6 :: Mikul Dracushor

Ginny sprang up into a sitting position, choking down the cry that threatened to escape her. Her heartbeat jolted, but soon began to lose its unevenness as she rubbed her chest, consciously taking deep calming breaths. Clutching the blanket beneath her for some measly grounding, she realized she was no longer in the armchair before the fireplace, but in her own bed at the small bedchamber. She was still clad in her clothes, which were now soaked in cold sweat, but her shoes were neatly placed near the bed and her hair was disentangle from the hairpins, which were piled on her nightstand. The house elves, she decided.

She got out of the bed and headed for the bathroom, discarding her clothes and indulging herself with a hot shower. Her dreams were becoming more vivid and far more difficult with every passing night, making it hard not to wake up screaming. Last night’s dream, as she recalled, detailed her struggle against someone who prevented her from jumping in front of the killing curse aimed at Harry. She fought and thrashed desperately, but still was not a much for her captor. So she was forced again to watch, to see the defeat and the death of the man she loved.

Ginny squeezed her eyes shot, dipping her head under the steaming stream, trying to wash away the dreamy cobwebs from her mind. Finally, once her muscles were revitalized by the almost scalding water, she stepped out and carefully toweled herself off. She had nowhere to hurry and by the sun peeking through the frosted window, she assumed it was somewhere around midday. Half the day was already wasted in sleep anyway. She dressed in her new clothes, the crisp fabric settling around her stiffly for the first time as all things unfamiliar, and headed downstairs. Malfoy was supposedly at work, so the meal schedule was hers to play around with. She asked the elves for a breakfast and settled in the dining room with the Malfoy’s newspaper and a bowl of porridge strewn with fruits. Once she was finished, she dallied over the paper, having nowhere important to be, but soon a small presence caught her attention. One of the house elves hovered by her side and kept looking at her expectantly. She chanced a glance at it, but looked away, uncomfortable under the scrutiny.

Finally snapping, she turned to face it point blank and forced a smile. “Yes?”

“If Miss is done, Cilli will lead Miss into library,” piped the elf.

Ginny frowned in confusion and looked at the little creature. “What library?”

“Master Draco’s order,” the elf hurried to explain. “To show the Miss into library and allow her to go there whenever she pleases”

Ginny’s eyebrows arched at the gesture, quite taken aback by the… well, niceness of it. Niceness was not a part of Malfoy’s vocabulary as far as she was concerned, and it actually unsettled her a bit to understand that he, indeed, did something nice. The closest he ever got to ‘nice’ was ‘tolerable’ and that was mostly when he kept his mouth shut, staring into the fireplace. Now he was allowing her access into the family library and she was probably obliged to act grateful. Well, bugger. She left the table and followed the elf down the winding corridors and labyrinth-like recesses of the manor. No wonder she could never find a thing in this place – the Minotaur would have lost his way around here.

When they finally reached the library, the elf opened the door for her and bowed its way out, leaving a gaping Ginny to stare at the massive chamber. Before her very eyes sprawled perhaps one of the vastest collection of printed books she had ever seen. Mazes upon mazes of bookshelves, spiral staircases leading up to the second and the third floors of the library, overstuffed armchairs strewn everywhere, and immense windows that allowed the dark wooden décor of the library to be bathed in golden glow. The scent of ancient tomes wafted around the room, broken only by a cool breeze
from one of the slightly opened windows.

Ginny gulped hard, wondering whether this library was as big as the one at Hogwarts. Probably not, but to her criminally jaded mind, this chamber looked like heaven. Getting a grip on herself, Ginny finally took a step further and proceeded to explore. As she guessed, the library indeed was enormous and possessed colossal collection of volumes and manuscripts on any subject, genre or literature preference. It even contained a section of Muggle literature, to Ginny’s utter shock. And of course most of the third floor was the expectedly substantial assortment of Dark Arts texts, which Ginny decided to steer clear of.

She gingerly picked a book from the Muggle classics section and chose herself a green armchair near the open window, making herself comfortable. Beyond the windowpane spread out the emerald planes of Malfoy grounds, which Ginny promised herself to explore as soon as the rain stopped for a little while. She sank into the soft chair and opened the book, a smile crowning her content expression.

“Well, well! Never thought I’d see the day a Weasley would step into this library. Again.”

Ginny jolted upright by the sound of the voice, scanning the place around her. She was alone, and a pointed sound of throat clearing drew her attention to the walls. Just behind her hung a portrait of a fair-haired, smirking man. She stood up and passed her armchair, approaching the painting and scanning the small metallic tablet beneath it – Sir Lynus Malfoy. Her eyes slipped up to his face, noting the familiar smirk and the patrician features. He was an almost exact replica of Lucius Malfoy, with the exception of his eyes, shining deep blue instead or the cruel gray.

“Stop gawking, lass!” the painting barked at her. “Have you no manners?”

Ginny frowned and pursed her lips into a displeased line. “I refuse to discuss etiquette with individuals who should know better than to startle people.”

Stunned by the plucky respond, Sir Lynus arched an eyebrow, so perfectly performing the familial motion that had been elevated to a form of art. “Have I startled you, little one?” he asked, and she could feel the mocking ooze behind his concern.

Folding her arms across her chest, Ginny responded with open irony. “Yes, quite. I tend to get frightened by inanimate objects. The coffee table in the living room still gives me the most terrible case of heebie geebies.”

The fair image curved its lips into a smile. “My, my, the lady has a tongue. How on earth did a nice girl like you master such sharpness?”

“Communicating with your… descendents, I presume.”

“Draco?” he inquired briskly. “Indeed the boy had done a marvelous job, I have to admit. Honing one’s wit is one of the greatest challenges a man of intellect would encounter in his life.”

”Or a woman,” Ginny injected pointedly, and dared him with her stare to disagree.

Sir Lynus smirked. “Of course. So, my grandson finally lured you into the den," said Sir Lynus cryptically.

Realizing the wizard meant Draco finally allowing her into the library, she nodded and pulled the armchair closer. Something told her this would develop into a conversation. “Yes, he finally stopped acting like a child.”

The illustration barked with laughter. “Infantile behavior runs in the family, apparently. You weren’t acquainted with his father! The imbecilic rat!”

Ginny felt her back stiffen against the backrest. “Unfortunately, I was acquainted with Lucius Malfoy, and I’m afraid his behavior never seemed ‘infantile’ to me. Hateful, vicious, soulless…”

Scanning Ginny’s features carefully for a long moment, Lynus nodded slightly to himself. “Yes, my son was all of that. And then some.” His eyes slid down for a moment and seem to darken in his silent reverie.

Ginny considered asking what had made Lucius the way he was, but decided against it quickly. Instead, seeing as the subject upset her conversant, she decided to change it into the first thing that popped into her mind. “So did you know Draco when he was a little?”

Lynus’ face brightened and he smiled at her suddenly a small smile while his eyes gleamed oddly. “Knew him? I practically raised the brat!”

Ginny grinned at the uproar in the wizard’s voice. “How was he?” she asked, propping her feet on the window seat next to the painting.

“Fast,” replied Lynus. “He was the only three-year-old I ever knew who could outrun his grandfather.”

Ginny giggled, imagining a small Malfoy running away from Sir Lynus on his little chubby legs. Somehow the thought of a child Draco and his chubby legs was enough to send her into a laughing feat.

“Also was a curious little bugger,” Lynus continued, encouraged by Ginny’s chuckles. “By the age of eight, he knew more secret passages around this Manor, than I know by now. And I lived here for more than half a century before I—“ he stopped there, glancing behind his shoulder into the pastoral background. “Moved.”

Ginny smiled tentatively, guessing it was strange to talk about one’s death. Though the thought of Malfoy knowing secret passages around the house unsettled her, Ginny gave no sign of such emotion.

She spent the rest of the afternoon there, listening to Sir Lynus’ numerous stories from Malfoy’s childhood and his own life. Though Sir Lynus tried to keep his expressions impartial through the storytelling, Ginny could see his dark blue eyes glaze over once in a while as he remembered something. He kept his posture firm and features neutral, just like any other Malfoy Ginny knew; but he was somewhat different from his descendents, perhaps a tad more cordial, a bit more human.

He spoke easily about Draco’s life in the Manor – about Lucius’ total lack of interest in the boy, unless it was to scorn him; about Narcissa’s undying affection and care for her son and his attachment as well; about the usual childish pranks he played on the house elves. When the timeline reached Draco’s final years in Hogwarts and he spoke of those summer vacations at the Manor and how the elder wizard took the role of his grandson’s confidant, Ginny noticed some strange roguish twinkle in the ancient wizard’s eyes. He kept smirking and sniggering silently to himself, until Ginny couldn’t take it anymore.

“What?” she demanded.

“Pardon me?” Sir Lynus responded coolly with a cocked eyebrow.

“You’re snickering and giggling like a giddy school girl. Now I want to know why. ”

“Miss Weasley, you’re overstepping the lines of amiable conversation,” he warned her strictly.

“I don’t care, I want to know why you were giggling!” Ginny prodded further.

“I was not giggling,” Sir Lynus insisted, glancing at her down his nose.

“Alright then, not giggling. Now tell me why,” she continued.

“‘Why’ what?” he asked in fake innocence.

“I begin to understand the whole ‘infantile behavior throughout generations’ bit you mentioned earlier,” she quipped through tight lips. “Why were you snickering?”

“I do not believe I’m in any position to divulge that information.” he said cryptically.

Ginny pouted in annoyance and folded her arms over her chest. “Fine, don’t tell me. I’ll find out anyway.”

Another strange gleam flashed past his blue eyes as he smirked at her, nodding his head curtly. “I am sure you will.”

Ginny glanced at him from the corner of her eye, knowing the wizard was hiding something, but realizing there was nothing she could do to squeeze it out of him. She made a mental note to look into the issue later on. Perhaps prod Draco into revealing whatever it was that amused his grandfather so.

She remained in the library with Sir Lynus until the ancient grandfather clock proclaimed the time for Draco to return home with his flavor of the day. She parted with Sir Lynus, taking the forgotten book from the armchair, promised to drop by soon and headed to the dining hall, hoping to grab something to eat and go up to her bedchamber without an unnecessary encounter.

Without bothering to knock, Draco stepped into the office of Tomas Brooks, brusquely waving off the diffident secretary. Surveying the formal and impersonal décor, Draco could easily assert that the man was a Slytherin even if he hadn’t known Tomas previously, which he did. Tomas Brooks was the eldest son of Victor Brooks, one of the Dark Lord’s major supporters in his first reign and one of the Death Eaters who spied for Dumbledore after his second upsurge. Draco wasn’t personally familiar with Tomas, but knew his father very well and was under the impression that Tomas was a younger replica. If so then, Draco’s visit would be shorter than planned.

“Penny, I said no visitors,” growled the black-haired editor over his papers.

“Very proficient. But she didn’t really have a choice,” drawled Draco, closing the door and approaching the desk.

Brooks lifted his head to meet Draco’s cold gray eyes and rose to his feet, extending a curt hand. “Mr. Malfoy,” he said with a slight inclination of his head.

“Mr. Brooks,” Draco acknowledged in return. “How is your father?”

“As well as could be anticipated. His heart has weakened over the years, but the healers say it will be taken care of,” replied Brooks.

“I’m glad to hear this. I hope he will feel better and would be able to leave the St. Mungo’s soon,” said Draco, nodding his head.

Brooks eyed him for a moment and beckoned him to sit down, before speaking. “Did we have an appointment?”

Draco took a seat on one of the chair in front of the desk. “No, not that I know of.”

Brooks looked confused for a brief moment, but cleared his throat and sat down as well, leaning aback in his leather chair. He studied Draco for a silent minute before speaking again. “What is the reason for your visit?”

Draco paused and unnoticeably bit the inning of his cheek. Gods, I can’t believe I am doing this. “I want the ‘Daily Prophet’ to publish an article about the company,” he began calmly, feigning interest in the surrounding office. It was obviously what company he meant. “To tell the inside story of the company, so to speak. We had a bout of bad publicity as of lately, and I wish to do some damage control. Perhaps even give an interview.”

The idea was brilliant, really – no other newspaper yet had been granted full access to the company’s materials since Draco took change of it, and to dangle this opportunity before a journalist was equal to dangling a chunk of meat before a hungry dog. There was no way Brooks would deny him. And yes, Draco had never in his entire life felt so ridiculous and uneasy. He faced death a few times, faced his father even more often, but this situation was far worse than anything else. His features were the personification of indifference and composure, but inwardly Draco was
quite unnerved.

Brooks barely managed to veil his interest behind that calm veneer, but Draco was too familiar with the signs. He cleared his throat and spoke in an artificially nonchalant manner. “Well, all right. I see no problem with that.”

“Wonderful,” drawled Draco with a certain note of finality, though he knew it wasn’t over. “I want Mrs. Ginevra Potter to write the article, so if you could send her first thing tomorrow morning,” he added matter-of-factly and stood up, heading for the door.

“I’m afraid–” Brooks hurried to inject before Draco reached the door. “—that Mrs. Potter does not work for this newspaper anymore. ”

Draco paused at the rushed voice and turned back to see Brooks fidget with his fingers almost unnoticeably. “Oh? And I was under the impression that Mrs. Potter was one of your best known reporters.”

Brooks seemed to stiffen slightly in his chair. “Yes, she was. But— she was fired recently. ”

“Well, then I don’t see a problem here. Just rehire her,” Draco intoned casually.

Brooks cleared his throat once again.. “That is impossible.”

Draco arched a perfectly shaped eyebrow at the statement. “Nothing is impossible, Mr. Brooks. Some just require greater pressure to relent,” he added with an vague caveat in his voice.

Brooks’ expression turned suddenly into a bleak mask, his green eyes flashing at the threat. Clutching his fingers behind his back as he rose to his feet, Brooks stared Draco straight in the eyes, matching that indifference with his own stubbornness. “This is not your decision, Mr. Malfoy. As an editor of this paper I have fired Mrs. Potter and my decision will not be reevaluated.”

Draco smirked at the vehement editor. “I don’t ask for explanations, Mr. Brooks. I’m just telling you to change your decision,” he said coldly, keeping his posture firmly. If Brooks wants to play hardball, it is his funeral.

Brooks’ eyes blazed again, though his expression was well trained to remain aloof. “You also cannot tell me to change my decision. I do not own explanations about this to anyone but the owner”

Draco’s smirk donned on an unpleasant twist of his mouth. “I can own this paper in less than an hour, Mr. Brooks. Let us not test each other. Rehire Miss Weasley .”

Brooks’ eyes flashed something different as he shifted his posture slightly into a less defensive stance. “Miss Weasley?” he echoed inquisitively. “Why this sudden interest in Mrs. Potter’s journalistic talents, Mr. Malfoy?”

Damn. “The interest is my wish for the best journalist to write about my corporation. I cannot afford an amateur ruining a promotional article with lack of style. And… Mrs. Potter is your best journalist. I want her to write the piece,” clarified Draco with just the right amount of impatience and irritation in his voice to garner obedience.

Brooks nodded, but when he spoke to Draco, his words were final. “I understand your desire for the best, Mr. Malfoy,” he started formally. “But I cannot rehire Mrs. Potter.”

Gray eyes narrowed in concealed suspicion as Draco studied Brooks’ features carefully. Cannot? His eyes bore into the editor’s. There is no such thing for a Slytherin. He remained silent for a long while, trying to read Brooks’ shuttered expression. There was something strange in his eyes, something important to see, but too rapid for him to comprehend. Draco stood his ground, watching the man before him doing the same. Wordless war was unwinding between the two Slytherins as the gray eyes battled the green. Green…

“I have seen Harry Potter exiting the ‘Daily Prophet’s editorial a few days ago. I did not know Aurors now willingly conduct business with the press.”

This unexpected and irrelevant remark brought Brooks’ fingers into another fidgeting feat. He clutched both hands together tightly and matched Draco’s stare, though his glare now were cracked and the intensity was broken. “I’m afraid I do not recall a visit from… Mr. Potter,” he obviously lied.

“Really?” Draco inquired wryly. “Your secretary was under the impression that you two had some sort of a heated argument,” he added, lying through his teeth. He had not spoken to the secretary at all, but guessing by the another crack in Brooks’ expression, he was pretty close. “Yes, an argument… concerning Mrs. Potter?” His voice almost deemed a question as he shot in the dark and had absolutely no idea where he was headed. Perhaps, Draco mused to himself, shaping the first notion that came to his mind. Potter must’ve thought that Brooks would know about Ginny’s whereabouts. Maybe he thought she was cheating on him with Brooks. Maybe she was.

This thought made Draco scowled.

Brooks’ exterior broke down completely as he sank into his black chair, shielding his face with his hands. Despair wafted from him in heavy waves and Draco deemed in horror to hear the older man sob. He drew out his wand, casting a silence shield around the office; the employees didn’t need to hear their superior – Gods, please don’t let it be – cry.

“I had no choice, Malfoy,” Brooks said suddenly, casting away the formality like a dirty washcloth. He lifted his head up to face Draco’s stare and Draco was relieved to see no tears brim those eyes. They were, however, veiled with deep shame and misery. “You would’ve done the same if he threatened your mother.”

Draco’s back became rigid instantly. A thought began to shape itself, its unpleasant form coiling and twisting like a snake in the shadows of his mind. “What are you talking about, Brooks?” he demanded firmly.

“Potter!” exclaimed Brooks. “The ingrate dared threatening me to frame my father for shielding fugitive Death Eaters if I refused to fire Ginny.” Seeing the visible surprise and outrage in Draco’s eyes, Brooks realized that he had spoken too much.

Draco became deadly still, hearing Brooks speak about Potter’s threat. His fists were clenched tightly and the cold composure was too close to exploding. Potter made Brooks fire her? Potter?

Rage bursting forth, he had to fight himself for everything he was worth not to slam the desk and curse like a schoolboy. Reining himself in for the meantime, Draco clenched his jaws and made a show of clasping his hands behind his back. Taking a deep breath, he then spoke to Brooks calmly, evenly, his voice not rising in volume. Composure was his ruler. “I see. Well, this indeed takes care of our problem. Rehire Mrs. Potter immediately and I will personally make sure that your father will not be harmed.”

Brooks was shaking his head when Draco leveled him with a cold stare. “I cannot. I cannot! That runt—“

“Can do no harm,” Draco injected piercingly, his eyes growing colder. “Neither to you, nor your father.” He held the stare of the other Slytherin and fought to suppress the rage within him. He felt his head swim for a moment, but there was still resistance in Brooks’ expression and Draco could not bear the sight of that for much longer. Glaring the other man down, he seemed to tower over the desk. “I on the other hand…”

The short flicker in Brooks’ eyes told him he had won this battle. Sparing him a curt nod, Draco then stormed out of the office and out of the building before he began to lose his poise.

When he reached the evening-quiet Diagon Alley, Draco barely comprehended that his hands were shaking with anger. His mind seethed with some raw emotion as he tried to apprehend the new information. Harry Potter, the bloody Boy Who Lived, was not only an abusive husband, but also a manipulative son of a bitch! Draco stomped down the streets, his head reeling with all the excruciating pain he wanted to inflict on Potter. He could feel hatred boiling through his veins like poisonous venom.

Pictures of yesterday’s afternoon, when he saw a petrified Ginny appear from nowhere and run away from an enraged Harry Potter, flooded his mind. The moment he saw the horror deep in her eyes, he turned to follow her, but couldn’t snake his way through the overcrowded streets. And then he returned to find Potter still standing in the same place, his face and glasses stained with the blood oozing from his apparently broken nose. His eyes seemed to glow red as he watched the direction Ginny disappeared to and Draco had to muster all his will not to draw his wand with retribution on his mind. He knew that Potter would understand if he decided to attack him right then. So he waited patiently until Potter escaped the gathering crowds staring at his nose, and went over to take the bags before leaving.

The image of purple bruises on Ginny’s face was still burned into his mind and every time he remembered it, he couldn’t stop the small recoil in his stomach. It felt like he was five-years-old again, looking at his own mother trying to hide the blue marks from him. He hated this feeling of helplessness that brought forward the weakling in him, the side he was sure was erased from his soul forever. But now it had returned when he looked at Ginny, whenever he heard her toss and turn in her chamber from the nightmares that refused to let her go.

Draco wasn’t able to prevent the horrible dreams too, no matter what he tried. He ordered the elves to add soothing potions into her dinners; he warded her chamber against dreamlings and nightmares; he tried to wake her up once, but the dreams clung to her like fevered babes to the breast of their mother. And when the previous night he laid Ginny onto her bed after carrying her tired form from the living room, he had this almost uncontrollable urge to stay by her side and maybe fight her dreams himself.

Draco sighed silently, raking tired fingers through his hair and feeling his tremors subside. He couldn’t quite remember when he first began to notice the youngest Weasley – whether it was when she retorted to him and managed to say the last word in their verbal quarrels in Hogwarts; or was it when he discovered she was the one to open the Chamber of Secrets in his second year, interacted with Tom Riddle, and survived to tell the tale; or was it when she fought Death Eaters in the final battle, and though her leg was broken, she continued to hex and curse any opponent she laid her eyes on.

Draco respected Ginny and considered her as a fighter and an equal. But when he saw her petite figure tumble onto the ground that night, covered in bruises and blood, he knew than that she needed protection as well. More than that - she needed his protection. Again.

Draco tightened the robes around him and, only now realizing where he was, changed his course and headed home.

Ginny was on the way to her bedchamber when
she heard the entrance door slam shut behind a storming Malfoy. Not wishing to come face to face with Draco’s new conquest, Ginny quickened her pace up the stairs until she was taking two steps at a time. But hearing a flow of obscenities and no drunken giggles made her pause. She turned around to see a brisk flash of silver head disappear into the living room alone. Contemplating the decision only for a short moment, she changed her course and hurried after him. Noticing the outline of his light hair near the fireplace, she walked over and sat down on the armchair next to his, watching him tentatively.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” he barked, his eyes locked on the fire once again.

“It was scientifically proven a few years back that ‘nothing’ can’t cause hissy feats,” she replied dryly, frowning at his sharp impatience with her. Oddly, she realized, she had gotten used to his brand of politeness, which rarely involved barking.

Draco tore his gaze abruptly from the fire and glared at her. His gray was seething with visible fury and his face contorted suddenly into a vile sneer. “This is not a hissy feat, and you are not welcomed to inquire into my business,” he hissed, for some reason directing his anger at her. “Go hide in your room away from my corrupting Malfoy influence. God forbid the little Weasley princess will be forced to endure the company of the Evil Incarnate, spawn of Satan himself, manifestation of all that’s rotten in this world!”

Ginny eyes widened in surprise at his outburst. “What on earth are you babbling about?”

“Nothing,” he barked again, grabbing an apple from the tray a little house elf just brought in. Clutching the knife from the table, he started peeling it. It seemed that rage and wrath had seeped into his fingers as they started fidgeting slightly, breaking the coil of the apple peel into numerous pieces. Irritated, he tore off chunks of it and tossed them onto the table to be picked up by Ginny, half-mindedly expecting her to help herself to it just like in previous times.

She, however, gave the apple peels a glance, and quickly turned her attention back to him. “Draco, there are two ways to do this – either you talk, or I force you to. Now which is it going to be?”

Ginny blinked at her own words, slight scarlet blush gracing her cheeks. Oh Merlin! Did you just call him ‘Draco’?

Draco tore his eyes from the hearth and looked at her, his eyebrows arched in surprise. Chewing the apple wordlessly, he stared at her in silence, perhaps trying to unnerve her. But the more he looked, the calmer his posture became and Ginny did not allow herself to break the eye contact. Eventually, he did it himself, glancing at the apple peels. “Not in the mood for childhood memories?”

Quickly changing her whole composure, Ginny sank deeper into the armchair and cast the scattered piece another look, scrunching her nose up. “I don’t like the bits. Just the whole coil.”

Draco accepted her answer, eyeing the house elf that bowed its way into the living room and offered a roll of parchment to Ginny. She cocked an eyebrow, taking the parchment from the elf’s tiny hands and thanking him as he scurried away. Unrolling the scroll, Ginny looked even more stunt to read its content.

You’re rehired. See me tomorrow morning.

“What is it?” Draco inquired indifferently over his copy of ‘Daily Prophet’, breaking her out of her astonishment.

“Huh? Oh, I’m… rehired,” Ginny replied, frowning in confusion. He was stubborn as a mule yesterday… and now he caves in? Just like that?

“I thought your editor refused.”

“I did too,” mumbled Ginny. “I guess he realized what an amazing asset I am to the paper and that he couldn’t afford to let me go,” she added in fake haughtiness, folding the parchment and tucking it into the pages of her book. This is almost not right.

Draco smirked at the tone of her voice and returned to his paper. “I see you’ve visited the library. I hope it was enough
to relieve your boredom.”

“Oh, yes,” she suddenly smiled slyly, stroking the spine of her book as her concerns about Brooks faded beneath amusement. “I wanted to thank you… Mikul Dracushor.”

Ginny watched closely as Draco’s posture abruptly became rigid as he slowly lowered his newspaper, his eyes narrowed into tiny slits and fixated on her smiling face. She saw him clench his jaws and grip the frail pages tightly, crumpling them. Ginny could actually see him mentally kicking himself. She batted her long eyelashes innocently at him, smiling sweetly when his lips twisted into a scowl.

Kibit!” Draco roared all of a sudden, his glare darting to the little entrance for the house elves.

A timid creature hurried into the living room, bowing deeply and brushing the floor with his ears. “M—master?”

“Have you removed Sir Lynus’ portrait from the library before showing Miss Weasley in?” Draco hissed forebodingly, boring his eyes into the quivering elf.

“Uh… we— we tried, Master Draco! But… but Sir Lynus… he— he— kept–” Kibit wailed suddenly, throwing his tiny body to the nearest wall, and started to bash his head against it.

Ginny yelped in surprise and rushed to the house elf, trying to haul him away from the wall. “It’s okay, Kibit! You’ve done nothing wrong!”

The elf continued to wriggle from her grip, every time he succeeded, smacking himself as hard as he could against some furniture.

“No! Wait-- stop! Stop! Malfoy!” Ginny called to the indifferent man who watched her chase the house elf around the living room, trying to prevent him from hurting himself. “Make him stop!”

Draco grunted irritably and dismissed the house elf with a wave of his hand.

“So you’ve met my grandfather.”

Ginny huffed, seating herself back onto the armchair and patting down her disheveled hair.. “Yes,” she smiled at him chirpily. “And we had the loveliest conversation I ever had with a Malfoy.”

“About my childhood pet names,” Draco glared at her.

“Not just, Dracushor.” Ginny burst into a fit of giggles at the scowl on his face. From the corner of her eye, she could see him throwing her murderous looks. The moniker ‘Mikul Dracushor’ meant ‘Little Devil’ in Romanian, and was Draco’s only souvenir from his great-great-aunt whom he had seen once when the Malfoys had visited their family back in his childhood. His mother adored the name and adopted it, and it had haunted him ever since.

Ginny knew why. It sounded absolutely ridiculous and adorable, and yet somehow summarized him so well that she just couldn’t hold herself together, seeing Draco’s expression.

“So what else you talked about?” Draco demanded softly, his voice laced with apprehensive iron.

“You and your chubby legs,” squeaked Ginny amid giggles, plunging into another uncontrollable feat immediately.

“I’ll burn that damn painting,” Draco murmured exasperatedly, raking his fingers through his hair, making Ginny laugh even louder and at some point wriggling right out of her armchair and onto the floor. Not that it bothered her in any way; she continued laughing until she no longer had the air.

Draco watched her wordlessly for a while, waiting patiently until she calmed down. When she did, he leaned in, his mouth twisted viciously. “If you speak word of what you heard from my grandfather to anyone, I will make sure you pay dearly,” he said evenly, his voice ominous.

Ginny listened silently, her expression deadly serious. It lasted for all of ten second, before her lips cracked into a grin. “I’m sorry, Malfoy, but I know you took ballet lessons and I’ve seen the pictures from your recical. You can’t unnerve me anymore.”

Draco was still for a long while, scanning her grinning and jovial self. Suddenly the silver in his eyes darkened and he leaned even closer to her, thus closing the space between them until their noses nearly touched. “Don’t tempt me.”

In this split of a moment, the air had changed. Oxygen flittered away and Ginny became suddenly away of how interesting it was to stare up into Draco’s eyes from such a close and dangerous distance. Something sizzled between them and she became aware of her position – at his house, at his feet, at his mercy.

Eyes subtly wide, she inched away and dragged her eyes to stare at the carpet. "I didn't," she replied plainly, and moved away from him, the jubilant air between them gone. She didn’t leave though, but crawled back into the armchair instead and opened her book.

She didn’t manage to read through a single page for the entire evening, though. She kept turning the leafs, hoping to find a scene that would fascinate her enough to draw her from the fact that Malfoy was now watching her instead of the fire.
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