Ginny stood on tiptoe and strained for one of the only two glasses not already in use – or abandoned somewhere decidedly not the kitchen – left in the cupboard, her hips flush against the countertop. Why did the boys have to take all the good genes? It wasn't even that she was short. She just wasn't tall. And who on earth would make a top shelf so high that even Ron had to reach a bit to get to the back of it? Did they do nothing without magic?
All she needed was just a few more inches, and if she could just get a finger on one of them – almost, almost
, aha! Got it.
The glass tipped to its side and rolled to the back of the cabinet, completely out of her reach. Ginny resisted the urge to stamp her foot. All she wanted was a glass of Pumpkin Juice. Was that really so hard? She took a deep breath and bounced back up to her toes, straining for the glass still in reach.
He appeared from nowhere, sliding up behind her and easily reaching over her to fetch the upright glass. His initial thought was to take it and serve himself just to rile her, but something about being close to her made him want to stay. Before he could talk sense into himself, he had passed the glass down to her and taken yet another step closer.
He was on his toes now, nearly molded to her and pressing her further into the counter, stretching for the glass that had escaped her earlier attempts of extraction. Ginny was certain she was trembling, but valiantly tried to pretend as if having boys pressed up against her was an everyday occurrence. She determinedly blocked all thoughts of the still unresolved argument between them, as well as her memory of his strong arms and comfortable chest from that night last week. She looked up to thank him as he passed the second glass down, but he broke the moment by speaking.
"You could have used your wand, you are a witch."
Ginny frowned. Aside from his somewhat unsettling ability to appear silently from the middle of nowhere when she was about to lose her cool, he really could be wonderful. When he didn't speak. "I had things perfectly under control, thank you."
Draco arched a pale eyebrow at her as he stepped away, and Ginny rolled her eyes. "Fine. I left my wand upstairs and didn't want to go get it."
It did not occur to her that he just as easily could have used his own wand to 'help' her.
"Since you retrieved both glasses, am I to assume that you would like some Pumpkin Juice as well?" she asked as she pulled the juice from the icebox.
"Thank you," he said.
He'd already seated himself at the table, and Ginny wondered if he'd discovered some type of written explanation on how to push her buttons. It was a complete mystery to her how, exactly, she dealt with him on a regular basis. Nevertheless, for all his faults, he did have some redeeming qualities – and regaining the ability to sleep through the night was something she was truly thankful for, despite the fact that she wasn't entirely sure how he'd managed to make the nightmares go away. Furthermore, in spite of herself, she enjoyed his company. He provided her some form of human interaction previously missing from her routine at Grimmauld Place. When they were able to keep the lid on their tempers, she even thought he had a fair few insightful points to make for his perspective on things, which was surprisingly not as different from her own perspective as she'd once thought. Or, at least, it wasn't as deranged and homicidal and extreme as she'd once thought.
Apparently, she wasn't the only one who thought so either, because after all, it hadn't been that long ago that his room had been moved down from the third floor. That, in and of itself, had certainly been more than fine with Ginny, since she was the one always sent up to pull him out of a snit and down to the kitchen for supper. Aside from that, Trelawney's perfumes and incense permeated the whole of the third floor, and Hermione had long been convinced that anyone left up there for too long would eventually be asphyxiated. Ginny thought Hermione might be onto something with that, because even just visiting the former professor left her with a headache that had the ability to last for hours on end. Who wasn't to say the reason Professor Trelawney was so batty was because she'd killed off the majority of her brain cells by lack of oxygen – and then given the rest a good fight with the cooking sherry?
Ginny joined Draco and picked at the sections of The Prophet he'd left on the table. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, she finally decided that the least she could do was make a show of good faith.
"Watch out for booby traps in your room. Mum and I checked for them – the twins are bad about accidentally on purpose leaving things for others to find. But we didn't find any." She selected the Sports section.
Draco stared at her in horror. "I've been in that room for nearly three weeks. Why are you just now telling me this? I was better off not knowing. Now I'll be too paranoid to sleep properly."
Ginny shook her head no, not removing her eyes from the sports page. "If Mum couldn't find any, you should be fairly safe. She knows all their tricks – or, at least, the majority of them. And I know the rest." She looked up to give him a reassuring smile and was immensely pleased when she found it returned, if a bit sickly looking. "Oh! The Falcons beat the Cannons!"
"Was there ever any doubt they would?” Draco drawled. "The last time the Cannons won a game was in the Dark Ages."
"I know that. Even Hermione knows that. But my brothers refuse to favor anyone else, and I've just made three Galleons." Old habits of self-preservation kicked in then, and she arched a slim brow at him as she beat him to the punch. "I know it's pocket change to you, but it's not to us, so spare me the insult."
"Insult? No, I was just wondering how you were ever put into Gryffindor. You do realize you've all but extorted your brothers for money, don't you?"
"Gryffindor never said anything about overlooking a sure deal," she teased back, tossing her section of paper at him and finishing her juice. She was surprised to find that she wasn't quite ready to leave the conversation – not just yet – and wondered what else there was to talk about.
"Weren't you supposed to meet Tonks in the Tapestry Room five minutes ago?" he asked.
"Yes, but Tonks is consistently fifteen minutes late to everything. I should probably head that way though." She stood from her chair, and he rose as well. "You don't have to do that, you know."
"Do what?” Draco asked, looking around him for a moment before he realized she was referring to his manners. It was almost a shock to him that she was right. He didn't have to any more, not without his mother there to enforce her code of conduct. But he suddenly discovered that he didn't mind showing her the small signs of respect his mother had ensured he learned. He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't have to, but I do." He was inexplicably pleased to find that his comment – and its implications – earned him a quiet, unsure smile.
"Oh. Well –" Ginny wasn't quite sure how to respond to that, and an awkward pause followed her stutter. "You're welcome to join us – Tonks and I, I mean – I'm sure she won't mind."
He did not react, and Ginny was just beginning to hate herself for being so stupidly girly when a smile crossed his face.
"Thanks, but I'm supposed to meet with Shacklebolt at lunch, and I should probably look over some of the information he gave me for the meeting."
Ginny tried to keep her face from falling. She had known about the meeting, and it wasn't as if he could just blow it off. "Right. Well, the offer stands if you change your mind, or get finished early, or whatever."
He nodded absently as he returned to his portion of the paper, and Ginny sped from the kitchen, berating herself for babbling on like a fool. She'd been certain that she'd grown out of things like that – as well as sticking her elbow in butter dishes. Apparently not.
It was an unpleasant realization.
Draco tipped his head back on the somewhat musty sofa in the living room and sighed. He'd be meeting with Shacklebolt and Moody in a moment, and they'd taken to inviting the Weasel King to their discussions. Though he would never in a million years admit it – even under extreme duress – Draco begrudgingly had to give the oaf credit that he had a unique strategic take on things.
But that was all he was willing to acknowledge.
They were planning their siege on Malfoy manor and the last of the Horcruxes for the end of October – All Hallows' Eve, and Draco had to walk them through the layout of the manor. The traps, the strongholds, and the weaknesses. He was single handedly going to lead a horde of Blood Traitors and Mudbloods into his childhood home and help them systematically tear the wards that had been on the Manor since its very existence down. Then, he was going to find a way to trust them to cover his arse while he robbed his own vaults.
And somehow, the only thing that had been on his mind for the past hour had been the way Ginny Weasley had looked, standing on tiptoe and reaching for that lovely, blessed, wonderful glass on the top shelf.
Draco rolled the heels of his hands against his eyes with more force than was necessary, viciously berating himself for straying from his present dilemma. How did he manage to land himself in the middle of this? He was supposed to be a recent Hogwart's graduate with at least five NEWT's indefinitely in business in Switzerland. That had been the plan. He was not supposed to have a bleeding Dark Mark on his arm, and he was not supposed to be stuck in some godforsaken moldy house with a whole herd of Gryffindors. Where did he get so terribly mixed up in the thick of things?
Oh, right, about the same time that The Boy That Just Wouldn't Die sent his father to Azkaban and wounded his pride.
Finding a way to blame Harry Potter for his current problems lifted Draco's spirits the tiniest bit. Really, what did it matter? He'd already disgraced everything his father had taught him to hold in esteem; he might as well finish it properly. Draco idly wondered what his father would say about conviction now.
"Malfoy, glad you made it," Shacklebolt greeted him, leading Moody, and – to Draco's immense displeasure – the Weasel into the room.
"Like he had anywhere else to be," Moody growled.
Draco rose from his seat and turned to greet them. "Let's get to work. Get this over with." He might have agreed to it, but that didn't mean he had to like it.
"How do we know this isn't a trap?” Ron asked waspishly.
Draco damned himself for ever vowing to fix the Malfoy name. How utterly stupid of him. He could have just as easily fled to Switzerland. "I'll suppose you'll just have to trust me."
"Why should we?” Ron shot back.
"Because Slytherin's locket is in the Manor and whether you accept my help or not, you'll have to find it there. Without me, the wards would rip you to shreds, and if
you actually managed to get inside, you'd never be able to get into the vault – much less out of it. Not that you
would know anything about family vaults or even the generic curses and hexes used on them." Draco sniffed. That one had been almost too easy to properly enjoy. Almost.
Weasley was turning an interesting shade of beet and beginning to snarl a retort when Shacklebolt interrupted them.
"Enough!" he bellowed.
Ron paled, and Draco quickly fixed his eyes on the tall black man.
"That is enough! You are on the same side –" he turned to give Ron a look. "And if you can't manage to act like adults, I will personally boot you both out that door. Without my wand." When neither Ron nor Draco acknowledged his threat with a verbal reply, Shacklebolt demanded a response. "Have I made myself clear?"
While the Weasel stumbled over his tongue, Draco met Shacklebolt's eye and gave him a short, single nod. Mentally, he bumped the Auror up near the head of his "Wizards to Respect" list.
"All right then," Moody intervened, guiding them all to the round table in the room. "We need the most detailed description and layout of Malfoy Manor as you can manage." The blond boy looked a bit overwhelmed at the request, though he didn't sputter as Moody expected him to. "We'll need to see exactly where we're going and the layout of things. Rumor has it that You-Know-Who has been using it as a base for his Death Eaters."
Draco was incensed. His
home, a base – a camp
– for a lot of murderous, twisted monsters? Not only would he have to work the House Elves to death to get it to smell right again, they'd probably already run off with anything of value. He paled a bit – they'd have cleaned out his home. Thank Merlin for the vault. At least his mother's jewelry and the important family heirlooms were stored in the vault.
How dare they? How dare
they think him so unworthy of their respect. He was a Malfoy
No. He was the
They boy's eyes flashed from silver to gunmetal, and the ex-Auror smiled to himself. He'd learned long ago how to play the true Slytherin game – and his last name did not carry near the weight of Draco's. It was not all the cowardice and bullying and backstabbing that they played at now – ever since Tom Riddle had first stepped foot into Slytherin House. But the true game, the one where cunning and wits and a brain of one's own was required. The old game, the old ways and rules of respect and loyalty and fair – or at least, mostly law abiding – play were most valued. One he'd been unsure, until now, that Malfoy had been exposed to.
For once, Alastor Moody was happy to be proven wrong. The boy had been steeped in it – his mother's doing, she was a Black, after all. The former Slytherin smiled to himself. Draco Malfoy might just be the edge they needed to win this bloody war. "Remus gave me a charm that will allow us to plot it down, straight from your memory. A bit taxing, but it's dead useful. It'll even show us whose there, right this minute."
For a moment, Draco didn't care if it was a trap. He needed to know who was in his house, right that very second, so he could take down their names and prepare appropriate retribution for daring to breech their loyalty to the Malfoy name – to him. Draco whipped out his wand, and the man's eye twinkled and the corner of his mouth curled into a smile.
It was the smile – well, the smile in combination with the twinkle, which gave it a disturbingly slippery feel – that stopped him. Only Slytherins smiled like that, and only then when they thought they'd won. He had foolishly rushed into things before because of his pride, and he rather thought it would be quite unbecoming to make the same mistake twice. No, he would control this bargain; he had terms that needed to be met as well. Malfoys were never bought, and Blacks never played. It was high time he lived up to his heritage.