He couldn't quite hold back the relieved sigh that broke free as he spotted the flash of red as the latest group of visitors entered the old house. There had been small groups coming in and out all summer and it was trying the very last of his patience. It was hard at times to not feel bitter about the fact that he was not in his own home, that he was instead staying in a house that, besides being significantly less appointed than Malfoy or Parkinson Manor had been, technically belonged to his scarred nemesis.
He was actually living off the charity of Harry Potter. The thought caused a shudder to slide down his spine and a disgusted sneer to twist his lips, even as he watched the petite redhead slipping away from the group of Order members she had arrived with. Staying here, even for the summer was a situation he found most irritating and demeaning, yet it was also one he could not complain about properly without receiving a scolding from any of the women in his life.
Ginny, having finally reached a truce with her fellow Gryffindors a few weeks after the Christmas holiday, had seemed intent on fostering a tolerance between him and the lions. And Pansy, with whom he would have at one time, shared a lively and acidic discourse as to the horrid state of their housing, was actually the main reason for it. He still couldn't understand how it had come about, but his sister had somehow formed an alliance with Potter during their winter break, one that had only grown during the remainder of their sixth year.
The two dark-haired students had denied that they were dating, but as far as he was concerned, they might as well be for all the time they spent together. It was truly disgusting in the blond's mind, his own sister and best friend fraternizing with the Boy-Who-Lived-To-Fuck-With-His-Bloody-Life, let alone dating the git. Yet, she was, and to top it all off, she had maneuvered, with the help of their mother, all three of them into living with the bloody prat.
How the women had gone about it had been quite clever, a manipulation worthy of a true Slytherin. They'd spent several days dropping hints to Boy Wonder and the Old Bat as to their concerns regarding the safety of Malfoy Manor now that the Death Eaters knew about their duplicity, and where they would be able to stay for the summer. Then, once the idea of alternate summer housing was well planted, they lamented their inability to leave the school, subtly fostering sympathy for their straights. And for the killing blow, they'd each confided in the Headmaster how they felt bad for Potter's loss of his godfather, how they wished he didn't have to keep living with his aunt and uncle, and how they saw him as family, since Sirius and Narcissa had been cousins and Sirius was practically a father to the boy.
The coup de grace had come shortly before the term had ended when the women had, under the guise of a last ditch attempt to find a way to secure the Manor for their use, begun a conversation about blood protection spells within earshot of the bearded fool. During the conversation, they had seemingly considered an alternative that required a sort of magical bonding and a ritual similar to the choosing of a Secret-Keeper.
Patience, subtlety, and snake-like cunning had left Narcissa Malfoy with a magical link to Harry Potter, and the trio of Slytherins quarters in the Black's house at number twelve, Grimmauld Place. It was not a circumstance Draco was pleased with, but he had been overruled by both his mother and his sister, and though he had done absolutely nothing to further the scheme that had landed them there, he also refrained from actively jeopardizing the setup. As much as he hated to admit it, living with the insufferable lion made his remaining family happy.
Pansy, for the first time he could remember, had formed a friendship, and possibly more, that he was not a part of, and as much as that rankled him, a small, very quiet part of him acknowledged that as a good thing. And his mother, ever the society witch, had taken to playing hostess to the Order member that visited with annoying regularity. The ice-blonde witch had also adopted her role as guardian with surprising gusto, mothering Potter as well as Pansy and Draco with an enthusiasm and contentment the grey-eyed serpent had never seen before.
He'd never thought his mother capable of the behavior she'd displayed in ever-increasing doses since moving into the dungeons with her son and daughter those months before. He had believed it to be a singular oddity, in fact, until he had been forced to meet the Weasley monarch his second night at Grimmauld Place.
For all the intensity of Molly Weasley's tendency to scold and dote upon everyone she met, the Malfoy heir was surprised to find himself not despising her. She was far too emotional and Gryffindoric for his tastes, but she had shown a controlled suspiciousness of him and the other snakes that the Slytherin in him couldn't help but respect. Plus, she hadn't forbidden her only daughter to see him as the other members of her family had tried to do so vocally, for which he owed the elder woman Ginny's continued visits.
Potter's experience with the mother Weasley could explain why he seemed to enjoy Narcissa's fussing so much. Well, that and the fact that the coddled little prat just liked being the center of attention. Either way, he appeared entirely too happy playing house with Draco's family, at least to the blond's way of thinking. If only the do-gooder hadn't gotten over his animosity towards the woman who'd been responsible for Kreature's role in Sirius Black's death. That, of course, was solely his sister's fault, as she had orchestrated the meetings and discussions between Potter and their mother that had resulted in the burying of that particular hatchet.
The former prince of Slytherin had been horrified when he'd learned of those meetings, having instigated a sizable row with his obsidian-haired sibling upon the discovery. It had taken him weeks to fully get over his shocked disgust and allow Ginny and Narcissa to get him and Pansy talking again, and keep him from attacking her new friend.
That hadn't been the only time in the course of Pansy's friendship with Potter that Draco had required assistance in not harming the four-eyed lion. In the few weeks they'd spent in the Black house, he'd been tempted many times to hex the scar right off his big head, and once to even punch him in lowly muggle fashion. The so-called savior of the wizarding world had not been the sole recipient of his ire, however.
The seemingly constant barrage of witches and wizards that cycled through the house in their various duties within the Order were fraying his temper as well. It was bad enough that he couldn't stay in his own home, that he had to live with Potter of all people, and that he had to deal with having what little privacy he'd scavenged invaded almost daily, but being expected to put up with, and even pretend to not be aggravated by the others' unwelcome intrusion was more than he could handle.
Oh, some he could deal with; Moody - despite the unpleasant memories of his encounter with the man's Polyjuiced double in fourth-year - Shacklebolt, the Weasley brothers, all those he hated, and was hated in turn. He knew exactly where he stood with them, and could avoid or interact with them as was natural, though he did try to not goad Ginny's family too much. The others, however, he had more trouble with.
They expected him to be nice.
It was intolerable.
He was a snake, a Slytherin, crown or no. He was Draco bloody Malfoy, and he was not nice and amiable unless it was more than warranted, and even then it was questionable. To have to act like those people's feigned interest and concern was anything but a scam and an irritant rankled more than a little. If there was anything he truly detested it was fake kindness. He was naturally, and properly, suspicious of any overt kindness offered to him without the expectation of something in return, or a hidden agenda lurking behind the paper-thin smile. Hell, he had trouble with genuine kindness from almost anyone.
The worst and most unpalatable offender was, of course, Dumbledore himself. Only the day before he'd had to bite off a curse and hold his hands behind his back to keep from drawing his wand on the doddering old fool when the Headmaster had dropped a few not-so-subtle hints as to the possibility of him joining the Order or entering Auror training after graduation.
As if he'd have the slightest interest in working with that group of high-minded red-and-gold-blooded incompetents. He, unlike some soon-to-be seventh-years he could name, did not fancy himself a hero. He had no desire whatsoever to traipse around following after a bunch of lunatics in silver masks, risking his life for the altogether unappreciative and undeserving masses. He'd be Crucio'd to insanity before allowing Ginny, Pansy, or Narcissa to be harmed, but he couldn't care less about anyone else. They could fend for themselves, he had plans for his life, and they didn't include the Order or the Ministry in any capacity.
He had of course, made this clear to the bespectacled old wizard. Unfortunately, Dumbledore wasn't the only one that had been witness to his fervent proclamation. In hindsight, he should have made sure they were alone before declaring his post-graduate intentions. But he had been entirely too short-tempered to spare thought for such things. And he had paid for it.
Only the knowledge that his redhead would be strongly displeased with him had kept him from hexing the mouth right off the bushy-haired bookworm and her red-haired gorilla when they'd laughingly suggested he ask Neville to be his 'study-buddy'. The memory brought a scowl to his lips, the expression causing Ginny to frown as she made her way towards him.
"You okay?" she asked, her genuine and appreciated concern soothed the sharp edges of his temper, smoothing frayed nerves.
He'd given the two lions a scathing glare at their pitiful, yet insulting, joke, and stated that he was not a lowly garden gnome like Longbottom, but was interested in Herbology only so far as it applied to Potions and could surely do without his cauldron melting out from under him as he studied ingredients. That had angered Ron and offended Granger, so it had made him feel a little better, but he had still been annoyed by the fact that he'd had to deal with it at all, during the summer, when he should have been relaxing in private.
There wasn't much of any privacy here, he thought as his grey pools rose to meet brown orbs narrowed with concern. In certain instances, however, it was significantly less of a bother. This was one of them.
"Fine. Just thinking," he said with a dismissive shake of his head to dispel the memory before reaching out to tug his girlfriend onto his lap with a suddenness that made her squeal softly in surprise. His girlfriend. It was strange to think about her like that. He wasn't exactly the sort to have a girlfriend in the way that a lioness - even a snake-ish one like her - would normally have a boyfriend. Yet here he was, lounging in a slightly overstuffed chair in his mother's family's decrepit library, with his girlfriend of nearly seven months curling up on his lap.
Bloody hell, they were practically snuggling, he thought with a mental rolls of his eyes.
Slytherins did not snuggle. Yet here he was, wrapping his arms around her small, redheaded form, a smile - not a smirk, mind you- spreading across his lips as she rested her cheek against his shoulder and buried her face in his throat. He was only humoring her, he insisted silently, his head lowering slightly to rest his cheek on her scarlet hair. It was all entirely for her benefit. And apparently his mother's.
Draco glared at the woman he caught spying on them from the hallway, his eyes narrowing as she sent him a smirk and continued on her way. She'd been doing that a lot lately, smirking at him in a knowing fashion whenever she saw him with Ginny, regardless of what they were doing. The look she had just given him however, was more victorious than anything else, and it brought to mind a conversation they'd had only the day before, in this very room.
"You know of course," she had stated casually as she stirred her tea, "there are certain areas in which I hold much in common with my parents. Their views and behavior regarding my betrothal is not one of them."
It had been entirely Slytherin of her, the off-hand way she'd spoken, delivering the blow beneath a veil of normality, as if the statement was completely expected and acceptable for afternoon tea with her son. He'd given her grudging approval in his mind, even as he'd fought the urge to drop his tea in his lap. Of all the things that she could have said, that was not one he'd thought to hear from her, especially given the look she'd leveled at him as the words had sunken in.
She'd finished her tea without another word before excusing herself, but then she hadn't really needed to say anything more, her meaning had been quite clear. The protests that had swum through his mind had been clear as well. He was barely a seventh-year for Merlin's sake, he had no business even contemplating such things.
Yet the idea had remained in the back of his mind ever since, festering.
Now, as he sat with Ginny curled up in his arms, he couldn't ignore the truth that while his grandparents had been mildly despicable people, they'd had one thing right. When one really thought about it, a few weeks after graduation was long enough, though they'd have to start planning well before that. He was a Malfoy after all. Of course, with Ginny being a year behind him, it would be after her graduation, not his, but that was all right as it gave him time to settle into the apprenticeship he'd applied for at the exclusive Potions supply and research center that was located, conveniently, halfway between Dovetown and Hogsmeade.
Now, he thought as he pulled the youngest Weasley tighter against him, all he had to do was decide exactly when and where he was going to propose.
End Part Ten