Title: The Favour
Summary: Draco Malfoy continues to suffer the consequences of his father's actions during the war. The Malfoy name has been shattered and trampled, and he has next to nothing left – nothing except Severus Snape's promise to help. Severus has friends in high places, and Draco is eager to take advantage. Ginny Weasley has just divorced Harry Potter, The-Boy-Who-Lived, The Chosen One, and is trying to forge a new identity for herself from the ashes of her marriage. She needs just one person to recognise her as the person outside of her childhood sweetheart, and luckily, that one person is just through the Floo. DM/GW EWE
Rating: M for language and some sexual references/situations.
Pairings: DM/GW with a side of HG/SS
Disclaimer: I do not own the works herein, all characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling, and all characters, storylines, situations, plots and the like do not belong to me. I make no money from this work. I do not own the works herein, all characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling, and all characters, storylines, situations, plots and the like do not belong to me. I make no money from this work.
Laughter and music spilled onto the streets of Barley Acres, a new, very small Wizarding Village not much further north than Leeds. A warm halo of yellow light spread around the house from the open windows, causing the neighbours to grumble and grouse as they slammed shut their own and threw up silencing charms against the party. Ginny got more than one irritated glare as she Apparated just outside the wards and hurried forward. It was six o'clock on a Friday night, James was at the Den with Andromeda and Teddy, and Ginny was determined to get drunk with her friends. There was no sign of a mess of black hair through the window and it only steadied her resolve to simply enjoy herself, taking one deep breath before she hammered on the door.
"Just you wait one damn moment, Ronald, I will kill- Ginny, you made it!" Hermione grinned widely as she threw the door open, gathering her best friend in her arms. To Ginny's delight, she whipped off her cloak and pushed a wine glass into her hand in the same movement. "Right, well, we're just waiting on Harry now, everyone's in the living room. Severus is hiding away upstairs, no surprise there, though I'm sure he'll be glad you're here so that he doesn't have to deal with these dunder- Theodore Nott you will put that back right now!" Hermione screeched in a good impression of Ginny's own mother as the quiet man picked up a beaker from the bookshelf that seemed to hold... eyeballs? Ginny shuddered at the thought. She had long since learned never to touch whatever Severus had left lying around.
Stepping into the room fully, Ginny considered her surroundings. The room had been enlarged in order to hold the lot of them and several transfigured love seats dotted the room. Her friends and family had made it their mission to overtake every inch of the available space, little as it was. George was in one corner, gesticulating wildly at Ronald who simply seemed to be avoiding Hermione. No trace was left of whatever had sent the witch on a rampage, but her brother knew better than most of Hermione's ability to hold a grudge, and tended to err on the side of caution when she started shouting. Close by, Angelina relaxed across the arm of a chair, nursing a tumbler of firewhiskey as Luna and Sarah argued about... something or the other on the antique rug. It couldn't really be called an argument either, Ginny supposed, more Sarah getting frustrated beyond all reach as Luna sweetly informed her that her bedroom had an infestation of Dinglesplots, hence why her sex life was going down the drain. Sarah looked fit to burst, face aflame as she informed Luna of her husband's virility – something Ginny had never needed to hear about. Choking down the urge to throw up, Ginny greeted them loudly.
"Ginny, you came!" Angelina grinned, flipping her hair over one shoulder. "Honestly, I'm so glad." She pulled her close and growled in her ear; "Hermione will not let me leave the room. I think she has finally lost it."
"Then you owe me a galleon," Ginny grinned, shoving the older girl in the shoulder fondly and pushing the cloying feeling of apprehension back down. "It's so... coupley here." And it was true. Three years of these dinners and it had only just hit her that everyone was paired up; Ange and George, Ron and Sarah, Hermione and Severus, Luna and Theo (because even Severus deserved a Slytherin pal). Even were Harry to show, they would be pushed together eventually, and that would be... awkward.
Not that they didn't get along, because they did. As she told the woman in the shop, they were family. Too much like family for her tastes. Their marriage had begun to feel like she had married her sibling, and that was the final straw for her. The day she realised that she hugged Harry with the same warmth as she held for Bill (undeniably her favourite brother, but still her brother) was the day they called the solicitor.
The light chiming of Hermione tapping her glass with a knife filled the room and everyone fell silent. Behind her, the door opened and Severus slipped through, cutting off Ron's greeting with a hand and an apprehensive scowl. "I've brought a guest," He informed everyone, his low, silky voice, brooking no argument. "And before I throw him to the..." everyone flinched back from his sneer as he scanned the room – some reactions were too conditioned to overcome, "…lions, as it were, I would like to ask you to respect my family home." He slowly made eye contact with the assembled, slipping easily into his 'intimidating teacher' role. "By which I mean that if you have a problem with our choice to bring him into the fold, you can simply-"
"Shove it up our arses, yeah, Sev?" George called out, causing Ron to snort loudly into his beer.
Severus inclined his head towards George, lips curling at the edges. "Quite."
"Great, message received," George grinned, oblivious to the suspicions rising in everyone else's minds. Ginny herself was a little concerned – considering the people Severus associated with, probably the least bad situation would still cause Ron's head to explode. Especially with Hermione looking that nervous... "Bring it on!"
Severus treated them all to one more lingering glare before he turned and opened the door. "Come, Draco," he murmured, reaching one black clad arm into the hall. Ginny froze, and the atmosphere seemed to get a few degrees cooler and then a lanky blonde was slouching through the door and looking around.
"Weasley, Weasley, Weasley, Weasley…" Draco Malfoy greeted them with nods, amusement glinting in his eyes as he scanned the crowd. His eyes landed on Ginny, who pulled herself up, ignorant of how her lips had curled back in a snarl. "…Weasley," he drawled finally, after a moment of appraisal. "Good to see you," he choked out as though they wouldn't be able to spot that lie two miles away. George barked out a laugh, shattering the tension in the room, and Severus smacked the back of Draco's head.
"Malfoy!" Theo called from the back of the room, gaily waving a glass of wine in the blonde's direction. "Where have you been hiding?" His handsome face crumpled up into a pout, the surrounding people watching in amusement. The man was ridiculously entertaining when drunk, and he was delightfully lightweighted. "You – you -" Elbows went flying as he pushed his way to the front of the crowd and jabbed a finger into Draco's chest. "You were supposed to be my best man, but you disappeared!" The man turned to the rest of the room, eyes wide to include them all in his tale. "This knob, right here," he punctuated this by waving a limp wrist at the aristocrat, who was looking a mixture of amused and apprehensive, "abandoned me on my wedding day! Did you know, mate, that because of you-" another prod to the sternum "-I had to make do with Blaise. Blaise, Draco! We had a traditional ceremony, and all I heard throughout was him making lewd comments about my wife's assets!" His head whipped around in a panic, searching for something, and then he grabbed Luna by the arm and dragged her to his chest to present her to Draco. "Have you met my wife, Drakey-poo? This is my Luna, my moon. Isn't she beautiful?"
Seemingly hypnotised by a strand of Luna's pale blonde hair, he barely registered Draco's mumbled agreement and how he edged away.
"You can do better than that," Severus scolded his godson in a drawl far superior to the Malfoy scion's own, before moving to his wife's side. In his usual manner, he greeted her with subtle affection; three fingers grazed her forearm, then her cheek, as he looked into her eyes. Hermione, in return, turned her face into his shoulder and pressed a soft kiss to his clavicle, as his fingers danced lightly over her hair. It was a quick, barely noticeable exchange unless you were watching the couple, but Ginny often found herself enjoying their unlikely relationship. It was impossible not to be drawn in by how in love they were, even having been together for four years - married for two of those years - they still moved like the other exuded some sort of gravitational pull they could not resist. In his unguarded moments, rare though they were, you could see Severus watching his wife with something akin to awe, disbelief, like she might disappear if he took his eyes away and he was terrified of that. Hermione, in turn, made no bones about her love for Severus, it shone from her face whenever they shared a room, and Ginny doubted that anything could separate the two should they not like it to.
Ginny craved that sort of relationship, and looking back wondered how she had ever thought that the light-hearted, casually easy relationship she had shared with Harry compared. This feeling had been her driving force since she was a child, though, dreaming of a whirlwind romance with the Great Harry Potter – it had always been Harry Potter, then. He was the only person that remotely intrigued her to the level of fanatic obsession. Most other male celebrities simply reminded her of one or more of her brothers – famous curse breakers, dragon tamers, quidditch players… all were off-limits by virtue of being similar to her abundance of male family members. Harry Potter, though… he was a mystery, a blank slate on which she could ascribe any and all attractive traits. Ginny never realised what a mistake this had been until she was twenty, marrying a man she barely knew.
In the aftermath of this disaster, Ginny still burned for something all-encompassing, though as time passed she was all too aware of how unlikely it was that she would experience it. Still, she could not find it in herself to be bitter about her best friend's happy marriage, not after everything the two had been through to get to this point. Tearing her eyes away from the scene, Ginny realised that Draco was watching also, his appearance once more forgotten by the room's inhabitants as Theo tottered around, singing praises to his 'moon'. Taking this moment to study the interloper, she realised he looked quite different from how she would have suspected. Naturally, she should have known that he would not look exactly the same as he always had – she herself had gone through drastic physical changes these past six years, what with one thing and the other, being a professional athlete and a barefoot pregnant woman both at the same time – but she was struck by how little a resemblance he now bore to his loathsome father. He was still pointy and pale, as he had always been, but his skin was blotched by almost invisible freckles and he'd grown bulkier. His hair was mid-length, darker than it had been and dishevelled by design. He looked less the aristocrat and more handsome foreigner, a good look on him – and then she stopped that line of thoughts in its tracks, reeling in shock.
Ginny was dragged out of her thoughts by the timely arrival of Bell, who in his usual abrupt and impatient manner ordered the guests through to the dining room for dinner. As she turned to follow her friends and family, however, she shot one more look at the newcomer and realised that he was watching her too.
It seemed that Harry had arrived in the time she had been musing over her friends' relationships, but he was seated between Ron and Luna, rather than at his usual spot beside her. That position was taken instead by Draco Malfoy whom had been shuffled there, rather unwillingly, by a determined Hermione with a stoic Severus backing her up. The Snapes were a formidable team, a fact to which Ginny could testify if someone asked, but nobody had, so she watched with an amused smile as Draco grumbled and grouched over to his seat. Hermione sat at the head of the table, with Severus to her left and Ginny to her right. Draco sat between her and George, opposite Theo, who was sandwiched between his odd wife, who he doted on liberally in his own quiet way, and Severus. Next to George sat Angelina, then Sarah, with three empty seats at the end of the table for whoever fancied popping in – which was a frequent occurrence, despite Severus raining his wrath upon the trespasser. Usually, it would be Bill and Fleur, but others such as Remus and Andromeda joined on occasion. Once, even Sirius had dropped by halfway through the meal, seating himself at the end of the table and flirting outrageously and loudly with Hermione as Severus looked on. Hermione had laughed it off, blushing lightly at the man's teasing smirk, but Severus had grown a horrific shade of purple to the point that by dessert the guests had been concerned he'd rage himself into a premature heart attack. Sirius had spent the week following trapped in his animagus form, and Severus had kept Hermione in his room for two days straight – an extremely territorial man, that one.
Ginny would much rather face the Lestrange brothers again than relive the night after that event that Hermione had turned up at her flat. "What do you want?" Ginny had asked, ungraciously, with James on one hip and a towel over her shoulder. It had been a long day, what with Harry coming to visit James and the ensuing argument over their joint collection of Quidditch memorabilia, which Harry wanted in the divorce. Her best friend had bustled into the room with a grin on her face and a sly light in her eyes. "So sorry," she had breezed, "but it's the first time I've been able to get out since Friday, and while I had nowhere to go it was too good an opportunity to waste!"
"He's keeping you prisoner now?" Ginny had demanded. She'd never been opposed to the relationship between her former professor and their resident bookworm, and she really did like Severus, but sometimes old habits died hard. Either way, she did get her comeuppance for assumption quite quickly, as Hermione replied; "Oh! No, not in that sense, I suppose. Only, he's been quite feisty since Sirius came to dinner, and I've not been able to leave the bed. Do you know, I could barely sit down yesterday – not that I particularly needed to, as he was quite persuasive in his insistence that I stay where I was. I'm rather sore, who knew a man his age could be so energetic?" How she misinterpreted Ginny's look of distress so wrong is a mystery, but somehow she did and carried on talking. The redhead refused to replay these words, however, as it had been hard enough to sleep that night and she had no desire to have nightmares this night also. She did recall with no small amount of horror Hermione prattling on about the man re-asserting his 'claim' on her in a myriad of ways, and waxing poetic about his very 'primal' actions and reactions.
When her friend had become so sexually adventurous, Ginny didn't know, but she felt she must blame Luna. Both of them had these quiet, grumpy husbands who seemed to dislike everyone else quite strongly, and yet they loved their wives with an intensity and devotion rarely seen outside of fiction. There was some bedroom secret she must be missing, though asking would probably cause more harm than good.
It occurred to Ginny that she spent far too much time contemplating the private lives of others, but since she had no sex life to speak of and none forthcoming she wouldn't beat herself up about it too much. Living vicariously through another was a time-honoured tradition, after all.
"…can't possibly, it makes no sense! Don't you think, Gin?"
Voices penetrated the haze in her mind, and she shook herself off. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that," she grimaced.
"I believe she wanted to know your opinion on my father's trial, Weasley." Draco's voice was frustratingly amused, triggering an automatic scowl from her.
"My opinion? Are you certain?" Ginny blinked innocently, but the undercurrent of steel was enough of a warning to the wise. Severus laid his hand on Hermione's arm to stall her from responding, but Draco took up the reins immediately.
"Yes, Weaselette. Your opinion. Also known as your thoughts, estimations, beliefs on the matter. Surely even you can manage that?"
Ginny narrowed her eyes, turned to meet the Ferret's gaze, and let rip.