meet her lips.
He kissed her fiercely but briefly. Malfoy didn't lead her to the bed, his hands didn't leave her waist for a spot on her ass… No, he didn't want to use physicality or clever riddles to convey his love to her. Not when his witch was a sniveling mess. Not when unwanted but crucial changes were coming.
"I love you, Hermione." Malfoy whispered against her plump lips. "Leaving you was an option I gladly surrendered the moment I got you back after stupidly breaking up with you."
The Slytherin sighed into her mouth as their tongues made love, expressing the passion their bodies could not. He'd never leave her, no. But he was just so bothered by the possibility of breaking up being less painful for her than staying with him to suffer the changes…
Her sister's bratty elitist friends always celebrated the start of the new year with a bash at the Greengrass villa in Barcelona, Spain. Since Daphne's first year, Slytherins regularly partied at the spacious Spanish villa during the holidays (Daphne refused to have the festivities anywhere else). Being the youngest attendee (invited by her older sister only by obligation), Astoria Greengrass was a complete outcast. The fifth year witch didn't fit the mold of the typical Slytherin Pureblood. Hell, her friends were mostly Ravenclaws, though the Slytherins didn't know that. In order to notice her lack of Slytherin companions, someone needed to pay attention. Why waste interest on little Astoria when popular big sister Daphne demanded the attention?
Slytherin gatherings were not considered a success unless the celebration ended with everyone utterly smashed. Astoria didn't flirt with alcohol and she certainly didn't fancy the partying lifestyle. The villa's guests were pureblooded bigots, future Death Eaters and future wives of Death Eaters. Astoria's father, a long time supporter of Voldemort and obviously a Death Eater, expected both his daughters to become loyal Death Eater wives, just like their mother. Daphne not only accepted her inevitable destiny but fantasized about it. The younger Greengrass witch accepted her miserable fate as well…
Scowling at the thought of a loveless (and promisingly abusive) marriage, her eyes adored the luscious surroundings. Astoria preferred the company of the flowers and fresh air rather than drunken Slytherins; the property's massive garden became her sanctuary during Daphne's outrageous gatherings.
The marble bench facing the breathtaking 26 foot antique garden fountain was already occupied, Astoria realized as she neared. She loved to sit on the bench just listening to the serene sounds of the fountain water.
The handsome, silver, Bengal cat vacantly stared at the young witch in response.
"Do you mind if I join you?" She gestured to the vacant seat beside him; Astoria could have sworn the cat shrugged.
Shrugging as well, she seated herself beside the handsome cat; his posture communicated arrogance.
"You're very aware of your magnificence, I see. Clearly you're mirroring the behavior of your snooty Slytherin owner." The cat obviously belonged to one of Daphne's guests.
He'd been staring at the fountain before her resentful remark. Seeming to understand her bitterness, his head leisurely turned to look at the witch.
"I'm not very fond of Slytherins, though being a Slytherin myself." She clarified. Astoria felt utterly deranged, venting to an animal, but she never spoke of her misery. The cat's lack of speech guaranteed he wouldn't reveal her secrets and he appeared to be interested anyway.
"I'm sure you know Death Eater and Slytherin are synonymous." She unattractively slouched before continuing. "Kitty-"
He hissed disapprovingly at her chosen name for him.
"My apologies… Mr. Bengal… does that sound better?" The hissing stopped, she assumed his silence equaled approval.
"Mr. Bengal, I don't want the life of a Death Eater's wife. Forced allegiances are simply not my cup of tea! Isolation has saved me from following the typical Slytherin lifestyle but I'll be unable to isolate myself from my husband, I'll be forced to follow the typical Death Eater wife lifestyle. A trophy wife… unloved, abused, and alone.
"… I refuse to disappoint my father though. Regardless of which side he fights for, I still love him. I just wish I could somehow fulfill my family obligation without actually involving myself with a malicious Death Eater. Is that possible, Mr. Bengal?" The witch chuckled lightly. "I don't know what's crazier… hoping for escape from my doomed fate, or talking to a cat…"
She woke to incessant tapping on her window. Her eyes struggled to open, thanks to the blinding sunshine; the morning sun always sparkled in Barcelona.
Astoria stumbled to her West window, where an unfamiliar owl eyed her impatiently. Curious, she quickly retrieved the letter from its beak.
"Thanks!" She called to the owl as it flew away.
She tore the seal before realizing whose family it belonged to…
You're not crazy for having hope, what you desire is very possible. I can help you if you're willing to help me.
Two weeks later:
They regally walked into the Great Hall, hands interlocked- a wordless announcement of their relationship. Even from her seat at the Gryffindor table, Ginny spotted the gorgeous pink and white diamond ring she had seen on Hermione's finger.
As he gallantly walked his girlfriend to her seat, hundreds of whispers filled the hall, interrupting the brief silence that had fallen. They were all shocked; no one went to breakfast expecting to witness Malfoy tastefully flaunting his beloved. Hell, many had speculated the relationship was fabricated by the media. On the first week of January, the Daily Prophet even published an article questioning the existence of Malfoy's girlfriend. Needless to say, the skeptics were a bit more shocked than everyone else.
Unlike her schoolmates, Ginny Weasley did not question the existence of Malfoy's girlfriend, for it was her best friend who owned the title.
…but Ginny's best friend was a Gryffindor, not a Slytherin.
She was a Muggle-born, not a Pureblood.
She had dark chocolate curls, not straight auburn hair.
She was Head Girl, a seventh year, not an unknown little fifth year.
Ginny's best friend was seated beside her when Malfoy entered the Great Hall with Astoria Greengrass.
Crazy cliffhanger and a little confusing/vague towards the end. It'll all make sense in the next chapter! I promise! SO….I'M BACK! Hopefully this update was satisfactory and be prepared for more frequent updates! I had many issues this past year but now I'm writing again! I can only hope you guys reward my return with some reviews!
Many issues to address in the next chapter! I will enjoy writing it!