The snow was fresh outside, like a crisp blanket that didn't even have a chance to develop wrinkles. It was like something out of Narcissa's needle works – a gorgeous carpet of white. Draco pressed his face against the glass pane of his bedroom window, his breath drawing icy clouds. He glanced over his shoulder at the willowy figure in the doorway.
" Mother?" He asked, politely.
" Come downstairs, son." Narcissa replied coolly. Her voice hinted at surprises other than the usual trip down to breakfast.
" It snowed today." Draco mused, drawing a Death Mark in the foggy cloud he created on the glass. Inside, he couldn't help but feel great. It was his birthday, the big 10 years old, where he abandoned his previous single digit status and took on a new role in his family. He was a man now, that's what Lucius told him the night before. He was going to take care of the family business one day, and eventually of his mother once his father would be gone. The Malfoy men always did die young.
" I know." Narcissa told him. " Do you remember your Snow-Clearing Spell?"
" Yup." He grinned brightly.
" Let's go downstairs." She held her hand out to him.
Draco hesitated, this was something new to him, this open-handed affection. The idea of his birthday took over him though. His hand wormed into his mother's and they descended down the staircase and into the kitchen. Lucius was sitting at the table, his briefcase laid out before him.
" Son." Lucius nodded in greeting and then motioned with his hand towards the chair across the table.
" Oh! Right." Draco blushed and pulled the chair out for his mother to sit, like a gentleman would. Then he stood and waited for the invitation to join them.
" Sit down." Lucius growled under his breath.
Draco sat, fidgeting impatiently. " It snowed, you know. I want to go outside and make a snowman."
" That's such a silly Muggle tradition. I don't know why it ever caught on with the Purebloods." Lucius said, putting the briefcase down to the floor beside his feet. " Draco, go check by the doorway outside, see if they brought the newspaper in yet."
" Aw…" Draco mumbled, standing himself up and heading for the door. He pulled open the heavy wooden door and then looked out through the second glass door. His stomach dropped in surprise as he saw the expensive wooden sled resting on the steps. It took him aback. There had to be a mistake. His father would never allow for such a toy! It was a Mudblood toy, something that a Pureblood had too much pride to use. Something that especially a Malfoy had too much pride to use.
" Well?" Lucius's voice rumbled from the kitchen.
" Maybe he didn't see it." Narcissa whispered meekly.
" He has my eyes, everyone says so, and any Malfoy's eyes wouldn't miss something like that." Lucius replied. Draco could hear his father approaching.
" Dad!" Draco exclaimed. " Is it for me?"
" I don't know any other birthday boys." Lucius replied with a slight smile on his face.
" Oh, wow!" Draco whispered, looking down at the sled. His fingers traced the floral design on it. " I can't believe it. Can I…?"
" Go ahead. It snowed just so you could use it." Lucius finally grinned whole-heartedly.
Draco sat down on the sled and looked out at the icy street ahead of him. " Thank you." He choked out.
" Don't you cry." Lucius warned. " There's nothing good out of a man that cries."
Draco nodded slowly and then dragged the sled out into the street. He returned, ready to shut the door, when he felt Lucius set a hand down on his shoulder. It was a burning, warm touch, something that didn't happen too often. Draco jerked away, uncomfortable, and said: " Thanks again."
" Happy Birthday, Draco." Lucius told him. " Keep your feet out of the snow, it's a waste of some nice pants there."
" Okay." Draco said, edging off towards the sled again. " Wait! Mom…?"
" I'm right here, Draco." Narcissa said from behind Lucius's shoulder. " Come get your coat."
Draco ran up the stairs, snatched his coat out of her hands, and then plopped himself down on the sled again. " Can I go now?"
" Go ahead, I'm watching." She waved to him as he set off down the sloped hill and towards the snowdrifts below. His hair whipped around his face, his cheeks a glowing red, a real smile crossing his face. Far off in the distance, Lucius Malfoy turned away and looked at Narcissa, her gray nightgown and his ashen business suit fluttering in the wind like battered flower petals.
" Pretty emotional for a boy. You don't think we're raising him too soft?" Lucius asked.
" I think it would be good for him to enjoy his birthday." Narcissa said, finally. " He's going to celebrate it at Hogwarts next year, you know. It's his last full year with us."
" Hmm." Lucius sighed. " We were lucky that our only one ended up a boy. Girls aren't much use to serve the Dark Lord."
Draco raced up the stairs again and cheered out: " Did you see me? Did you see me murder that hill?"
" We saw you." Narcissa said proudly.
" I can't wait until it's time for the Initiation for him. We'll see if he's too soft then. Too much emotion isn't good for a kid." Lucius told Narcissa under his breath.
" We have five years until then." Narcissa said. " He'll make you proud." She pressed her hands to her stomach and sighed. " Our only one we'll ever have…"
" Let's get you inside before you catch cold again." Lucius told her. They receded into the room. Out in the distance, Draco's blood-red coat flapped as he raised the sled and ran up the hill again, a broad smile on his face.
He woke up feeling refreshed. The dreams had finally been pleasant, something he could still remember vividly – his tenth birthday. Draco stood, stretched, and then saw the envelope sticking out from beneath his pillow. He pulled it out and opened it.
Thank you for the letter and the money. I couldn't take it because I was your friend, but I had to take it because it was a job. I promise that I'll help pay the down payment with you for your apartment once you get it. I don't know if I'd make a good friend anyway, maybe my hair's too red?
Draco grinned to himself and dressed quickly, pushing the letter back into the book case. He spent a good few hours of the night listening to Ginny's story to Lucius. It was an interesting one, about Sirius Black and how he was truly innocent, but convicted as a criminal. Draco had to pretend he was listening to a story with someone else in it, though, someone he didn't know. Seeing Sirius die changed the story a bit, made him feel like the villain of it. He didn't like it.
He moved into the kitchen, where Ginny and Molly Weasley were rushing furiously to make dinner. Draco moved inside, deciding not to button the top button of his shirt, for it was pretty warm in the room. Ginny looked up from the sizzling eggs and bacon and smiled. " Good morning."
" 'Morning." He said. " Is my mother up yet?"
" Afraid not. Mrs. Malfoy woke up a few times tonight to get herself some extra sleeping tonics." Ginny told him. " I guess that means she'll sleep until noon."
Draco smiled. " I can help with the table."
Molly blinked and gave Ginny a worried look.
When Draco wasn't looking, Ginny whispered to her mother: " I told you he's nice without his mother around."
" I don't know." Molly sighed. " You never know what a young man might want from a pretty young girl like you."
" Shh." Ginny went to the table, where Draco was setting plates. " Need any help?"
" Is the fork on the right or left?" Draco asked.
" Left." Ginny replied. She took some of his plates from his hand and then helped him set the table. Molly Weasley went upstairs to wake Arthur and Ron, for they would all be going to work within a few hours.
Once they were alone, Draco told Ginny: " Your hair isn't too red."
She laughed. " Maybe I'm too tall."
" You're fine." He finished setting the glasses by now and was searching the kitchen with his eyes for something else to grab hold of. He wasn't sure why but suddenly he wanted to keep his eyes away from Ginny's.
" Or too fat."
" You aren't fat." He exclaimed. " Round, maybe."
Ginny's hand brushed his as she set down a handful of napkins. She thought maybe some sort of contact would loosen him up, but Draco jerked away immediately. He wasn't a very physical person, something Ginny couldn't understand. Any touch or glance was taken as too intimate for Draco. She wondered how anyone could be so distant about simple gestures.
" You have a lot of nice suits, but they're all too gray or too white." Ginny told him. " Maybe we could go to a nice tailor and get you something less glum."
" What's wrong with my suits?" He murmured, looking down nervously at his simple, if not dreary, grayed khakis and immaculate, wrinkle-free shirt.
" They don't give that…" She paused. " … oomph."
" Oomph?" He raised his eyebrows.
Adorable. Ginny smiled and nodded. " If you want to get promoted, it's not just good behavior, it's dressing sharp and trying to catch the leader's eyes."
" Why would I bother catching Potter's eye with my clothes?" Draco said. " He doesn't even blink when I'm around him. He's suspicious of me as if I'm some sort of menace."
" Maybe you are…? A secret office supply smuggler, or a paperclip bandit, or…"
" Ha, really funny." Draco turned and saw that the rest of the Weasleys were already moving into the room, showering them with salutations.
Ron sat down at the table and began to load food on his plate right away. Draco couldn't believe that they kids didn't even wait until their parents were seated before eating. Arthur didn't even mind, though. He was eating so quickly that his ears were shaking.
Draco sighed and sat down, trying to keep some sort of elegance to himself. He lifted the fork and knife and took minimal amounts of each food and formed them onto his plate. Halfway through the meal he hurried and finished, carried his plate on his own to the sink, and while putting on his tie, he turned to the Weasleys and said in a cool voice: " Good day."
Molly lowered her fork. " Going so soon?"
" Time stands for no one." He replied sadly. His eyes darted momentarily towards Ginny in a quiet farewell, then he turned and picked up his briefcase.
" Take a sandwich!" Molly called out, racing towards him with a paper bag.
" It's alright, I don't eat lunch." He told her, eyes widening in surprise. He was slowly stumbling towards the doorway over the mass of shoes and boots that littered the entrance hall of the Weasley's house.
" No wonder you're so thin." Molly fussed, pushing the lunch bag into his hand. " As long as there's another kid under this roof, I'll be feeding them like they should be."
" Well, uh… thank you… ma'am." Draco took the food and then walked off quickly out the door and onto the street, holding the bag a gentle arm distance away from him.
" He's really distant, isn't he?" Molly said, turning back to her family.
Ron rolled his eyes. " Mom, his father's paralyzed. His mother's crazy. He's forced to live with us. He's a Malfoy. Add those together and what do you get?"
" Ron, please." Ginny said, softly. " Can't you give him a chance?"
" What's there to look forwards to with him? I give him a chance, but for what?"
" He's not as bad as you think." She told him. " "You're just letting your past thoughts on him influence you."
" Past thoughts?" Ron said, finally. " Maybe past actions is more like it. All the times he's made my life a miserable hell! All the times he made Hermione and Harry feel like dirt!"
" Ron, he's different now." Ginny said.
" You're just wooed by him because he's so charming and so 'handsome'." Ron rolled his eyes. " Lavender told me you're smitten."
" That's crazy." Ginny burst out. " I told her nothing like that!"
" It's obvious, isn't it?" Ron hissed. " It's completely obvious!"
" Mom…" Ginny said, finally.
Molly and Arthur exchanged glances, and then Molly said: " Ginny, we just want you to know that the choices you make now will make or break your future. I know you're getting … accustomed… to having Draco around, and we're all trying to accommodate him, but I'd prefer if you get used to the idea that once he moves out… well…"
" Well what?" Ginny asked.
" You'll never see him again. I wouldn't allow for it." Arthur told her.