Chapter 6: In which ingenuity is not a strong point
Mrs. Weasley stirred a pot of her world famous chili over the stove and smiled to herself. She was pleased; Draco Malfoy appeared to have conquered large odds to become a very nice young man. Adding a little more spice to the bubbling chili, she remembered how polite he had been yesterday and couldn’t help but feel a bit of motherly pride.
A “Pop!” exploded in the room behind her and she turned to face her daughter, who had a very familiar smile on her face.
“Mum!” Ginny rushed forward to embrace her mother. “How have you been?” she asked, a little overly sincerely.
Disentangling herself from her daughter’s arms, Mrs. Weasley finished, “In the past day?”
“I’ve been fine, Ginny dear, now what is it that you want?”
Ginny feigned outrage, “Mum! How can you assume I want something? Maybe I just stopped to see how you were doing.”
“I know you too well, dear. Now, out with it before the chili burns.” Mrs. Weasley turned to attend to the pot.
Ginny took a seat at the kitchen table and explained, “I was wondering if you would bake a pie for me.”
Mrs. Weasley, digging though a cupboard for a bowl, sounded concerned, “Of course, dear, why would you even have to ask? I’ll make anything for you any time you want; you should know that.” She flicked her wand at a drawer across the room and a spoon settled itself before Ginny.
Ginny twisted the spoon between her fingers and replied, “Well, it’s not just for me…Draco’s going to have some, too…and I might have told him it was better than his favorite pie and he didn’t believe me, so we might be having sort of a contest.” She finished the last bit in a rush.
The bowl for which Mrs. Weasley had been searching slammed into the table before Ginny with more force that absolutely necessary. “Ginny, you know I don’t like you entering my food into any sort of contest without asking me first.”
Ginny’s eyes widened, increasing her innocent, pathetic look, and she protested, “But it’s just between Draco and me, and you should have heard how cocky he was about his pie!” When her mother didn’t reply she added, “Please, Mum? Just this once…? I just wanted to show him how good your pie is…”
Mrs. Weasley sighed inwardly. She could never resist her daughter and, besides, her pie really was superior. It would do the Malfoy boy good to see money couldn’t buy superior cooking. “Alright, I’ll do it,” she replied sounding slightly cross. “But you’ll come here to eat it. I like to see my food enjoyed.” She collected Ginny’s bowl and ladled some chili into it. Placing it back on the table before her daughter she continued, “Why don’t you invite Draco over here for dinner some time this week. We’ll have pie for dessert.”
Ginny’s eyes widened in horror. “For dinner?! Mum, have you lost your mind? Charlie’s home this week, so Ron and Fred and George will be eating here, too. Malfoy’d never make it out alive!” After a brief pause she amended, “You know, maybe this isn’t a bad idea…”
Her back to her daughter, Mrs. Weasley allowed herself an amused smile, but her voice was serious when she answered, “Ginny, that’s not very nice. And you must remember: this isn’t Hogwarts. I’m sure everyone will be able to set aside their differences for a nice meal.” She added silently, I hope.
Ginny shook her head doubtfully, but began to eat her chili. Mrs. Weasley studied her daughter and noted the diamond ring was still firmly in place on her hand. When she asked about it, Ginny replied, “Narcissa didn’t know any way of removing the ring, so Malfoy and I are going through their library looking for a book that might help.”
Noting the way her daughter fidgeted in her seat, Mrs. Weasley gathered there was more Ginny wasn’t telling her, but she decided not to press the issue. She would find out one way or another, if she had to ask Narcissa herself. She went back to her cooking.
After a few minutes quietly consuming her chili, Ginny looked up suddenly. “Oh! I just remembered what I’ve been meaning to ask you. Mum, when did you do Narcissa a favor?” She looked at her mother curiously.
Mrs. Weasley gave another inward sigh, dusted her hands on her apron, and took a seat across from Ginny. She had suspected this would come up now that Ginny was in contact with the Malfoys. “It was during the war, during your seventh year, dear. Narcissa contacted me and told me how Draco was receiving immense pressure from You-Know– ” she broke off; it was silly not to say the name now that he was gone. “ – Voldemort to become a – a death eater. With Lucius in Azkaban, she didn’t know what to do: if Draco joined he could be killed and if he didn’t… they both would be.
“As another mother, Narcissa thought I might be able to understand her position and know something she could do. I did understand, of course, what she was going through.” Mrs. Weasley reached across the table to take her daughter’s hand. “The worry, the anxiety, not knowing how to protect your children… I ended up going to the Order and convincing them to help. I’m still not sure if they helped out of concern for Narcissa’s position or because it would keep a future death eater from the ranks. Either way, Narcissa and Draco took refuge at Grimmauld Place for most of the last year of the war, while you were safe at Hogwarts.”
Mrs. Weasley gave Ginny a minute to absorb this information, ignoring her daughter’s obvious attempt to free her hand from her mother’s grip. After a few moments of fruitless struggle, Ginny asked, “Does Ron know about this?”
“Yes, dear. He spent some time at Grimmauld Place that year.”
Ginny’s face furrowed into a frown. “I can’t believe he never told me!”
“I asked him not to say anything. I didn’t feel it was anyone’s business but the Malfoys’,” Mrs. Weasley explained gently. “But since one of them clearly mentioned something to you yesterday, I gather they don’t mind if you know now.” Taking pity on her daughter, Mrs. Weasley allowed Ginny to dislodge her hand.
“I guess Narcissa doesn’t; I’m pretty sure Draco wouldn’t be too pleased that I know.” Ginny made an undignified face. Then she shrugged, “Oh well, who cares what he thinks?”
Mrs. Weasley arched her eyebrows. “You seem to, dear. Why else would I be making a pie?”
Ginny shot her mother a murderous glare but couldn’t seem to find anything to say in return. She finished her chili quickly, explained she simply had to get back to searching for the book, and – giving her mother a quick kiss on the cheek – apparated out of the kitchen.
Mrs. Weasley, flicking her wand at the chili again, smiled to herself and wondered what Draco drank with dinner.
* * * * * *
“They’ll kill me! I’ll bloody kill myself first!”
“I’ll be glad to help,” Ginny offered, putting yet another book back on the shelf and watching it reappear a book to the left. That never got old.
She had just informed Draco he would be dining with her family that week and he wasn’t taking it well. He seemed slightly distressed about being outnumbered four to one by the Weasley boys.
Ginny shrugged. “I guess you don’t have to go, but that means you forfeit and must declare my pie better. Besides,” she added impishly, “Mum would be crushed not to be able to feed you an entire meal.” She mocked her mother’s voice, “‘He’s just so thin!’”
“Aren’t we articulate today?” Ginny asked patronizingly.
Draco opened his mouth – probably to tell her to shut up – and closed it again. Then, grudgingly, he conceded, “Alright I’ll go, if you just –”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. If I just shut up.”
“That wasn’t what I was going to say!”
“Sure it wasn’t…” Ginny smirked at him and enjoyed the response his patented expression triggered.
He rolled his eyes and muttered, mostly to himself, “We’ve been spending too much time around each other. You’ve picked up my smirk and I’ve pick up your lack of forming coherent sentences.” He ignored Ginny’s indignant “Hey!” and continued, a little louder, “What I was going to say before I was so rudely interrupted is that I’ll go if you promise to keep your hand wrapped and keep your brothers from killing me.”
Ginny gave a laugh. “Well, the first one’s not a problem but no promises about the second.” As a look of alarm flitted across his face, Ginny added, “But I doubt Mum will let anything happen to her favorite new toy.”
“Toy?!” demanded Draco as outrage replaced his poorly concealed worry about the Weasley brothers. “How do you figure that?”
Ginny chuckled again and, suppressing the realization that she was now openly laughing at the things he said, assured him, “It’s just what I call Mum’s favorite person to feed at any given time. She’s always picking someone who she thinks is ‘underfed’ and making them her project. Last month it was the Minister of Magic!” When Draco didn’t look particularly calmed by this information she added, “She’ll find someone ‘needier’ or get bored and move on eventually. Either that or you’ll just get fat and won’t look ‘underfed’ anymore. Those are her ‘successful cases.’”
Draco gave her a look of pure horror. “‘Fat?!’ I can’t get fat! I’ll look like my Uncle Cepheus!”
Hiding her grin behind a book, Ginny replied, “Just do what I do: don’t eat the day you go over there. That way you’ll be hungry when you get there and will eat a decent amount. Makes her happy and you avoid a horrible stomach ache.”
Draco didn’t respond but didn’t look quite so distressed anymore. When he began again to sort through the books, Ginny took that as agreement. Now I just have to owl Mum about the day we’re coming. After a moment she corrected herself, Not “we” like we/Draco and I together, just “we” like we both will be there, but we’re coming separately. She wanted nothing to do with any sort of thinking that grouped her with Draco. That was when she realized – actually giving a little twitch of horror – that she was thinking of Malfoy as “Draco.” This cannot be good.
“What’s your problem?” Apparently Draco had noticed her twitch. She was spared from having to respond, however, by the arrival of a house elf, who announced it’s presence by clearing its throat with a tiny squeak. Draco turned. “What is it?” he asked, not as rudely as Ginny would have expected.
“Blinky brings Master a letter. Owl brought it to Master’s office and letter was colored red so Blinky brought letter right to Master.” The elf bobbed up and down on its toes as it spoke, large eyes level with the sitting Draco’s. As it finished speaking it held out the letter.
Draco took it with a nod. “That’s right; red comes straight to me.” He turned away from the elf, which took its cue and disappeared around the end of the bookshelves, and tore open the letter. His eyes scanned it quickly and he nodded to himself.
Finally Ginny asked, a bit tentatively, “What it is?”
“What?” Draco questioned distractedly. “Oh,” he snapped out of his staring contest with the letter and looked at Ginny, “it’s about a new product of which I’ve been trying to buy a share. It looks like it’s going to go through.”
Ginny’s eyes widened. “You mean you actually do invest in things?!”
“Of course I do!” His eyebrows snapped together. “Regardless of what my mother says, I do have a job and I have made money for this family. It’s not my fault she doesn’t understand the concept of spending money to make money.”
Ginny held up her hands in defense, “Sorry, I didn’t know.” She leaned to the side to look at the paper in his hands. “What, specifically, are you buying a share of now?”
Draco hesitated for a moment, and then answered, “I can’t say too much; I know you work for Cleansweep. I’ll just say Comet Trading Company is coming out with a new line.”
“No!” Ginny gave a shout of disbelief, causing Draco to jump and drop the letter. “I can’t believe you’re getting into that mess!”
Draco regained his composure and his letter, and demanded, “What the hell are you talking about?”
“Their self-piloting broomsticks are a scam!”
“How do you know about that?! It’s been top secret since it was developed!”
Ginny gave an angry sigh. “I know about it because they stole the concept from Cleansweep. We’ve been working on it for years now. It’s supposed to come out sometime early next summer. About six months ago there was a leak in the company and Comet got a hold of some of the earlier concept designs. They didn’t get enough to make the charm last, but they got the idea. We know they plan to come out with a line before we can get ours out, one that stops working after a period of time. That way, when their broomsticks stop working, they can claim the charm apparently wears off and offer company credit for all returned broomsticks. By the time we release ours the first rush will be over and everyone else will believe the idea isn’t viable.”
Draco stared at her and blinked several times. Finally he asked, “Are you telling the truth?”
“Why would I make this up?” Ginny demanded incredulously.
He shrugged, “You want to make me look like a fool by getting me to back out of this deal.”
“As much I would love to make you look like a fool, I’m not a good enough liar to make up something like that off the top of my head.”
Draco rubbed his face with his hands. “Are you absolutely sure these brooms won’t work?”
“There is no way Comet could have discovered a way to make the charm stick in the six months since the incomplete plans were stolen,” replied Ginny seriously.
He gave a sharp nod and called, “Blinky!” The elf appeared almost instantly around the bookcase and Ginny realized it must have been waiting there. Draco handed the red letter back to Blinky and ordered, “Attach this note to the bottom of this letter and post it back: Decided not to invest. Sorry for your time. D. Malfoy. That will be all.” The house elf bobbed in understanding and disappeared once more. This time Ginny could hear its footsteps leave as it headed for the library door. Draco turned back to her. “Thank you. If what you’ve said is true, you just saved me a lot of money.”
“If what I’ve said is true?! Of course it’s true!”
Draco rolled his eyes. “You can’t just accept my thanks and move on, can you? You have to make things difficult.”
Against her desire to feel insulted, Ginny felt her lips twitch upward. “Of course I do,” she teased, “but you know you love me anyway.”
He rolled his eyes again but didn’t reply.
“You know, if you do that too much they’re going to get stuck like that,” she informed him, suppressing a laugh.
“Good. Then I wouldn’t have to look at you.”
Ginny gave a gasp of mock outrage. “Shut up.”
“Articulate,” drawled Draco.
Ginny rolled her eyes.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Well, I’m not even going to pretend like this update didn’t take forever, or that this is one of my favorite chapters, for that matter. I do realize it is not as funny as the others. It did get some stuff in that I wanted in, though, and cleared up a loose end or two (while creating more). And because I’m a push-over and guilt-ridden for not updating, by popular demand we will have… dundundun… dinner at the Weasleys’!
I’m also instituting a vote: apple vs. blueberry! Cast your vote in a review or email me. The pie receiving the most votes will be the winner! Hey, this story is kind of turning into one of those choose-your-own-adventure stories… you know, where you pick an option and turn to the page listed to find out if you died or not… no? No one knows what I’m talking about? Oh well, don’t mind me.
I have this rule with myself where I can’t post another chapter until I get all my reviews answered, sort of like not being about to buy new clothes until you get your closet organized. Well, due to my busy schedule and distinct lack of time for doing anything fun, my reviews have not gotten answered and I finally decided it was not fair to my readers not to write another chapter just because I hadn’t done my job. So I want to let everyone know that I do read (and eventually respond to) every review I get and I love them all. I’m just a little behind at the moment.
I love you guys!!
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