Three days after the Dursleys had left, four days before Draco was scheduled to leave, a miracle occurred. Vendetta had been crying over some toy that had fallen out of her reach, and Harry, without thinking, picked her up to comfort her. And Vendetta had stopped crying.
And Vendetta never cried when she saw Harry again. In fact, she seemed to seek him out when she began to cry. It might have had something to do with her eventually realizing that Harry's sweet murmurs and endearing tones were much more comforting than Draco's "Now, be quiet, or I swear I'll take away that stupid owl". She still cried when Harry tried to hold her when he wasn't wearing his glasses, apparently she wasn't able to recognize him without them, but Harry was overjoyed at the change. The burdens of the war seemed to lift from his shoulders for hours at a time, and Draco, who had previously been charged with the task of being the only one to care for Vendetta, found his chores eased and discovered the newfound ability to, when Vendetta started crying in the night, nudge Harry in the ribs and force the Gryffindor to get up instead.
Life was remarkably pleasant after that, but the small vacation from the war was over much too quickly.
The day before Draco had to leave; he and Harry were curled up in each others arms on the couch. On the floor, wrapped comfortingly in a blanket, Vendetta continuously tried to eat her favorite owl toy and Draco, with a detached motion, pulled the toy out of her mouth. They were both watching her, silent, reveling in the peace they had.
"I don't know how long it will be before I see the two of you again," Harry said in a small voice. His face was sad, his lips curled into a frown, and he seemed to stare past Vendetta as he looked at her.
"The Weasleys will never let you miss that wedding," Draco assured Harry, his free hand caressing the curve of Harry's cheek, "you'll see us in less than a fortnight." Then Draco shivered. "Augh," he growled, "Weasleys having little Weasleys, before you know it those twins will marry, and that Weasley girl, and the one that works for the ministry, and then Hermione and Weasley'll tie the knot and the entire world will be overrun in little red headed half-blood, freckled Weasleys."
Harry started. "Ron and Hermione?" He shouted.
Vendetta dropped the owl and began to cry. Draco glared at him. "Potter," he snapped, the word he only used whenever he was feeling particularly spiteful, "did you have to?"
"I've got her," Harry mumbled. He reached down for Vendetta and she held out her hands for him. Gathering her up in his arms, he sat back down on the couch and Draco curled against him, resting his chin on Harry's shoulder. Gentle rocking motions soon had Vendetta pacified enough that she began to moan for her owl, which Draco gave to her and she proceeded to wrap her arms around and try to eat.
"I can't believe you didn't notice that, the two of them have been awkwardly and dorkishly pining away for each other since you and Weasley apparently saved her from a troll," Draco informed Harry nonchalantly. "And its better than them following in our footsteps, I couldn't manage any of my friends with any of yours."
Harry thought for a moment, wrinkling his nose at a particularly disgusting image of Goyle and Ron, and then agreed, "Definitely not. That should be banned."
"It was banned, for a time," Draco told Harry. He lazily tickled Vendetta's arm, and she pursed her lips in an expression that was so very Draco-like that Harry stared. "A Slytherin Minister of Magic, when the position was called 'Lord of Magic', banned Slytherin and Gryffindor relationships when he learned his daughter was going to elope with a Gryffindor."
"Let me guess, 'Hogwarts: A History'?"
Draco laughed softly. "Yeah."
Vendetta curled up closer in Harry's arms and he tightened his hold on her, making sure her soft, messy, white blonde head was snug. She blinked her wide green eyes at the two of them and Harry smiled broadly. "She is just…" he struggled for words.
Draco nodded. "I know," he told Harry quietly.
Harry's grin faded. "What will we do when I go to search for the Horcruxes?"
Draco looked up at Harry. "I was…" He bit his lip suddenly. A painful expression crossed Draco's face, but he forced himself to say, "I was going to ask Mrs. Weasley to care for Detta."
Harry's grin returned, mock shock crossing his face. "Oh?" He teased, "A Weasley?"
"We'll knock off the Dark Lord by December," Draco said sternly, "and we'll have sixteen years to make up for five months of being traumatized."
Harry snorted, happily, and pressed his lips against the top of Draco's head.
Remus Lupin came to get him, and because Draco was older than Harry, the Trace was already gone from him. Vendetta had never even been registered for the Trace, so they didn't have to worry. Draco gave Harry a swift kiss, during which Lupin tried to look anywhere else, and then Apparated.
Draco held Vendetta tightly in his arms as he prepared to walk up the steps to the Weasley home. Lupin was holding Draco's two bags, one for Vendetta and one for him, because Draco had only his school things with him when he'd left the Death Eaters and had not had time to get new things from Malfoy Manor. Otherwise there would have been a lot more luggage. But there wasn't, because Draco had nothing except a few bags and the child in his arms.
The Weasley home was just like Draco had expected it to be, pulled together by magic, rag tag, and probably garnished with love or something else that disgusting. Where Malfoy Manor would be rich, imposing, and strong, filled with family history, the Weasley home was poor, quaint, cozy, and looked like someone had waved a wand and made it five minutes ago. Eying a new looking wing on the top, Draco wondered if it had been.
"You alright?" Lupin was asking Draco, looking at him with a concerned expression on his ragged face.
Draco nodded. "Just a bit nauseous," he said quietly. Vendetta whimpered in his arms, and he adjusted her position in his arms to make her more comfortable. Draco took a deep breath. You've been living with Muggles, you can deal with Weasleys, Draco thought. He couldn't help remembering what he'd told Harry, and felt sick at the thought of entering the decrepit building with Vendetta in hand and leaving without her. Vendetta reached up to Draco's hair, trying to pull the white blond out of its perfect, slicked back position, and he took her hand and pushed it away.
Stepping slowly forward, Draco frowned at the building. Arthur Weasley and Lucius Malfoy had hated each other for years, and so Narcissa Malfoy hated Molly Weasley, and Draco Malfoy hated all the Weasley children. Arthur Weasley was probably disgusted by the thought of keeping Draco in his home, but he must have no other choice. The Order would have forced it on him. The Weasleys liked Harry though; Harry had even mentioned something about them caring for him like a son, so they might not hate Draco too much for Harry's sake.
Fred and George Weasley would be there. Draco grimaced at the thought. He could just hear their idiotic jokes and their stupid pranks and see those aggravating, red headed, freckled faces laughing at him. Draco Malfoy buggered by Harry Potter. Now thatwould be good material for any number of jokes.
And then Ron Weasley, who Draco had not yet managed to like despite Harry and Hermione's insistence that the two of them eventually get along. But he was Ron Weasley, Harry was asking far too much.
Ugh. And then the girl Weasley. She'd had eyes for Harry since the moment she came to Hogwarts. She even sent him one of Lockhart's stupid valentines. And considering the family's apparent lack of ability to rein back children, and Harry's disgusting inability to notice when girls were flirting with him, Draco would probably have to use all of his abilities to keep Harry from accidentally stumbling into an affair with her.
And then there were the Weasley's Draco had never met. William Weasley, who would likely be enormously upset that a Malfoy would be attending his wedding. And of course, there was that Perseus Weasley who worked for the Ministry. He'd probably be trying to send Draco to Azkaban. And Charles Weasley, a dragon hunter or something horribly frightening like that.
But then there was Molly Weasley. And despite everything Harry had told him about her being wonderful, and nice, and making good food, she was most likely to be a terror. Mrs. Weasley, a floozy, some fat lady who Draco had only once seen in passing at a bookstore. She'd either bother Draco constantly about Vendetta or either completely ignore them, and Draco definitely wanted to completely ignore her. With so many children she probably had some weird child complex and she'd likely be very disappointed that Draco had taken Harry instead of her own daughter. And she only had one daughter and Vendetta was a girl and a very pretty girl and dear Merlin Draco would be leaving his daughter with her until the end of the war and who knew how long that would be? Vendetta Malfoy would become a Weasley. A gross little baby Weasley used to second hand things and rolling in the dirt and far too many siblings for a person's health.
Draco swallowed. This was going to be horrible.
"Are you alright?" Lupin asked him.
"What?" Draco turned.
"You've been standing in front of the door. You sort of need to open it, I have my hands full," Lupin reminded Draco.
"Oh, right," Draco said. He nodded twice, still looking at the door. He held Vendetta so tight that she yelped.
Lupin looked at Draco in confusion, then at the Weasley home, and back at Draco. He laughed. "You're not nervous, are you?"
Draco narrowed his eyes. "No," he growled.
"You have nothing to be nervous about," Lupin told him. "Trust me, they're good people."
"Heh," Draco said unintelligibly. He frowned, and then invented, "It's hard to open a door without tipping her. She cries. All the time."
"Then let me," Lupin set down one of the bags. Without waiting for Draco, whose heart had begun pounding in nervousness, he swung open one of the doors, took the bag again in hand, and lumbered inside.
The door swung behind him, almost shut, and Draco leaned forward to look through the crack at beyond. Lupin was exchanging some words with one of the people there, probably an inspection, but then the person gave a hearty laugh and gave Lupin a huge hug, and she looked at the door. Molly Weasley herself.
Draco felt the blood drain from his face, and his hands shook. When had he become this? At what point did he abandon the path that had been laid before him from childhood and consort with blood traitors?
Ah, yes, the fourth of March.
Cursed, wonderful, day.
Molly Weasley made her way to the door and Draco took three steps back. Harry Potter was most assuredly bad for his health, he concluded as the door swung open.
Molly Weasley wasn't as fat as Draco had thought she was, and her face was very pretty. She had nice hair that she apparently didn't take much time on, and her clothes were covered in flour and food stains in such a pattern that she looked like she'd only just taken off her apron. "Come on in, it's a chilly night for the season," Molly Weasley said, gesturing inside.
Draco gave her a short, sharp nod. And he stepped forward. Toward the house. The Weasley house. Where he was going to stay. And leave his daughter.
Molly Weasley was saying something to someone inside, and she stepped out of the way to let Draco in. Draco paused at the threshold. Taking a deep breath, he stared at his feet and Vendetta let out a single cry to convey to him that Draco was either going to walk or rock her, he couldn't just stand there.
At her cry, Molly Weasley turned around. "Draco?" She asked.
Draco frowned. That was his first name; he'd never given her permission to use it. A small, sane part of his brain sarcastically asked whether a grown woman was going to call him 'Mr. Malfoy', and then Draco just felt tired. "Sorry," he mumbled.
His foot slowly stepped over the threshold into the home. The other foot followed. And then Draco was inside. Draco let out a breath he'd been holding.
Molly Weasley had a kind look in her eyes as she smiled at him. "You can help Lupin bring your things upstairs, I can hold her." And she stretched out her arms.
Draco stared. She was telling, not asking, him to perform manual labor and then she wanted his daughter? Was Vendetta collateral? Was this some weird prank? Draco stepped back into the wall. He should most certainly not have come here and he definitely wasn't staying. Draco had four friends whom he was reasonably certain would be happy to house him temporarily, and Pansy would probably love to play dress up with Vendetta or put mascara on her long blonde eyelashes, and even though the thought was gross at least she wasn't a Weasley. Draco swallowed hard, wondering how far away Pansy was from here until he remembered her family went on vacations in the summer. She was likely in South America.
"Are you alright?" Molly Weasley stepped forward.
All at once there was a loud crashing noise from the stairs that seemed to indicate several people coming down at once with apparently no idea that they weren't a stampeding herd of hippogriffs.
Molly Weasley suddenly gave Draco a very kind smile. "Don't worry, there's a bed for you upstairs and I have Ginny's old crib there too. We're a bit crowded, but I was able to enlarge some rooms, and you're just rooming with Ron and Harry." She stepped forward, nodding at him. "You have nothing to worry about."
"I'm not worried!" Draco snapped at her.
Molly Weasley took it in stride. "I've got some fresh bread in the oven; lunch is in an hour; should I call down Ron to carry your things to his room?"
Draco felt slightly better at the thought of Ron Weasley carrying his things, and so he agreed. And it was better when he was sitting down on a rather comfy chair, although it did smell odd, and Molly Weasley was fumbling around in the kitchen with the dexterity of a house elf, which was the closest to normality that Draco had had for a long time. It did lift his mood when he heard Ron Weasley cursing all the way up the stairs about stuck up Malfoy's and bewitched best friends.
Insultingly, Vendetta seemed to enjoy the noise better than she had the quiet of number four, Privet Drive, and was settled down quietly in Draco's arms. Some of Draco's fears were quieted, although he still wasn't too sure about Molly Weasley.
Lupin came down the stairs and began to help Molly Weasley in the kitchen, which meant he got in the way while he tried to make himself a cup of tea and eventually she gave two to him and sent him off to sit with Draco in the parlor-ish room. "Not so bad?" Lupin asked as he set Draco's tea on the coffee table. But he felt the need to ruin Draco's slight hope and add, "Of course, almost all of the kids are at some impromptu Quidditch game, and Arthur isn't home yet, but they should be back in a few minutes or so for lunch."
Draco felt the urgent need to hit or insult something, but he forced it down. He couldn't entirely trust that he wouldn't use a word he didn't want Vendetta to hear. So he just nodded.
"How were the Dursleys?" Lupin asked after a long pause, to make conversation. Draco shrugged and didn't answer.
Molly Weasley came to the parlor-ish room then, and sat down on one of the numerous couches. "So, Draco," she said, and then stopped when she realized she had nothing to follow it with. She floundered around for something to say to the son of her husband's worst enemy, and then managed, "She's a pretty girl. What's her name?"
It took a moment for Draco to reply and in that time he managed to at least gather back some of his pride. "Her name is Vendetta."
Molly Weasley frowned. "Vendetta?" She repeated, confused.
"It… uh…" It was Draco's turn to be lost, but he managed, "it was something I said to the Dark Lord, it's not a family name or anything, but…"
"Well, that's nice, isn't it?" Molly Weasley said to nobody in particular. Then she tapped away a rhythm on her knees and they all tried to pretend this moment wasn't awkward.