Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This is the last installment in the series. (Probably.)
To be honest, Ginny Potter had not given a lot of thought to the Malfoy family in recent years. Lucius was dead, and Draco was… quiet. So, if she didn't have to think about them, she'd really just prefer not to. Unfortunately those blissful, Malfoy-free years were about to come to an end.
When their son, James was five years old, Harry and Ginny sent him to the Talis Pennwood Primary School for Young Wizards and Witches, familiarly known as Pennwood School. Only about half the children in the wizarding world went to primary school, usually those whose parents were wealthy or important. Ginny had not gone, and she didn't think it was all that important for her son to go either. On the other hand, Harry, who had been raised a Muggle, couldn't comprehend the idea of not sending their child to primary school. So, from the ages of five to eight, James was to be educated at Pennwood School, and then he would spend afternoons at the Burrow with Molly Weasley to make sure he was being taught correctly.
James quickly made a friend. His name was Luke, and he was all James could talk about. So one day when she picked up James from school, Ginny asked him if she could meet Luke.
Ginny was aware on some level that Draco and Pansy Malfoy had a son the same age as James, but it never occurred to her that he and James would be in the same class. And it certainly never occurred to her that they would become friends. Yet, Ginny watched her son run up to Draco Malfoy and a young boy who was clearly his son.
With his unruly dark red hair and freckles, James looked like a Weasley through and through. When Draco saw him running up, his nose wrinkled and he looked so much like his mother that Ginny almost laughed. She tried hard to figure out what to say as the two boys walked up to her.
Luke held out his hand to her and smiled charmingly. "Hello, Ma'am. I'm Lucas Malfoy."
Ginny shook his hand. "Hello, Lucas. I'm Mrs. Potter."
"I have to go home now, but it was a—" He frowned as he tried to remember the right words. Then he smiled brightly. "—a pleasure to meet you." He ran back to Draco without waiting for a response.
"See. Don't you like him? He's my best friend."
Ginny wondered how she could tell her son that Malfoys are bad people and that Weasleys don't socialize with them, so no, she instinctively didn't like him. Or, at least, she instinctively didn't want to like him, but as weeks went by and she got to know him a little better, Ginny couldn't help herself. She wondered how Draco and Pansy had managed to raise such an adorable, likable child. Then a couple weeks later, when Lucas pointed out his older sister, Ginny wondered how, in all these years, she had never seen Matilda Malfoy.
Ginny squatted down to Lucas's level and smiled as kindly as she could, considering the thoughts running through her head. "How old is your sister?"
"She just turned eight." Lucas held up eight fingers, four on each hand, and beamed proudly.
"That's very good." Ginny stood and did quick math. She went over the numbers several times, but they never worked out the way she wanted. If Harry and Pansy had broken up just days after Valentine's Day… And that was eight years ago… Unless Matilda was born early, she would have been conceived by February at the latest… She definitely didn't look like a Malfoy. Ginny closed her eyes. She did not want to be right about this.
That night, after dinner, Ginny sat next to Harry on the couch with her legs curled under her. "Do you ever think about Pansy?"
Harry looked up from his magazine. His green eyes showed confusion and apprehension. "What about her?"
Ginny couldn't fault him for thinking it was a trap. Pansy was the only real girlfriend he'd had besides herself, and they never talked about her. Ginny didn't really like to think about Harry's relationship with Pansy. She found it so hard to believe that Pansy Parkinson Malfoy could have any redeeming factors, let alone enough of them for Harry to fall in love with her.
Ginny didn't blame Harry for moving on while she was gone. She could not understand his choice, but she wanted him to be happy. He told her he wanted to make things work with Pansy, and Ginny tried to respect that. At first, she even tried to keep her distance from him, but that was awkward. Then they started seeing each other as friends, and that felt awkward too, but Ginny tried so hard to make it work. Then there was that one night, when no one really made the first move, but they both gave in to feelings that were there. Harry and Pansy broke up later that same night. It was difficult for Ginny to regret anything that led her to Harry, but she never felt right about what they had done.
"You loved Pansy once. Don't you ever think about her or about maybes and what ifs?"
Harry shook his head. "No, I don't."
"She has two children now, you know."
He shrugged. "Ginny, I'm sorry. I don't know what you're looking for here. I didn't know that she had two children; I only really knew about Luke."
"She also has an eight year old daughter."
"Ginny, really… Eight?"
Ginny nodded. If she ever had any doubt that Harry had not known about Matilda, it was all gone when she saw the look on his face.
"But wasn't…" Harry counted out nine months on his fingers then did it again. He stared at his hands for a minute. "Maybe… No, I guess not."
Ginny cleared her throat. "I saw her, the daughter, Matilda. She looks like Pansy, but there's something about her. You can just tell."
Harry got up and began to pace. "She's a Malfoy. How could Pansy allow my daughter… My daughter. What are we going to do?"
Ginny rose. "We'll go over there. We'll talk to them. Let me just take James to the Burrow."
James liked to go to the Burrow. He had eleven cousins, with a twelfth on the way, courtesy of Charlie's wife, so there was usually someone there to play with. When Ginny told him that she and Daddy needed to go out for the evening, he grabbed his knapsack and ran down to the fireplace. With only a brief promise to her mother that she would explain later, Ginny Floo-ed home to find Harry still pacing in their living room.
"Harry, I'm afraid I don't know exactly where Malfoy Manor is. Do you?"
Harry broke out of his daze. "Yes. We went there to search for him after Voldemort fell." He gave her directions, then they both Apparated to just outside the front gates.
As they opened the gate and walked up the front path, Harry squeezed Ginny's hand. "I'm glad you're here with me."
When they neared the large doorway, the door swung open without them knocking. A small, weary-looking house elf looked up at them. "How should I announce you?"
Just then Lucas peeked out from behind the door. He smiled when he recognized Ginny and yelled, "It's Miss Potter!"
Pansy came out from a room to the left. "Lucas, dear, don't shout."
Lucas grinned sheepishly at his mother. "Sorry, Mum." He turned back to Ginny. "Sorry, Miss Potter." Then he gave her a wink and ran up the stairs.
Pansy tapped the house elf on the shoulder. "Zoppy, please show our guests in."
Zoppy gestured lifelessly for the Potters to enter, and then closed the door behind them.
Pansy sighed as she watched the elf wander off. "We thought of replacing her, but the children are so fond of her. The parlor is right this way."
Harry and Ginny followed her into the parlor. She waited for them to sit before taking a seat herself.
Harry was the first to speak. "Pansy, this isn't a social call."
Pansy smiled. "I know that it's a bit unsettling that Lucas and your son have become friends. Draco certainly isn't happy about it, but I don't think there's—"
"It's not about that, Pansy," Harry said. "It's about Madeline."
"Matilda," corrected Ginny.
Pansy's placid look faltered. "Matilda? What does she have to do with this?"
Ginny put her hand on Harry's arm to stop him from exploding at her. "We have reason to believe that Matilda may be Har—"
Pansy held up a finger and smiled far too broadly. "Let me get Draco for this."
Once she was out of the room, Harry turned to Ginny. "I think that's really all the confirmation we need."
Ginny couldn't help be agree. After a minute, she saw Draco and Pansy approaching from the stairway, whispering furiously to each other. She nudged Harry to let him know.
Pansy returned to her seat, but Draco stood in the entranceway to the parlor and crossed his arms. "All right, Potter, what do you want?"
"I want to see my daughter!"
Draco flexed his jaw. "I don't know what you mean by that."
Harry stood. "I mean Matilda." He glanced at Ginny and she nodded. "I know about Matilda."
"Matilda is my daughter," Draco said calmly.
His restraint surprised Ginny. Draco was older now and it showed. He was not as confrontational and reckless as he had been in his youth. "According to Luke, Matilda recently turned eight," she said.
Draco nodded. "That's true. She was born nine months after Pansy and I reunited."
"Which is also nine months after Pansy and I broke up."
Draco laughed, but it was clearly forced. "So that's what you're implying here? After eight years, you've decided that you're the biological father."
"I didn't know about her before then!"
Draco smirked. "That's not helping your case."
Ginny looked over at Pansy. She was sitting motionless and her face was pale. "I've seen her. She looks just like Harry."
Draco turned his eyes to her and they were cold. "She looks like her mother."
"You know. Pansy wouldn't have brought you out here if you didn't. So why are you fighting so hard for her bastard halfblood?" She saw Pansy close her eyes as though she asked herself that question every day.
Draco's naturally pale skin lost what little color it had. "What kind of parent would ask that?"
It had never occurred to Ginny before that moment that maybe Draco Malfoy was actually a good parent. She had never considered that possibly the reason Luke was so delightful was because he'd been raised that way. "Your father would have asked that question."
"My father…" Draco shook his head. "You didn't know my father. You have no right to talk about him as if you did."
Ginny jumped up. "Your father set me up! Because of him, I did terrible things and I almost died. Your father tried to ruin my life! You cannot even comprehend the evil of Lucius Malfoy!" She felt Harry pulled her down to her seat.
Draco looked stunned. It took him a while to find his voice. "A lot of people did terrible things; most of them take responsibility for their own actions."
"I was a child!"
"He was my father. Do you honestly think that you understand him better than I do? He wasn't always… morally correct, but he was not the monster that the people try to paint him."
Ginny sighed. "I'm sure that you believe that."
Harry interrupted. "I don't think it's in our best interest to rehash the problems our families have with each other."
"I don't think it's wise to ignore them," Pansy said, speaking up for the first time.
Harry turned to her. "None of it will change that she's my daughter."
"I know." All three other people in the room were shocked to hear her admit it.
Draco shook his head. "Pansy,--"
"I never wanted to deprive you of your child. That's not why we did this." Pansy stood up and walked over to Harry. No one spoke during this time. She took his hands in hers. "If I had told you, what would you have done?"
"I would have stayed with you."
Pansy made a point of looking at Ginny and Draco. "And do you think that was what either of us wanted?"
"No, I don't, but that doesn't make it right."
"I know," she said again.
Harry pulled his hands away. "I have a right to know my daughter."
"She's eight. You can't rip her world apart like that. Do you know what that would do to her?"
"I might just be in time to save her from becoming a Malfoy."
Draco looked ready to kill Harry. "We gave her a good home, a stable home. She's happy."
"So was my cousin," Harry returned. The reference was obviously lost on Draco, but Ginny was annoyed to see that Pansy had understood.
"It's not like that. Draco of all people understands the difference between meeting material needs and emotional ones." Draco seemed embarrassed by this. "She's not spoiled." Pansy looked at Ginny. "You know Lucas. Tell him. Tell him that we're good parents."
Ginny was surprised to find herself put on the spot. "Based on Lucas, I think it is fair to assume that they are… not horrible parents."
Pansy was clearly satisfied by this less than glowing endorsement. "See?"
Harry looked to Ginny, and she nodded. "It's true."
"I want to meet Matilda. Not tell her, just meet her."
Draco shook his head. "She's very shy."
"I don't want to hurt her or rip her world apart, but I'm not just going to walk away. There are several ways to deal with this. It's up to you."
Pansy cocked her head to the side. "What are our options?"
"I become a part of her life, like an uncle. And when the time is right, when she's old enough, we tell her."
"Harry, that might work if there weren't Malfoys and Weasleys involved. We're never going to be one big, happy extended family."
"I'm going to be in her life no matter what. We will be an extended family."
"He's right." Even Draco seemed surprised that those words had come out of his mouth. "Pansy, short of Potter forgetting about this whole thing, that's what's best for Matilda. We'll make it work because we have to. I agree that it will be easier for her to handle when she's an adult. Not easy, but easier. Especially if she knows him." He nodded, his decision made. "I'm going to go upstairs and get both children so that Matilda doesn't feel like she's being singled out. Just remember, she's shy and Lucas is a talker. Don't try to push her; you'll have plenty of time to get to know her."
In the end, this had gone much more smoothly than Ginny had expected. "Thank you, Draco."
"Make no mistake, I don't like either of you and I don't expect I ever will. I'm only agreeing to be civil."
"And to not poison her against us," Ginny added.
Draco considered this for longer than necessary. "Yes, that too."
"And to consult us, or just Harry, about major decisions."
Ginny could see that this was getting painful for Draco. There were a few other compromises she'd like to have established, but she didn't want him to back out. "Or we can talk about that later."
A few moments later, Lucas bounded down the stairs and was seated next to his mother before Draco and Matilda even appeared on the steps. He smiled and waved to Ginny. "Hello, Miss Potter."
"Hello, Lucas. This is my husband and James's father. You can call him Harry."
Lucas looked up at his mother for confirmation. She nodded. "Hello, Mr. Harry." He leaned forward and whispered, "You can call me Luke."
Harry leaned forward and whispered back, "Hello, Luke." They shook hands.
Luke jumped up when he saw his father and sister at the entryway. He took Matilda by the hand and lead her over to their guests. "This is my sister, Matilda. Matilda, this is Miss Potter and Mr. Harry. They're James's parents."
"Hello," Matilda mumbled, her eyes looking down. She then sat next to her mother in the place recently vacated by Luke.
Since there was no more room near Pansy, Luke climbed up on the couch next to Ginny. "She's kinda shy," he said in a low voice.
"But," Draco added, "once you get to know her, she's very sweet and well-raised." Matilda blushed deeply and avoided eye contact.
As the night wore on it became clear that Draco was right. Lucas dominated the conversation for an hour while Matilda did not say a word unless asked a direct question. Then, at half past eight, Lucas stood up and said, "It's my bedtime. I have to go get ready now." He shook hands with Ginny and Harry again and ran up the stairs. Ginny had never seen James or any of her eleven nephews and nieces send themselves to bed in the middle of a conversation.
Ginny looked at Matilda. "How about you?"
"I don't have to go to bed until nine on school nights," she said very softly. "But I supposed I should start getting ready, too." She gave her mother a kiss on the cheek and stood. "It was nice to meet you both." When she passed Draco, who had stood in the entrance the entire time, she took his hand and dragged him out of the room with her. They passed by the stairs, Ginny noticed, and kept walking down the hallway.
Ginny watched as Matilda became animated and whispered excitedly to her father. Draco stopped walking and said no, although Ginny wasn't sure to what. After a few "pleases" and what sounded like "I won't tell Mum," Draco finally gave in but told her that she could only have two cookies because she had already had dessert. Matilda pulled him down to her level and kissed him on the cheek. "You're the best, Dad." When Draco stood again, he glanced back at the parlor. Ginny hastily looked away, but not before she saw a heartbreaking look of sadness in his eyes.
Once Matilda left the room, Harry had started speaking with Pansy, and Ginny hoped he had not noticed the interaction between Draco and Matilda. In spite of herself, Ginny was feeling great sympathy for Draco. Once again, she overwhelmed by the thought that he just might be a good father, that he might actually love Harry Potter's halfblood child. That Draco Malfoy might be human enough to be devastated at the thought of Matilda calling another man her father.
Ginny never wanted to see Draco as human. She never wanted to think of the Malfoys as real people with complexities. They were bad; Weasleys were good. This was part of the structure of her reality, and one shy little girl was making her rethink all the lines that had been drawn in her life.