Ginny had a bit of a secret – she hadn't told her mother that the Malfoys were moving in. She meant to, but she couldn't even bring her courage up, facing the kindly, wrinkled face of her mother. This was the woman who raised her, and here she was inviting their mortal enemies to their house. This day was the big moving day, and Draco was packing up his few belongings so they could begin taking their things to the Weasley's.
After getting things packed they all sat in the kitchen, Draco facing Narcissa and Ginny in the middle, perched like a little bird. Narcissa's shifty eyes bore into the side of Ginny's face as Ginny stirred her tea with a spoon. " I suppose this move was all her idea?" Narcissa asked.
The disapproval in her voice prompted Draco to immediately apologize. " I don't want to do this, Mother, I really don't. I'm sorry it had to come down to this."
Narcissa puckered her lips. " These… these Weasleys better bite their cheeks raw before they dare speak of this… this disgrace."
Ginny's spoon spun harder, scraping the edges now.
" Must you be so damned noisy!" Narcissa shouted.
Ginny's entire body stilled and then she took the spoon out and laid it flat on the table. She let her fury bubble inside of her instead of saying anything to defend herself. It was only these few minutes and then she'd be on home territory. No more oatmeal, no more gray drafty rooms, no more depressing atmosphere. If the Burrow didn't cheer the Malfoys up, nothing could.
Draco spoke up though, his voice filled with hidden dread: " It's for the best. I'll find us an apartment that I can keep up with my wage."
Ginny tried not to smile. She had begged Harry a while ago to raise Draco's salary without Draco noticing. Draco was making a few Sickles more each week, but the change was so slight that he couldn't notice. Within a month his pay would be up almost a full level. Harry was being a gigantic help behind the scenes. Though Ginny told Harry little to nothing of the Malfoy's private life, Harry believed her when she spoke of Draco's changing.
" I suppose nothing is below us anymore. We've lost everything we could have wanted, or so I thought. Now we're willingly giving up the mansion and moving in with the Weasleys." The dull drone of Narcissa's voice invaded Ginny's ears.
" It's not willingly." Ginny said, finally.
" Excuse me?" Narcissa glared at her.
" It isn't willingly." Ginny repeated. " The bank is closing it down. If you'd have stayed here, then you'd be kicked out onto the streets."
Narcissa's face turned red with fury. " To have the cheek to talk back to me like this!"
Draco looked up now, his face riddled with confusion and guilt.
" Someone so lowly. Three years ago you wouldn't have had the honor to lick my shoes clean, and here you are, telling me to do with my life, as if you were some sort of savior for us." Narcissa spat. She shook out her handkerchief. A gray cloud of dust circled Ginny, stinging her eyes.
Ginny replied, coolly: " I think that it's you that has problems, Mrs. Malfoy. You know who's opening the windows, don't you?" She frowned. " Well, I'll tell you who's opening the windows…"
" Stop." Draco said, weakly.
" How dare you threaten me!" Narcissa raised her hand, ready to slap Ginny. " Draco, tell her, tell her just how important she is to us!"
" Stop!" Draco jumped to his feet. Both women turned and looked at him. He was looking down at the table, avoiding their eyes. " You're both right and wrong at the same time, alright? Don't make me take sides. Don't…" He spoke slowly, his voice drawn with pain. " … make… me … take… sides."
Narcissa shook her head. " Well!"
Draco looked up slowly, the light slowly uncovering his face from the darkness. First the tip of his nose, then the expanse of forehead, the glisten of his blonde hair, the slightly darker eyebrows, then the arcs of his eyelashes, and then his eyes, oceans exploding in them. " Mother, and one more thing. If you think I want to do this, if you think that Ginny's doing all this for us because she wants to spite us, then… then I'm sorry, but you've utterly lost grip on reality. The world isn't out to get us. Ginny - - she wants to help us. If you don't want to admit it, than don't, but keep your comments to yourself."
Narcissa looked at Ginny. " You've poisoned him with your snakes. You can take my son away from me, but…" Her voice cracked, her eyes flowing with tears. " … you'll never kill the Malfoy spirit. Never."
Narcissa stood and took her bags and went outside to wait. Draco went up to Lucius's room, and Ginny remained in the kitchen to clean things up. She wondered if she'd ever see the Malfoys truly happy.
Molly Weasley cut a hearty slice of meatloaf for everyone at the table. She gave one to Narcissa first, then to Draco, then to her husband, one for herself, one for Ron, and lastly for Ginny. The entire table was silent, and even the silent tick-tock of the clock was threateningly loud, like the pulsating of the vein in Arthur Weasley's forehead, or the rhythmic tapping of Narcissa's fingers against the table.
After the move, Ginny took her family aside and gave them the lowdown, and being the good parents, neither of the Weasley seniors wanted to outwardly scold Ginny, but inside, they fumed and wondered what they've done to deserve this fate. Molly smiled uncertainly and asked Arthur: " How was your day at the Joke Shop?"
Arthur helped part-time at Fred and George's Joke Shop after retiring from the Ministry. He smiled and shrugged. " It's been alright, I suppose. We've received an order for fifty Ink-Squirting Gum Wrappers. Someone's mother will have a lot of laundry tonight…"
Molly laughed appreciatively, and Ron did so too. Ginny smiled. The Malfoys sat in a stony silence. Draco finally made a move and began cutting his meatloaf. So far there had been absolutely no interaction between the Weasleys and Malfoys besides polite "Thank You's" as food was passed around.
" Maybe I'll take you to the Joke Shop, Mr. Malfoy." Ginny said to Draco.
Draco looked up at her and smiled, but then saw his mother's surly expression and immediately replied, darkly: " I'll see if I'll have time."
Ron cleared his throat impatiently. " So I suppose all of us will be sleeping in one room while the Malfoy family gets a room for each member?" Ron's eyes stared into Ginny's.
" I… I think that we'll manage." Ginny said loudly.
" Hmm, I've never heard of anyone using only pepper and salt to season their meatloaf." Narcissa spoke up.
Molly's face was flushed now. " Well, we don't really have any expensive imported French herbs…"
" Don't apologize, Molly." Arthur told her. He gave the Malfoys a death-glare. " When in France, one must do as the French do. We'll be having your delicious dinners without any whims."
The bitter silence at the table continued now. Draco stood, clearing his throat. " Thank you."
" You're welcome, darling." Molly said, with a weak smile. " Take the plate to the sink, would you?"
Draco looked a bit taken aback. He glanced at the kitchen sink behind him and then at his plate, trying to pretend he was used to doing this. Ginny saw his discomfort and shot up immediately, taking his plate and hers. " I'm done too. I was just about to go put my plate in the sink, don't worry about it."
Ginny used Draco's plate to shield her half-eaten meatloaf as she approached the sink and dumped the two plates in. Draco stood and left the room and retired into the bedroom they had set up for him.
Narcissa stood as well. " Thank you. Good night." She said, leaving the room (and her plate) behind.
Molly replied: " Good night, dear." Her brows were knitted in silent fury. Once the Malfoys were up in their rooms, she turned and gave Ginny a pitying look. " Were they always like this? Not raising a finger, except maybe to strike the hand that feeds them?"
" Narcissa was, but Draco isn't too bad. He's a little shy right now, I guess." Ginny said.
" Shy?" Ron scoffed.
" You should talk with him, just a little." Ginny told Ron. " You were classmates."
" Didn't you get anything from all the times I wrote home, saying what an asshole he is?" Ron whispered hotly.
" Ron!" Molly exclaimed, her eyes wide.
" Fact is, I don't even know why you brought them here. Who cares if they're broke? It's about time they learn about something called life!" Ron continued.
" Now, stop it right there, young man…" Molly scolded on. " Arthur, tell him something!"
Arthur Weasley was silent though, for he quietly agreed. He shook his head and told Ginny: " I just don't know, honey. I don't know how we'll make it with them living here for – how long?"
" Until they find an apartment. Maybe a month?" Ginny winced as their expressions went sour.
Molly looked down at her plate nervously, clearing her throat. " Ginny, I might be able to deal with a paralyzed man and an aged woman, but Draco frightens me. His eyes, they're like a killer's. I don't like that boy, not even a little. No, not at all."
Ginny shook her head. " Mom, you don't understand. I'd know better than to bring him here if he weren't harmless. He's depressed, but he's not cruel. Not anymore."
" Just wait until he gets comfortable. He was too miserable before, but he's going to snap right back to his old self here." Ron said.
Ginny bit her lip.
" Oh, what? Did you really think you could turn Draco into Harry?" Ron continued.
" Stop that this instant! You're bickering like children!" Molly stood up, flushed. She took her plate with her. " We're going to be perfectly hospitable to our new guests. In the mean time, Arthur, you try and find a nice apartment for them."
" Without telling who it's for!" Ginny butted in.
" Oh, yes. Awfully shameful thing, isn't it, an apartment?" Arthur mumbled bitterly.
" Can't I go and stay with Harry for the month?" Ron begged his mother. " We barely see each other anymore…"
" Ron, no." Molly said. " Let's lay down the rules right now, so nobody forgets how to behave."
Arthur, Ginny and Ron leaned in to the table, all waiting to hear Molly's words.
" We can't – absolutely can't – let Draco out of our sight." Molly said.
" Mom!" Ginny exclaimed, her cheeks flushing.
" Ginny, you're always going to be up there, tending to Lucius. You promise me, the second Draco starts acting funny, you tell me." Molly continued. " There are no excuses. I don't want to come home and see all my children murdered, and the Dark Mark hanging over our house."
Ginny shook her head, but had to agree.
" Second of all…" Molly continued. " We need to find an apartment, pronto. None of us will sit down and rest until we get it. We'll each take turns, try to find cheap places. Thankfully we have a lot of connections, so we'll manage."
" What about Narcissa?" Arthur asked.
" If she sleepwalks again…" Molly began. " … We'll have to confront her about it. Our house is too small to let someone stumble blindly in it for long. And last thing – on our best manners. The Weasleys are going to prove once and for all that we're not below the Malfoys, but we won't be their slaves either. Polite, but don't escort them out of all their duties."
" It's my job to …" Ginny began, but was cut off.
" It isn't your job to house and feed them. They aren't even paying you any more, are they?" Ron asked.
Ginny shook her head, embarrassed.
" Or, wait, maybe Draco's paying you in other ways?" Ron continued, viciously.
" Ron!" Molly thumped her hand on the table. " You know that's not true. Ginny would never, ever let a man like that take advantage of her."
" Look at her face. She's all red." Ron said.
" Because… because you're so mean to me!" Ginny blurted out.
" Now, that is that! Don't you ever bring something like that up again, Ron. You know it isn't true. Ginny wouldn't do something like that, not to her own family." Arthur said. " I'll go out right now and get a copy of the Prophet. Maybe they have some apartment ads in there."
" You do that, dear." Molly nodded in approval. " The rest of you to bed, now. Ginny, you'll take Draco around and get him familiar with the neighborhood tomorrow, so she'll need her sleep. Ron, you too."
Ron rolled his eyes. " I'm not a child anymore, Mom."
" Well, you sure act like one. Now scoot." Molly was grinning again and Ron shook his head and kissed her cheek. Nobody could stay angry with Molly Weasley for long – perhaps it was her warm body or her plump cheeks, or her big smile, or even something inside, but you simply had to love her.