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Chapter 4 : In which Draco may or may not have a real job
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Ginny could feel a blush rise in her cheeks at the words of the woman behind the desk. Grandchildren? With her hair? But that would mean…Ginny repressed a shudder as she tried to discreetly remove her arm from Malfoy’s very firm grip.
“Mother, you don’t understand!” Malfoy waved Ginny’s arm back under the woman’s nose with his left hand (the other still held Molly’s toast.) “It’s stuck. It won’t come off!”
The woman, who could only have been Mrs. Malfoy, gave the tiniest of frowns. “But darling, why do you need it off? It doesn’t appear to need cleaning. I don’t see the problem. Now,” she continued, “don’t be rude. Introduce me to your new fiancé.”
Malfoy’s grip became, if possible, even tighter as his fingers twitched with what Ginny assumed to be a spasm of horror. “We’re not…she’s not…that’s just…wrong…” he babbled.
Ginny’s hand had turned white from loss of circulation.
“Draco, let go of her,” Mrs. Malfoy instructed. “I do believe you’re hurting her.” His grip loosened and Ginny extracted her hand, rubbing it gratefully. “Now sit down and do be quiet until you can tell me in coherent sentences what seems to be the problem.”
Malfoy dropped the toast he held, sank into a large, black armchair beside the desk, and massaged his temples with the look of a world-weary, much older, man.
Mrs. Malfoy gave Ginny a kind smile and asked, “Now, what is your name, dear?”
Ginny swallowed. “Ginny Weasley, ma’am.”
“Weasley?” Mrs. Malfoy’s large, blue eyes widened slightly. “Are you Molly’s daughter?”
“Yes, I am.” Standing before a beautifully polished, wooden desk in the middle of a study with finer decorations than the Great Hall at Hogwarts, Ginny desperately wished there was something readily available to hide behind; a tree would have been convenient.
“How is your mother? I do hope she’s well.”
If Ginny had been hiding behind a tree, she would have peered around it in surprise. “Yes, yes, she is. Pardon me, but I didn’t know you knew her.”
Mrs. Malfoy gave Ginny another smile, “She did me a bit of a favor during the war. I’m glad to hear she’s well.”
Mum did Mrs. Malfoy a favor? Ginny wondered. She never said anything about that. I can’t believe she would keep something like that quiet. That would have provided a dinnertime talking point for practically forever. I’ll have to remember to ask her about that.
Mrs. Malfoy glanced back down at her book. “Why is there toast on my desk?”
“Molly gave it to me,” Draco replied, voice muffled, his face pressed into his hands.
“Oh,” murmured Mrs. Malfoy, “how…nice. Would you like to put it on a plate? There are crumbs in my book.”
“Draco Malfoy, you will find a house elf to bring a plate this instant!”
Malfoy groaned, got up from the chair, and headed toward the study door.
“And Malfoys do not roll their eyes,” his mother called after him. Ginny snickered silently. She had just met Mrs. Malfoy but Ginny respected her immediately. Anyone who had Malfoy trained like that was good in her eyes.
“Ginny, please sit.” Mrs. Malfoy motioned to the chair Malfoy had vacated moments ago. Ginny could tell it was not a request. She sat. “Now tell me, how did you and my son meet?”
Ginny flushed again. “Please Mrs. Malfoy –”
“Call me Narcissa.”
Ginny nodded. “I’m terribly sorry, Narcissa, but there’s been a mistake. Mal – Draco and I aren’t engaged. I found this ring at a coffee shop a few days ago, left my name in case someone came to claim it, and took it home for safekeeping. I…er…tried it on and it became stuck on my finger. Mal – Draco contacted me for the ring, we met back at the coffee shop, but neither of us could figure out how to remove it. We decided you might have some idea, as it used to be your ring.”
Narcissa appeared to be lost in thought as she gently brushed crumbs off her book. She looked up as Malfoy reappeared in the doorway.
“A house elf will be here in a minute,” he informed her as he approached her desk, glancing at his occupied seat with a small frown.
“Very good. Thank you, Draco dear.” Narcissa turned back to Ginny, “He really is a good boy when he wants to be, although a tad flighty.”
“Mother! I’m standing right here!”
“But you must admit you are, dear,” Narcissa said gently, as though trying to break the bad news as kindly as possible. “When was the last time you had a real job?”
Malfoy glared at her. “I have a real job, Mother.”
“Draco, spending the family fortune is not a job.”
“It’s not called spending; it’s called investing!”
Narcissa smiled patronizingly, “Whatever you say, darling.” She addressed Ginny, “And what do you do, Ginny?”
It took Ginny a few moments before she could answer, as she was biting her tongue in a desperate attempt to keep from laughing. When she had regained self-control she answered, “I’m head secretary for Cleansweep Corporation.”
“How nice. You must be very responsible.” Narcissa smiled at Ginny almost proudly.
“Thank you, Mrs. – Narcissa.” Ginny resisted throwing a smug glance at the silently fuming Malfoy.
“Maybe you could give my son some tips on how to get a nice job like that. He really lives so far from the real world; he could use the experience of actually earning money. Then he might appreciate it’s value.”
Malfoy made a choking sound. “Mother, can you not see me standing right here?! I can hear every word you’re saying!”
Glancing up at him, Narcissa requested calmly, “Will you go out in the hall for a moment, Draco dear?”
“You can’t be serious,” he demanded, face twisted into an expression of disbelief.
He spun and stalked off, muttering indistinct things about “mothers who treat their sons like they’re five” and how “throwing parties can’t be called a real job either.”
“And please close the door behind you.”
The door slammed shut.
“I’m terribly sorry,” Narcissa told Ginny, “for all the trouble you’ve been caused. Unfortunately, off the top of my head, I know no way of removing the ring. My only thought is to check the Manor Library. There may be notes the ring’s creator made on the spells enchanting it. If there are, they would be there, as this manor has been in the Malfoy family for more generations than I can count.
“I can think of nothing better – other than the obvious answer of you and my son becoming incompatible –”
“Excuse me?” What is she talking about? Ginny wondered. I get the feeling she’s a little eccentric, but I didn’t think she was delusional.
“Well, yes,” Narcissa explained as though it was the most obvious thing in the world, “if you were to become incompatible, the ring would no longer fit. That is what causes it to fit in the first place.”
Ginny was no less confused after this explanation than she was before. “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
“Oh,” exclaimed Narcissa, “that bad boy. He didn’t explain anything to you?”
“Any what?” asked Ginny cautiously. This was sounding worse and worse by the moment. Next thing I know, she’ll be telling me the ring causes life threatening illnesses or is wanted by an obscure cult, who will be coming to chop off my hand and take it to worship.
Narcissa sighed and tucked a stray strand of white/blonde hair behind her ear. “This ring has been passed down through generations of the Malfoy family. Before its creation, Malfoy marriages had been going…roughly, to say the least. It appears men don’t always make the best decisions when it comes to choosing wives with whom they will be happy. To aid Malfoy males in this difficult process, the ring was created.
“It was enchanted to fit only those with whom the latest Malfoy heir will be very compatible, thus, theoretically, ensuring a happy marriage. Unfortunately nothing is foolproof, for if either of the partners change so as to become incompatible, the ring will no longer fit, even if they are already married.” Narcissa shrugged, “Ah, well, it does its best.”
Ginny stared at the opposing wall for several seconds, trying to digest what she had been told. “So you’re saying the ring thinks Draco and I are…are compatible?” This is mad; this is completely mad. This is unbelievable, except, why would she make something like that up? I’m sure I’m not what she would choose for a daughter-in-law.
“That seems to be the case. Although, I’ve never heard of it becoming stuck on someone’s finger. These circumstances are different, however, as you put the ring on yourself, not knowing whose it was. Perhaps that caused some sort of malfunction.” Narcissa pursed her lips and peered thoughtfully at Ginny.
Ginny again felt the strong desire for a tree to grow out of the floor. What if she had broken the ring? She couldn’t imagine telling Malfoy it was her fault and the ring would never come off; he might threaten to cut off her finger again! The image of Malfoy chasing her about the study with a knife suddenly popped into her head. Ginny winced. Maybe a branch from her imaginary tree would fall and crush him before he could catch her.
“Therefore,” Narcissa continued, “I suggest you check the Library. Unfortunately I do not know in what section any such notes would be located, so it could take a considerable amount of time. I would hate to keep you from your job. I will simply put Draco to the task. I doubt,” she gave Ginny a confiding smile, “it will much bother his hobby of spending my money.”
From behind the closed door came an indignant shout, “Investing!”
“Draco, don’t talk while you’re eavesdropping,” Narcissa called back firmly. Turning back to Ginny with what was almost a smirk, she asked, “Now, where were we?”
Ginny, who hadn’t missed the sparkle in the older woman’s blue eyes, hid her grin behind a hand before replying, “Please don’t worry about me, Narcissa. I have tomorrow off, as it’s Sunday, and I can reschedule my week-day off to Monday. I’m sure we’ll have found something by then.”
Narcissa didn’t look so certain, but replied, “If that is what you wish to do. Again my apologies for this trouble. I can’t believe Draco was so careless as to lose such a priceless family heirloom.” She paused for a moment and glanced toward the door. This time there was no protest. Smiling, Narcissa lowed her voice to whisper, “At least he listens when I try to teach him things.”
This time Ginny didn’t bother to hide her grin. I was right, she decided, when I thought Narcissa was a woman worthy of respect. She’s certainly nothing like I would have imagined her to be. But if she’s so great, how did Dra – Malfoy turn out so annoying? “Would it be alright,” Ginny asked, “if we got started now? If we could find something today, it would be even better.”
“Go right ahead, Ginny dear,” Narcissa waved a hand toward the door. “Draco knows the way to the library.”
Ginny thanked Narcissa and pulled herself, as dignified as humanly possible, from the large armchair. She was convinced the thing had slowly wrapped itself around her while she was sitting, just waiting to embarrass her when she tried to get away. She had reached the door when Narcissa added, “Oh, and do try to stick close to Draco; it’s very easy to get lost around here.”
Ginny nodded, turned the handle, and pushed open the door. It slammed against something hard and stopped.
“Oww!! Bloody hell!” Malfoy stepped from behind the door, rubbing the side of his head. He shot Ginny a deadly glare.
She smirked at him as she stepped through the doorway and closed the door behind her. “Well,” she told him smugly when the door was firmly shut, “that wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t so nosy.”
He sneered elegantly at her. “I would watch your mouth if I were you, Weasley. It would be a pity for you to get lost in here. There are some…unpleasant surprises for strangers who wander.” His smile was anything but friendly.
Ginny rolled her eyes, but didn’t respond. As much as she disliked Malfoy, she knew he probably wasn’t lying and she didn’t feel like finding out what those “unpleasant surprises” were.
Malfoy turned and started down the hall to the right of the door. “Come on,” he called without looking back, “let’s get this over with.”
As she followed him, Ginny glared at the back of his blonde head and thought, Compatible? Ha. We’re about as compatible as a Basilisk and a chatterbox rooster.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Well, there you have it: the (hopefully) long awaited fourth chapter! I knew once school started things would be hectic, I just didn’t know they would be this bad. My junior year is starting to look like Hermione’s third…does anyone have a timeturner I could borrow? However, I did manage to beat my projected deadline, Thanksgiving, so things are looking up. Tennis season is over, so hopefully I will have more time for writing.
I can’t promise anything about the arrival of the next chapter, but I was thinking about starting an email update announcement, if anyone would be interested. If you are, just drop me an email at Martini _ on _ the _ rocks @ hotmail . com (just remove the spaces) or (if you’re really brave) leave your address in a review (but I’m not sure I’d recommend it). I promise I’ll never spam you or try to sell you prescription drugs.
Thank you for your continued support through this long and difficult time (aka: school),
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