Disclaimer: Harry Potter and everything in it are the property of J. K. Rowling. I'm not her. I'm not making money here either.
I have a good friend in the east, a good singer and a good folk
singer...who comes and listens to my shows and says you always sing about the
past, you can't live in the past. And I say to him, I can go outside and pick up
a rock, that's older than the oldest song you know and bring it back in here
and drop it on your foot. The past didn't go anywhere. It's right here, right
- Utah Phillips
Draco Malfoy stood in the middle of the supermarket aisle and glared at the shelf in front of him. "Bloody superior British attitude, think they rule the world, but can they sell a decent jar of bloody peanut butter? Of course not."
It was late afternoon on a warm September day, the setting sun filtering through the windows at the front of the store and casting long beams of dusty light into the crowded aisles. The store wasn't that busy, since it was too early for the London commuters to be stopping in on the way home from work, a fact for which Draco was grateful. He was in no mood to deal with a mob of people; at about 10 that morning, he'd developed an intense craving for a peanut butter sandwich, thus initiating a quest that had led to him spending the better part of his day trolling the grocers of London, looking for Squirrel peanut butter. He hadn't had a peanut butter sandwich since he'd moved back to England, 6 months ago, but the craving for one had taken hold this morning, and Draco couldn't shake it. And British peanut butter wouldn't do...it had to be Squirrel. And squishy white bread, and loads of butter and...dammit! He thought longingly of the supermarkets of Calgary, stocked full of the stuff; however, it was looking like the only place to buy Squirrel peanut butter was in Canada. Draco cursed under his breath, running a hand through his pale hair and wishing he'd never had to come back here. He glowered at the shelves as though he could make what he wanted appear by sheer force of will.
It didn't work.
Draco rocked back on his heels and surveyed the selection before him. "Bloody Brits," he muttered again. "They can rule an empire, sun never setting and all that tripe, but can I make a decent sandwich in this country? Nooooo. Bloody imperialistic bastards." His tirade was interrupted by something tugging on his leg. Draco glanced down and froze.
He was looking into Harry Potter's eyes.
Eyes he'd last seen staring at him in befuddled shock, on a battlefield that had once been a Quidditch pitch somewhere in Scotland, near a castle that he hadn't seen in almost 13 years. Eyes that had always seemed to pierce through him, even when he was eleven years old and had had nothing to hide, eyes that brought back memories he'd hoped to leave buried in his past forever, eyes that had haunted his dreams and nightmares for years.
Eyes he'd hoped never to see again.
Eyes that were currently in the head of a very small boy with very red hair, who was clutching a battered teddy bear in one grubby hand and the leg of Draco's khakis in the other.
"Um," said Draco, rather wildly.
"I think I've misplaced my mother. Will you help me find her?"
Draco gaped. "I'm sorry?"
The child gave him a look of exasperation, which made Draco blink, somewhat disoriented. He'd encountered that look before, but never at knee level, or on the spectacle-less face of a 6-year-old with freckles. "I've lost my mum. I don't know where she's gone."
"Oh. Um, well..." Draco surveyed the aisle, which was deserted but for him and the child who had a death grip on his trouser leg. "I - I can help you look for her, I suppose."
"Okay." The child let go of Draco's pant leg and raised one arm - the one without the teddy bear - expectantly. Gingerly, Draco reached down and took the boy's small hand in his own. The thought that he was losing his mind briefly occurred to him; this was Harry's son, there was no doubt. Despite the violent orange hair, he looked like Harry must have at six; unruly locks, compact, slender body, hell, he had Harry's nose. What the hell was Draco going to do if he ran into Harry, who was probably the last person in the world he wanted to see? Because the only way a miniature Harry look-alike could be running around was if the Boy Who Lived had become the Boy Who Bred. And Draco was helping his child. Harry's child. Harry, who Draco decidedly did not want to talk to, now or ever again. Harry, who Draco disliked with an intensity that hadn't noticeably abated in 18 years. He glanced down at the boy, who was gazing up at him in anticipation. He sighed mentally. I really have gone soft, he thought. "So, where exactly did you last see your mum, then?"
"Dunno. Over that way, I think," the child said, pointing his teddy bear toward the frozen foods.
"Then that way we shall seek. What's your name, my young friend?"
"My name is James, but everybody calls me Jamie. What's yours?"
"That's a funny name." Jamie said this with great gravity, as though he was deeply concerned for Draco, having to live with such a moniker.
"It means dragon in Latin. My father thought it a rather strong name."
"Oh." Jamie processed this information as they passed the preserves section. "My Uncle Charlie works with dragons."
"Does he? That sounds dangerous."
"Yeah, he gets all burnt all the time."
"I see. So what's your mum's name?"
Jamie gave him a slightly disgusted look. "Mum is mum."
"Of course. And what does your mum do? Does she work with dragons too?"
" No. She stays home, mostly. Sometimes she writes stuff. My dad coaches Quidditch."
"Uh-huh. For the Cannons."
Draco nodded. He'd heard from Neville that Harry was coaching in Chudley, although a Muggle grocery in London was a strange place for his wife and child to be going to market. Neville hadn't offered up more information, and Draco had never asked, since the doings of Harry Potter weren't anything he wanted to concern himself with. Draco shrugged mentally. Maybe they didn't have supermarkets in Chudley. "And does your dad have a name, or is he just dad?"
"Dad is dad, of course."
"Of course. You're a huge help, I must say." They had reached the frozen foods, which ran along the long, open aisle at the back of the store, and Draco did a quick survey. He didn't see anyone who looked like they might have produced the owner of the hand holding tight to his, but judging from the colour of Jamie's hair, he had a good idea of who he was looking for. Unless one of the endless Weasley brothers had discovered a way for men to bear children, young Jamie was the son of Harry Potter and Ron's little sister. Draco wracked his brain for a moment. What had her name been? Gerri? Jeanie? No...Ginny. Granted, it had been 12 years or more since he'd last laid eyes on her, but the Weasley hair wasn't exactly easy to hide. Draco was fairly sure he'd recognize her when he saw her.
He didn't, however, see her anywhere in the long aisle that ran the back of the store. "Well," he said to his young charge. "Left or right?"
Jamie looked both ways. "Left," he said firmly.
"Left it is." They turned to the left and walked toward the produce section, Draco feeling like he was crawling as he slowed his strides to match Jamie's. "So what else does your mum do, when she's not losing you in supermarkets?"
"She looks after my little sister and little brother."
"Ah..." Draco smirked a bit. The poor woman was probably a mini-version of her mother, if she had 3 kids already. He vaguely remembered Mrs. Weasley from brief glimpses at King's Cross as a dumpy, short woman who shouted a lot. The poor girl. "And how old are your brother and sister?"
"Sarah is 4, and Willie is only 2. I'm the oldest, I'm 6. I can count to six!" Jamie said this as though it was a grand achievement. Which for all Draco knew it was, for a six-year-old.
"Congratulations," Draco said solemnly.
"Can you count to six?"
"I do believe I could if I tried very hard."
Jamie frowned. "Are you laughing at me?"
At Jamie's stern look, Draco almost did. With a great effort, he managed to keep a straight face. "Of course not. My mum always told me that I had no head for numbers, and mums are always right."
Green eyes screwed up suspiciously, and Draco had another disorienting sense of déjà vu. It really was quite odd to see Harry Potter glaring at him out of the freckled face of a redheaded kid. "Well...ok. How old are you?"
"I'm 30," said Draco.
"Oh. That's very old. Can you count to 30?"
You will not laugh, Draco thought at himself. You will not laugh. "Again, I believe I could if I tried."
"I always get stuck at 11," Jamie said seriously. "I can never remember what's next."
"It will come in time," Draco replied. "You're young yet."
Despite their snail's pace, they had managed to pass one aisle (empty of people) and were rounding the corner of the second. Draco looked down the expanse of linoleum and spotted a flash of red hair. "Is that your mum there?"
Jamie looked too. "I think so."
"Shall we, then?" Draco asked his charge, gesturing in the direction of the woman. At Jamie's nod, they started down the aisle, still moving rather slowly. Ginny didn't seem to be going anywhere, however, being too busy trying to keep the toddler in the child seat from launching himself headfirst toward the ground from the shopping cart. Draco was fleetingly grateful, since it meant he didn't have to do anything embarrassing like yell or run after her. And it gave him time to acknowledge the fact that Ginny Weasley had grown up a bit.
Actually, judging by the full swell of her hips, and the graceful sweep of her waist, Ginny Weasley had grown up more than a bit. She bore absolutely no resemblance at all to her mother, despite the three children in evidence, being neither short nor dumpy. Not at all. In fact, quite the contrary, Draco mused, admiring her long legs as she secured the child and stretched up to reach something on a higher shelf. Ginny was wearing a light blue tee-shirt and well-worn Muggle blue jeans that clung to her curves in a positively indecent fashion. She wasn't thin by any means, but her roundness was situated in all the right places; she had curves like a Botticelli Venus. Draco's eyes narrowed as his eyes swept the line of her body again. Definitely all the right places.
He could feel a spiky warmth spread through his stomach and tighten in his thighs. Honestly, man, you're just looking at her. Knock it off. Draco closed his eyes and took a deep breath as he and Jamie finally reached her. Don't be an idiot. Just drop the kid off and get out of here.
Ginny hadn't yet realized that the two of them were standing behind her. Draco cleared his throat. "Excuse me, madam, but I think you've misplaced something," he said quietly to the back of her head.
Ginny turned with a start and stared at Draco openmouthed for a moment, then glanced down as he gestured with the hand that was still being held captive by Jamie. "Oh, God, Jamie!"
"Hullo, mum," Jamie said calmly, and let go of Draco's hand so that his mother could bend down and envelop him in a hug.
"Where did you go? Off on your own again? How many times have I told you not to wander off in the shop? Honestly, Jamie, you should know better than that by now. Did you say thank you to the man?" Ginny stood up suddenly and placed her hands on the top of Jamie's head, drawing him back against her legs. "Thank you so much, sir, I appreciate it. He's always off wandering about; it's like trying to keep track of a gnat."
"Any time," Draco said softly, a slight smile on his face. She was even more beautiful from the front, with full lips and deep brown eyes the colour of mahogany, framed by auburn lashes and brows. The porcelain of her skin was set off by the dusting of freckles across her nose, and Draco had a sudden, powerful urge to take her face in his hands so he could count them, could touch the translucent skin of her cheeks, trace the smooth line of her jaw and neck, cup her breasts in his palms, run his hands along those luscious hips... Stop it, dammit! She's a Weasley! He thrust his hands in his pockets, fiercely stifling the urge to thrust them through that riot of red curls instead. You cannot possibly be lusting after her, she's a Weasley. Stop. It.
The Weasley in question didn't recognize him at all, that much was obvious. She was gazing at him and smiling quizzically. Draco glanced down at her hands before he could stop himself and noticed that she wore no rings. Interesting. He crouched down and patted Jamie on the shoulder, partly so that he could tear his eyes away from Ginny. "You should listen to your mother. Not really safe to be wandering about on your own."
Jamie nodded earnestly. "Okay, Mr. Draco. Thank you for helping me."
"Draco?" Ginny asked faintly as he stood up. "Draco...Malfoy? You're not - " she broke off suddenly, studying his face intently. Draco watched with amusement as recognition dawned. "Oh. My. God."
"Been a bit, hasn't it?"
"You - you look, um, different." She flushed slightly and tucked a russet curl behind one ear. "I didn't recognize you at all. I'm so sorry."
"I've changed a bit since Hogwarts, or so I've been told," he said, smiling slightly as she nodded. And he wasn't the only one...surely Ginny hadn't looked like this when they were in school. He tried to conjure up a mental image of Ginny at Hogwarts, but ended up with only a fleeting impression of masses of red hair above faded black robes. "You've changed a bit yourself. It's Ginny, yes? Ron's little sister?"
"Yes, that's me. What gave it away?" She grinned and tugged on a stray lock of hair. "As for changing...well, 3 children and a divorce will do that," she said wryly.
Draco raised an eyebrow. "You were married?" He knew, of course, but pumping people for information was second nature to him. Divorced...that would explain the lack of rings.
"Well, I didn't produce these three out of a hat," Ginny laughed, ruffling Jamie's hair affectionately. "Harry and I were married the year after I graduated Hogwarts...we split up just over a year ago."
"I'm sorry to hear that." He wasn't, of course, but he figured it was the polite thing to say. Draco eyed the youngest child, staring at him from his perch on the child seat of the shopping cart with Ginny's liquid brown eyes. She had faint lines around her eyes, as though she smiled a lot and didn't care that doing so might give her wrinkles. He knew too many women who would be worried that those fine lines would make them look old, who would dread the spill of freckles across her nose that bespoke time in the sun. It didn't make Ginny look old, though; it made her look warm.Was Harry mad? he wondered privately. Well, of course Harry had always been a bit odd, but what sort of person voluntarily gave up a woman like Ginny? Maybe he's gay. Draco had always had his doubts.
Ginny shrugged. "I'm not," she said bluntly, and Draco blinked. "Sorry, I mean. We were far too young, and we got married for all the wrong reasons, and it was far better to split while we could still remain on good terms rather than hold out until we really hated each other, which was exactly what would have happened...and I have no idea why I'm telling you this, I'm sorry." Two faint spots of pink appeared on her cheekbones, charmingly setting off those freckles on her nose.
"Oh, I don't mind," Draco said. "Always interesting to catch up with old schoolmates. I actually see Neville Longbottom quite frequently."
"Oh, Nev...he's a dear," Ginny said, her smile lighting up her face. Draco resisted a sudden urge to go hunt Neville down and strangle him for no good reason. "He's babysat for me a time or two. He's great with the kids. How did you run into him? I understand he's quite busy."
"Ah, well, through work, actually. We've collaborated on an assignment or two through the Ministry," said Draco vaguely.
"You're an Auror?" Ginny blinked in surprise.
"I'm more of a consultant in that department, but something like that."
"Well, I wouldn't have expe - Sarah!" Ginny made a grab for her daughter, who was busily pulling all of the boxes off the bottom shelf and arranging them into piles on the floor. "What on earth are you doing?"
Unlike her brothers, Sarah had inherited her father's black hair, which fell across her shoulders in tangled skeins. She turned at her mother's voice and gazed up at Ginny with clear emerald eyes. Except for her eyes and hair, she was a cookie-cutter image of her mother. Now she is going to be a heartbreaker in 12 or 13 years, Draco thought. "Nothing mummy," she said sweetly. The eyes turned to Draco. "Why are you talking to that man?"
"This is Draco Malfoy, Sarah. Mummy went to school with him," Ginny said as she lifted Sarah to her feet and knelt to pick up the boxes. "Draco, this is my daughter Sarah. William is the one in the cart, and you've met Jamie already. My brood," she said with a laugh.
Draco knelt down too, and presented a hand to Sarah. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Sarah."
Sarah glared and crossed her arms, staring at Draco's hand with distrust. "Mummy, are you sure you know this man?"
For the third time, Draco found himself struggling to keep a straight face. Ginny, on the other hand, unrestrainedly whooped with laughter. "Of course I'm sure, didn't I just say I went to school with him? Sarah's a bit stand-offish," she told Draco apologetically, placing the last of the boxes on the shelf.
"I see that," Draco said, with some amusement. "Well, Sarah, I really did know your mother at school. I knew your dad, and your Uncle Ron, too." He deliberately neglected to mention that he'd have happily tried to kill her dad and her Uncle Ron while they were at school.
"It's ok, Sarah," Jamie said earnestly, taking his sister's hand in his. "Mr. Draco is okay. His name means dragon, like Uncle Charlie!"
"Really?" Sarah said dubiously. She gave Draco a long, considering look. "Dragons are okay..."
Ginny was sputtering with mirth, and the corners of Draco's mouth were twitching with the struggle not to laugh. "I'm rather fond of them myself," he said.
Sarah's face cleared, and she shrugged. "Well, alright then," she said, and brushed past her mother to chase her brother in a small circle near the front of the cart.
Draco lowered his hand. "Have I passed some sort of test?" he asked Ginny in amusement.
"Well, she loves Charlie to death, and she's fond of dragons, so yes. At least she didn't try to bite you. She's a suspicious little thing. Four going on thirty," Ginny said, still giggling. "It's always fun to introduce her to new folk."
"Indeed." Draco stood up and extended his hand to Ginny, who took it without question and let him help her up. He firmly stomped all over the little thrill that ran up his spine at the touch of her fingers.
They stood that way for a long moment, her hand resting lightly in his, her face tilted up toward him. Ginny finally bit her lip and broke eye contact nervously, and Draco realized with a start that he'd been staring at her intensely. Get a grip, Malfoy! He dropped her hand quickly.
"I should let you get back to your grocery shopping," he said. "Since you do seem to have your hands full."
"Oh...I was almost done, actually," Ginny said as she pushed a curl of hair behind her ear and made another grab for Willie, who having decided he wasn't getting enough attention, decided to make a break for the basket of the cart.
"You live near here?"
"Just 'round the corner, actually. I have a flat, a little walk-up. Not much to look at, but it's clean, and large enough, and near an apparition port, so I can get around easily."
"Don't tell me you apparate home from the supermarket," Draco said, arching an eyebrow at the front of the store, where a small line of people were waiting for the cashier. "Whatever would the Ministry say?"
Ginny laughed again. "No, I usually walk. It's not that far, as I said."
Draco looked at Ginny, then at the cart full of groceries, at Sarah and Jamie wandering off toward the end of the aisle, at Will, who was making a determined effort to get out of the child seat of the cart at any cost, then back at Ginny again. "Want a hand?"
She narrowed her eyes at him for a long moment, as if judging his motives, before she finally spoke. "Sure."
They chatted about inconsequentials while she collected the last of her groceries and had them rung through. After a brief flurry of activity while they got bags and children into some semblance of order - and Draco discovered that he was really rather superfluous as Ginny had come well prepared to deal with 3 kids and groceries, due to having a backpack that seemed to be quite a bit larger on the inside than on the outside and a small red wagon equipped with a seat (and seatbelt) for the wayward William - they stepped from the store into the warm September air and started toward Ginny's flat.
They walked along in a rather companionable silence, broken frequently by observations by Jamie, who Draco already knew was the talkative one. Sarah was much quieter but noticed more, and was the one to haul Jamie back from the edge of the sidewalk, out of people's paths and up to the adults when he fell behind. Progress was rather slow, but Draco found he didn't really mind. There was a small coffee shop on the corner, and Draco stopped in front of it. "Care for one?" he asked. "My treat."
Ginny laughed. Draco noticed abstractly that he quite liked her laugh, and made a mental note to think up clever things to say to her. "Sure. I think I'll wait out here though," she said, eyeing the kids. "I'd rather not subject the poor people in there to the brood."
"What would you like, then?"
"Um...a chocolate latte. Mocha? Whatever they call them...if it's got chocolate in it, that's what I want," Ginny said with a grin. Draco smiled back and disappeared into the shop, returning a few minutes later with 2 coffees and two ice cream cones. Jamie and Sarah whooped with delight as he handed the cones out. William got a cookie. "I figured it was less likely to drip, or spill, or what-have-you," Draco explained.
"Say thank you," Ginny told the older two. "Manners, please!"
"Thank you!" Jamie and Sarah dutifully said in chorus, then went back to examining the sidewalk and doing the mysterious things that young children do as they strolled along.
Draco handed Ginny one paper cup and she took a cautious sip - then promptly made a face. "I think this one's yours. How much sugar did you put in it?"
Draco grinned. "Can't drink it without loads of sugar. And milk. I'm allergic to coffee, so I have to drink it diluted with a huge amount of milk, and then drown it in sugar in order to stomach it at all."
Ginny sipped carefully at the hot liquid. "Allergic to coffee? That's awful!"
"I know. And I live on caffeine," Draco said, making a face. "But I can't drink it, makes me throw up."
Ginny gestured at his cup. "You're drinking that."
"Only because it's an ounce of espresso diluted in 2 cups of milk."
"What's the point of having coffee in it at all, then?" Ginny asked, amused.
"For the taste," Draco sighed. "My treat to myself. I am thoroughly ashamed of myself about the whole affair. Whoever heard of a cop who was allergic to coffee?"
Ginny blinked. "A cop?"
He shuffled, somewhat abashed. "Oh, um, yes. I'm a police officer."
"You mean, an Auror? I thought you said you consulted."
"No, I mean a police officer. For the RCMP. Royal Canadian Mounted Police," he clarified as Ginny looked at him blankly. "I work for the Canadian government as a police officer."
"A Muggle?" Ginny stopped dead, staring at Draco as if she'd never seen him before.
He paused, looking back at her steadily. "Yes," he said quietly.
"Oh. Oh, I'm...I would nev - "
"Never have expected it, yes, I know," Draco finished for her. He rolled his eyes. "Everyone keeps saying that."
They started walking again. "Well, you have to admit it's a bit of a switch," Ginny told him. "You spent 7 years at Hogwarts going on about pure-bloods and mudbloods and cleansing the wizarding world of its taint, and then vanish without a trace to live as a Muggle for 12 years?"
"It seemed like a good idea at the time?" Draco said with a small smirk.
Ginny snorted. "Right..." They walked on in silence for a few moments, as they turned off the main street and the shops gave way to small apartment complexes and attached houses, Ginny keeping a weather eye out for the children.
"Speaking of Muggles, how did you end up in a Muggle supermarket?" Draco asked finally. Ginny glanced sharply at him, and he smiled faintly. "I mean, it's not exactly usual for wizarding folk to be living shoulder to shoulder with Muggles, despite your more ...lenient upbringing."
"I suppose it's not," Ginny replied. "I moved out here after Harry and I split up, and I discovered that if I wanted to make ends meet as a freelance writer, which is what I do, I had to find more jobs than were available in the wizarding world. Writing for Witch Weekly and the Daily Prophet were fine when I was still with him, but on my own, I needed a steadier source of income. So I thought I'd give writing for Muggles a go, and to do that, I needed to know how Muggles actually live. There's a few wizarding families in the area, but it's mostly Muggles, obviously. And the supermarket there is far more convenient than going out to Diagon alley for groceries." She smiled. "It's a bit like living in a foreign country, really. Though I expect you'd know more about that than I do."
"Hmmm." Draco shrugged noncommittally. "And no one minds that you effectively straddle both worlds?"
"Why would they mind? I mean, Mum doesn't approve, but then, she didn't want me to get divorced in the first place, and she keeps trying to get me to change my mind and go back to Harry. I don't think she disapproves of the Muggle bit as much as she disapproves of the divorced single mother of three bit." Ginny sighed and frowned.
"What happened with Harry?" Draco asked softly. "If you don't mind me asking."
"No, I don't mind," Ginny smiled, sipping at her drink and glancing back to make sure William was still where he was supposed to be. "There were all sorts of reasons. The main one was that we just grew apart. He spent most of the first part of our marriage playing Quidditch professionally, first for the Wasps, then for the Catapults in Wales, so he was on the road quite a bit. It wasn't so bad, because I was writing for Witch Weekly, and I could take time off to go with him sometimes, or work on the road. He took the coaching job in Chudley after Jamie was born, so we could be a bit more settled, but he still ended up being away for three quarters of the year, for training, or games, or scouting. There was always something. I spent most of the time looking after Jamie, and then Sarah, squeezing freelance writing in when I could, and we hardly ever saw each other for more than three days at a stretch. Finally, after William was born, we sat down and talked about what was happening, and he agreed to take a sabbatical from work to spend more time with me and the kids. So he stayed home for six months or so, and that was when I realized that at some point in the previous four years, I'd gotten used to not having him there. He was driving me batty, and there didn't seem to be anything either of us could do to stop it."
Draco laughed. "Lost the rose-coloured glasses, did you?"
Ginny glanced at him sharply, then smiled. "Yes, well, you could put it that way, I guess. I mean, he may irritate me but I do still love him, and he's still Ron's best friend, so it's not as though I can avoid him, or even want to avoid him. It's just..."
"You don't want to be married to him."
"Exactly. Being a single mother isn't easy, but he does help out, money wise, and he takes the kids every other weekend, and the alternative was worse. It seemed like we were fighting every single day...I didn't want us to get to the point where I hated him for being Harry. It's easier to remember the good things about him when he's not constantly around to remind me of the bad."
"His eyes are as green as a fresh-pickled toad..."
Ginny aimed a foot at him. "Oh, hush. I hated you for ages for that!"
Draco danced out of the way, laughing. "What, for admiring your peerless poetry?"
"For making fun of me. Admit it, you were a horrid little monster in school. You were so mean to us Gryffindors!" Ginny said indignantly. "You were constantly trying to get Harry in trouble."
"He constantly deserved it! I'm an innocent victim!" Draco tried to look injured, though his attempt was somewhat ruined by the smirk on his face. "I was scarred for life, fled the country..."
Ginny laughed, then sobered, tilting her head to look at Draco, pushing a red curl off her forehead. "Where did you go anyway?"
Draco's smile faded. "To Canada, obviously. After the war, I decided I'd had enough of...everything. After it ended, I headed straight for London, got a pile of galleons converted to pounds and went to Heathrow. Got on the first flight I could that was leaving, ended up in Toronto, and decided to stay. Made my way to Alberta eventually, and have been there ever since."
"There were people looking for you for the first little while. I think they even had a bulletin to the Ministries in North America. I'm rather surprised they never found you," Ginny said.
"Well, I'm not much in contact with the Ministry there," Draco said shortly, and shook his head. "I...when I left, I left everything. I didn't want to have anything to do with magic, or with the wizarding world, ever again. Gave it up entirely, dropped my wand in Lake Ontario once I got off the plane, the whole nine yards."
Draco sighed. "I didn't want to do it anymore. I was sick of being a wizard, sick of being a Malfoy. I'd been feeling rather rebellious about the whole thing long before the war ended, and that was sort of the icing on the cake. I wanted out of here, more than anything, so I just...left." He shrugged, staring off into the distance. "It was easy, actually, once I made up my mind to just go. Adjusting to life as a Muggle was the hardest part."
Ginny snickered. "I'll bet. However did you manage?"
"With a great deal of difficulty," Draco said with a snort. "I got better at it after a while. Discovered it's a good deal easier to be insufferable and smug when I had bodyguards and hexes and a wealthy father to get me out of trouble. I got beat up a lot the first year or so," Draco said ruefully. "A lot. It was - well. Educational." He shifted uncomfortably and shot Ginny a glance out of the corner of his eye. She looked startled but amused. "Eventually I learned how to fight back, and somewhat later figured out how not to get into fights at all. And after a while, I met people, made a few friends. Real friends," he said reflectively, "and not just people who would hang about because I had an influential father and good breeding. I didn't intend to ever come back."
"Why not?" Ginny furrowed her brow. "I mean, why would you just vanish, and leave your family and everything? I couldn't imagine--"
"Yes, but you love your family, don't you?" Draco said stiffly. "My father--" He stopped suddenly and clamped his mouth shut. After a long moment, he took a deep breath and looked at her. "I didn't have anything to stay here for. My parents were dead, my 'friends' in prison, and I didn't see the point of staying, being prodded and questioned by Aurors, maybe sent to prison myself just because of who I am. What would the point have been? So I left."
He crossed his arms in front of him and glared at the ground, a twinge of the old helpless rage that had haunted him all through his seventh year rising along his spine. That last year had been horrible; he'd been fighting with his father over not wanting to join the Death Eaters, fighting with the other Slytherins, who were more than happy to just follow where their elders led and didn't understand why Draco kept not following, fighting with Harry and Ron and Hermione, who were convinced that he was some sort of ringleader for the young generation of Voldemort's followers. Watching everyone around him choose sides for a war he was sure no one would win, and coming to the realization that he didn't want to choose a side, he just wanted...out. And that there wasn't going to be an out, not for him or anyone else.
It wasn't that he'd thought - at the time - that Voldemort had the wrong sort of ideals for the running of the world, and he had no particular qualms about hurting Harry and his little friends. He'd wanted to hurt Harry since the moment they'd met on the Hogwarts Express and Harry had rejected his offer of friendship, maybe even wanted him dead, just because he was Harry, and Draco had never loathed anyone quite as much as he did Harry Potter. But he'd wanted to hurt Harry for his own quite personal reasons, and not just because Voldemort wanted it done. He hadn't wanted to be doing Voldemort's dirty work, Voldemort who was ugly and nasty and two dimensional; altogether the sort of person that Draco found unpleasant and distasteful to be around. He'd discovered, after meeting the Dark Lord the summer after sixth year, that much to his own private horror, Voldemort was crass, and really rather vulgar. Not the sort of person Draco really thought would make a good ruler of the world. Draco had never understood how his parents could stand to kowtow to the man, who was half-Muggle himself; they who had made a religion out of a sort of impenetrable aristocratic snobbery.
He slowly became aware that Ginny was staring at him, and that he'd been silent for a long time, glowering at his feet. "Sorry," he said.
"It's alright," Ginny said quickly, smiling up at him. "So...however did you end up joining the police service?" she asked, clearly guiding the conversation to a less painful topic.
Draco laughed. "It was suggested to me by a friend of mine who was in law school. He claims it was because he thought I'd make a good cop, but I think it was just that he wanted to have a friend in the police force so he could use me for favours. But I didn't have anything better to do, so I decided to give it a shot. I applied to the RCMP, and they actually let me in. Didn't think they would. And it's fun."
Ginny raised her eyebrows. "Fun?"
"Oh yes. It's great fun," Draco said enthusiastically. "I get to walk around carrying a gun, and I get to chase people and say things like "Freeze!" and "Stop in the name of the law!" I spend all my time playing cops and robbers."
Ginny stared at him like she was trying to decide if he were joking or not. "Alright, then. Somehow, the thought of Draco Malfoy loose on the streets with a weapon of any sort is mildly disturbing."
"If it makes you feel a bit better, I don't have a permit to carry a gun in England."
"I'll sleep easier at night," Ginny said with a smirk. "Oh, here we are," she added, stopping in front of a square, ugly, six-story apartment block. Draco followed as she marshaled Jamie and Sarah up the walk, and held the door for her as she maneuvered children and wagon inside. The small foyer led to a poorly-lit hallway with suspect carpeting and lurid yellow walls. Not exactly classy.
"How d'you get the wagon up the stairs?" he inquired curiously.
"There's a lift," Ginny replied, struggling to keep William still while she sorted out her keys. "Makes life ever so much easier."
"I imagine so," he said. He watched as Ginny steered her charges down the hall to the elevator. "I should probably go."
Ginny stopped, her hands on the handle of the wagon, blinking back at him. "Oh...of course." She looked down at her hands and back up again, awarding him with a sweet smile. "Thank you, for the coffee and the help and everything."
Draco smiled back. "My pleasure."
There was an awkward silence.
"Do you have a - "
"Maybe we cou - "
They both stopped and smiled. Ginny fluttered her hand at Draco. "You first," she said.
"I was just going to ask if you had a telephone," he said with a faint smile. "And if you did, if I could perhaps trouble you for it's number."
"Oh! I do, actually," Ginny said, patting her pockets. "I can write it down for you..."
Draco produced a pen from the pocket of his jacket as Ginny found a bit of paper in the front pocket of the backpack. "It's 020 7854 9203," she said as he wrote, balancing the paper against his knee.
Draco stepped back, and just looked at Ginny for a long moment, then he leaned forward and took her hand, raising it to his lips. "I'll call you," he said softly, and smiled at her blush, then turned and made his way back outside. He stood for a moment on the sidewalk, orienting himself so that he could find his way back to the store and his car. He put his hands in his pockets, a smile creeping across his face as his fingers encountered the scrap of paper with Ginny's number on it.
He walked off down the street, whistling.