Contractual Obligations

Christmas

Chapter 7- Christmas

*****Draco*****

"Is there anything at Hogsmeade that you've never done before, or you think I might not have done?" Ginny asked as they walked along the path. It was far below freezing, and even warming charms weren't the most effective.

"Have you ever been inside the Shrieking Shack?" Draco asked.

"Have you?" Ginny shot back.

"Well, no, but I've looked inside it," he told her.

"I've been inside," Ginny bragged. "I spend a lot of time exploring by myself, and I was curious. It's basically just a torn apart house. Do you know why it was made?" she was just taunting him now.

"No," he answered.

"It was for Remus to transform in," Ginny said.

"Remus? Lupin? You call one of our ex- Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers by his first name?" Draco questioned.

"I do. I also call Moody 'Mad-Eye,' though he's the first to admit that he didn't do much teaching," she shrugged.

That was… something. Draco looked around. They were on the outskirts of the town, and everyone was inside from the cold anyway. "Your parents are in that group then. The Order of the Phoenix," and Draco knew he was right from her eyes getting almost comically large for a moment. Gryffindor.

"What?" she asked calmly.

"Those two you mentioned were in it before. And Potter's parents, and a bunch more. I got to hear a rant on how Dumbledore was trying to indoctrinate us with his people. But Father didn't mention your parents, and he would have. So either my father didn't know they were in it before, or they weren't then, but they are now. Of course, Dumbledore would have called it together again once He was back. And Father knew that no one was at your house this summer, even though you flooed from there. I just figured you were all somewhere with Potter, because you seem to see him over the summer, but you were all somewhere together, weren't you? And- that's how you know my cousin too, isn't it? She's part of it?" He'd almost known already. Everyone knew the Weasleys were part of the 'Light.' They probably had too many young children last time to want to be part of it.

Ginny looked… angry? "So you have a theory, nothing but a theory. What will you tell your father?" Ginny asked.

"I-" he didn't really know anything of value. The only thing it could do right now was make his father hate the Weasleys even more, and that wouldn't help him. "I won't tell him anything. Like you said, I don't know anything."

Ginny gave a small smile and nod, "Let's get anywhere out of the cold. We're close to Spintwitches?" she suggested.

"Sure," Draco agreed easily.

Ginny looked at and picked up everything in the shop, just like their last visit, even though the merchandise couldn't have changed much.

She had a passion for flying and quidditch, even more than Draco's.

It was a shame that her first chance to prove herself as a player was like this- when everyone would compare her to Potter when she was playing a position she didn't even really chose herself. At least she now had access to a good broom. But not as good as Potter's.

Draco had been staring at a practice snitch, identical to the one he had, for far too long. Ginny was occupied at the back of the shop, looking at Beater padding of all things. Draco bought the thing quickly before he could change his mind.

"Ginny?" he asked, standing behind her.

"Oh, sorry, I can go whenever. I get sort of lost in this place," she said, smiling up at him. Noticeably up at him. Had he grown that much this term?

"For you," Draco said awkwardly, holding out the snitch he'd just purchased.

Ginny's mouth dropped open adorably. Adorably?

"Draco, that's too much. When I said you had to pay for everything on our dates, I meant butterbeer and sweets. That's way too much," Ginny said, blushing red.

"I've already bought it, and I don't need two for myself. If you don't take it now, I'll just give it to you for Christmas, and you'll have missed all those empty hours of holiday when you could be flying," Draco said.

Ginny smile, "Well… if it's a Christmas gift that I already know about… then I guess I might as well have it now. Since you already spoiled the surprise," she said, grabbing it quickly, turning the thing over in her hands. "I'm going to be good enough to beat you myself next season, even if they don't let Harry back on the team," Ginny taunted.

"We both know that won't happen," Draco said.

"Oh really? Which part?"

"Does it matter?" He asked.

Ginny smiled. "Not really, but don't think that buying me things will make me forget when you're a jerk," Ginny said. "I can't be bought."

"That's unfortunate," Draco said, walking for the door, knowing she would follow. "Ready for a butterbeer?" He asked. He wanted to feel warm.

"Yes, and then I think we need to split up for a while," Ginny said happily. Draco frowned.

"Going off to meet Potter, Granger, and your brother again?" he asked.

"No. But I do need to buy you a gift. I unlike you, I want mine to be a surprise," she laughed. "Meet an hour after we leave the Three Broomsticks at Dervish and Bangs?" she suggested. "They work on very interesting things sometimes. And if you see me in a store, you had better walk out immediately. And, don't take it as a hint, because I might be picking up things for people other than you," she warned.

"Fine," Draco agreed, glad to be in the Three Broomsticks and out of the cold. He'd find something to do for the next hour.

*****Ginny*****

Ginny enjoyed the company of Colin Creevey, now that he was a little older and less… saying annoying seemed really harsh. But he was enthusiastic, even about the really boring stuff that Binns taught.

"Ginny, how can you think it's boring, there were wars between goblins and wizards literally on Hogwarts grounds! Or at least, I think there were; I'm guessing. It's not in any books that I've found, but their headquarters for a big one was the Three Broomsticks, and that's so close to Hogwarts, which was obviously a big place for wizards, so they probably fought all around here. And they wanted wands, but they can definitely do a lot of magic without them. Do you think I could ask a goblin at Gringotts more? I haven't been able to find any books written by goblins, so maybe goblins don't want humans reading their books- or wizards won't allow them in stores in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade. And wizards leave loads of stuff out. Do you know that house elves aren't mentioned at all in any book I've read about Hogwarts? I mean, I've only read two so far, because I'm not very fast at reading, and there's so much school work. Not that I'm complaining about that. Do you think house elves are related to goblins, because they look a little alike? A long time ago, I mean, like with evolution? Do you know about muggle science? Is that even real? Are dinosaurs really dragons? I mean, if humans are related to monkeys, surely we're closer to goblins than that? And centaurs, how does that work?"

Maybe he didn't ask quite so many all at once, and Colin had a long time ago gotten used to Ginny not having the answers to his questions, even though she grew up in the wizarding world. Even Hermione, even Dumbledore probably wouldn't have answers to many of them. But it didn't stop him from asking. And Dennis was just as eager about magic, but less about reading. Ginny felt bad when she'd score higher on an essay than Colin did, because his were always way longer and he'd worked harder, but he never minded.

Ginny thought that Hermione probably kept her excitement more hidden to fit in better. And Harry always had a lot of other stuff going on, or maybe not everyone raised in the muggle world thought magic was a big deal. Ginny certainly didn't notice it that much. Sure, learning a new spell was cool- but a little less cool than it could be because all of the other eight people in her immediate family already knew how to do all of it.

Ginny felt sometimes that she just lived for Hogsmeade weekends, quidditch games, and now also quidditch practice, DA meetings, and… social interactions. Even watching quidditch games didn't seem that fun anymore, when she was so close to playing in them herself, but she still wouldn't get to for what felt like ages, until well into the next term.

And, after the start of the season with the Gryffindor vs. Slytherin game, the Ravenclaw vs. Hufflepuff game could sort of feel… she would never say it out loud because it was rude, but it was pretty boring. The Hufflepuff seeker was obviously new, and he was who Ginny would be competing against next, but he'd probably be different months later by the time they played. Would it really hurt their academics that much to play more games? If they could at least play each other team twice, it would add so much more depth to the season. And there would be fewer empty weekends. And they should really go to Hogsmeade more too.

And Ginny always found herself watching the chasers more than the seekers, because that's what really interested her more. Davies was the best player on the pitch, but Ginny wasn't sure that he was a good captain. Too often the captainship just went to the person who'd been on the team the longest, or to the best player, not someone who was a good leader and player developer. He yelled a lot, from what Ginny could tell from the arm waving. Chang finally caught the snitch after Ravenclaw was already up by a fair amount, so they were in the lead by points after every team had played one game. It was still early in the season, but Gryffindor didn't have their star seeker anymore.

Ginny was almost glad that Angelina was going home for Christmas. She'd toyed around with the idea of getting all of the team to stay to practice even more. And Ginny would be okay with that if she got to practice chaser moves, but there hadn't been any more talk of that since her first day. Maybe she'd go flying with Draco with the castle empty. Of course, she'd have to use a school broom then.

*****Draco*****

Draco had said that he needed to stay at the castle to study for OWLs, but really, he just didn't feel like being at the manor, especially because at any time He could make himself at home in the place where Draco had grown up. Really, ever since coming to Hogwarts, going home for Christmas hadn't been as appealing as he'd thought. And this year he didn't even ask Crabbe and Goyle to stay with him, because Draco didn't want them to.

And Ginny said she could stay, so they could have some time with the castle almost entirely alone. Not that… well, they'd been to Hogsmeade together twice at this point, and the whole castle knew they were… dating, he supposed. They talked and snogged and bought each other Christmas gifts, so it probably qualified. And they were almost certainly getting married in two years and some months. And when after he'd accepted that it was going to happen, she wasn't repulsive company.

Draco was ready for the term to just end, and leave him in peace for two weeks. Two weeks without awkwardly talking to his housemates, or pretending to not hate Umbridge. And two weeks without seeing Potter, or Granger, or any Weasley but Ginny.

The pop of a house elf woke Draco, and he could tell, even in the dark dungeon room, that it wasn't morning yet. That was strange, house elves never woke anyone.

Draco lit his wand and turned on the frightened creature.

"Dobby?" he asked. The elf wore a strange assortment of clothes including about six hats stacked on top of each other, shaking precariously. "Ginny said you were here," he said dimly. Had he ever spoken to the elf anything but an order.

"I is having a message from Miss Weezes. She is saying she leaving castle. Father is hurt bad and all Weezles leave castle," the elf gave his message and popped away before Draco could say anything else, not that he would know what to say.

His holiday was going to be a lot worse now. And he was a prat for making this about himself. And the elf was afraid of him for good reason. Damnit, he was happier before Ginny Weasley came into his life. Or maybe he wasn't.

She was leaving the castle because her father was hurt, probably badly, but she wanted him to know what was happening. She had been going to stay at the castle, giving up seeing her family and everything that was probably interesting about the Order that her parents were a part of. And now she was definitely going to have a worse Christmas than he was.

What if her father died? They were poor, but her father had to make a decent wage, that was just split among so many children. How would they be without that income? Maybe it would be okay because the older sons had jobs, and the twins were set up financially, but they wouldn't have the same bright future with the burden of a large family they didn't choose. Would Dumbledore take care of them if he was hurt on the Order of the Phoenix's instructions? Had… He- had Tom- been responsible- probably not, because Ginny's father wasn't yet dead. But Death Eaters perhaps… like Draco's father. Draco's father who hated Mr. Weasley so much. Draco felt sick.

*****Ginny*****

Being taken by Professor McGonagall to the Headmaster's office while Ginny wore her too-small dressing gown that she'd had since it was too big for her in her first year… was one of the least awful part of the night. When she was putting on that dressing gown and McGonagall was waking up the twins, Ginny had quickly called Dobby to let Draco know. She'd felt like an arse for doing it, because Dobby was probably afraid of Draco, but she didn't know any other elves' names to call, and she was just glad that he'd come.

After an uncomfortable bit in the headmaster's office, they were sent back to creepy Grimmauld Place. The house seemed even than it had a few months ago, but maybe that was just her.

Harry told them about his terrifying vision which everyone in the Order believed, so it had to be true- which was weirder magic than Ginny had ever heard of. Ron and Harry kept looking at each other as Harry spoke, and Ginny was certain that Harry was hiding something and Ron was helping him do it, which just made her more upset.

The Order had their secrets. Harry and Ron had their secrets. No one was talking to her, and her father was hurt, and Ginny didn't even know how bad it was.

And a snake attack was bringing back the terror from her first year, the horror that she caused.

And she was told that they couldn't go to St. Mungo's now, because then everyone would wonder how they found out. She didn't give a damn about nosy, evil people like Umbitch.

Sirius tried to cheer everyone up, passing around butterbeer. Butterbeer wasn't going to fix this. Ginny didn't even really want to drink it, because she had so many pleasant memories associated with butterbeer, mostly with Hogsmeade, and she didn't want to taint those.

The awful night ended just after five when Mum came in, and said Ginny's father would be okay.

It was really strange that Ginny actually thought that she was sorry they didn't have an owl at the place for her to send a letter to Draco.

But still, even if her family was okay this time… there was clearly a war starting back. Her uncles had died last time, but Ginny had just been an infant, so she never felt the loss. Bill and Charlie talked about them sometimes, and Ginny knew that her mother still missed her brothers terribly. Ginny had so much family, and they were all so involved… what was the chance that they would make it through without losing someone- or everyone?

*****Draco*****

Draco found himself on the second to last day of term pacing in front of Professor McGonagall's office. He was missing breakfast and wouldn't be ready for his first class. And he had no way of knowing if she'd even be there. Finally, he knocked because he'd come this far.

"Come in," the witch called. She frowned at him when he walked in. To be fair, she frowned most of the time, as far as Draco could tell.

"Is Mr. Weasley going to be okay?" Draco murmured. Because other than Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall was the only one who Draco was completely sure would know. She was Dumbledore's second in command, and definitely part of his Order of the Phoenix.

"And what would you know about that, Mr. Malfoy?" she questioned almost suspiciously.

"Ginny sent a house elf in the middle of the night to tell me she was leaving the castle because her father was hurt. I- assume she won't be back until next term?" Draco asked.

"I did not realize how close the two of you had gotten, though perhaps I should have guessed from the display on the quidditch pitch," McGonagall said in what sounded like a neutral tone, but she clearly blamed him for getting her seeker banned. Draco didn't make Potter punch him in the face, and he didn't make Umbridge do anything.

"Was it a Death Eater attack?" Draco asked directly, because that was the Gryffindor thing, wasn't it? And he was tired of this conversation already.

"The cause is not your concern, Mr. Malfoy, in fact, I believe-"

"Was it my father?" Draco asked anyway. That surprised her.

"No, child. If you must know, I can tell you that Mr. Weasley was bitten by a snake, and it should not be-"

"Tom has a snake. You-Know-Who. I've seen it. I don't know what type it is, but if I could- I don't know." What was he saying? Mr. Weasley was someone he would have considered spitting in the general direction of just months previously… before he was likely his future father-in-law.

"That is very helpful of you, Mr. Malfoy, but I do not believe it will be necessary. We have that information already, and his healing is in process. In fact, Professor Snape is consulting with brewing the antidote, so you need not worry yourself over it," the witch said.

Draco swallowed in his dry throat.

"And you're sure he will… brew it correctly?" Draco asked.

"Are you doubting your Head of House's skill, Mr. Malfoy?" his professor asked, rather affronted. This wasn't working.

No, it was worse. "No, I'm just- I've known Professor Snape all my life. I called him Uncle Severus when I was a child but… are you sure he's really trying to help Mr. Weasley?" Draco asked uncomfortably.

The stern professor visibly softened.

"Thank you for your concern, child. Yes, we are quite confident that Professor Snape will work to the best of his abilities, and that Mr. Weasley will be well shortly, hopefully in time to spend Christmas at home with his family. Now, I believe you have class to attend, Mr. Malfoy?"

"Yes, professor," Draco replied. "So, Ginny will be back next term?" he asked. Because he had wanted to ask if she'd be back sooner but… if she was already spending time with her parents, of course she wouldn't be able to leave.

It was the first time he'd noticed that the elder witch looked tired. She probably had been up all night.

"Yes, Mr. Malfoy. All of the Weasley children and Mr. Potter will return to school before classes resume for the term. And if would be very bad for Miss Weasley if Dolores Umbridge were to find out any specifics of their departure," she watched, and Draco knew he was being tested.

"I wouldn't tell her anything. She's worse than Lockheart," Draco said, hand on the door. Professor McGonagall's brief smile told him he'd answered correctly if he needed any confirmation.

Draco felt that he should be happier. Ginny's father would be okay and his father wasn't responsible. He had had a- strange but positive interaction with the Deputy Headmistress.

So, it was good news, and he shouldn't let one little thing bother him. Potter was with them. Because Potter was practically their seventh son. The boy who they had all obviously hoped would marry Ginny to him officially one of them. But now that wouldn't happen, not unless Draco died first.

Stupid, bloody ancestors.

Why couldn't he have been born into a different family?

*****Ginny*****

Ginny tucked away the gift from Draco to open later. Tonks had given her wiggling eyebrows when she'd delivered it- which was quite a sight to see on a metamorphmagus. Draco had already gotten her the snitch, he wasn't supposed to get her anything else, but Ginny wasn't even surprised.

And they'd be seeing their dad again today, and he was supposed to be doing much better. And she'd probably see Bill too. And if she was really lucky, maybe Bill and Tonks could spend some time together. Sure, he was seeing Fleur now- last Ginny had heard anyway- but relationships didn't always last, and Tonks would be an excellent older sister.

Ginny was quite possibly going to be the first Weasley child married- how strange was that? Bill was how many years older than her? Almost eleven. He'd already been in Hogwarts before Ginny had any memories- actually, Charlie had been too- and he wasn't marrying anyone either.

Really, one of those boys needed to hurry up. And it had to be holiday giddiness and her father getting healthier that was making her think like that.

*****Draco*****

Christmas at Hogwarts was a dull, lonely time. But it was still better than home when Tom could show up for Christmas dinner. Draco thought he would probably skip to Hogwarts event.

Of all his Christmas presents, Draco smiled the most at the Fizzing Wizzbees, levitating sherbet balls. "Because I would like to meet the little boy who wanted to fly like a dragon. Happy Christmas, Ginny," her note read.

Draco hoped that she enjoyed his gift of exactly the same. Though he hadn't written much of a note. Strange how they picked the same thing. But perhaps it wasn't strange to latch onto a minute childhood detail that they had in common. It was the least expensive gift he received that Christmas, but certainly not his least favourite. As he popped a sweet into his mouth, Draco wondered if Ginny was levitating around as well.

Hunger got to him finally halfway through the afternoon.

Draco grabbed the hat that he had wondered if he'd be brave enough to deliver. He wasn't going to get food other than sweets if he didn't face either people or elves, so he might as well.

Draco tickled the pear on the appropriate portrait and was soon surrounded by welcoming house elves.

"What can we get you, sir?" an articulate elf asked.

"Something left from Christmas dinner. Turkey and gravy with potatoes if you have it," Draco requested. "And can I speak to- Dobby?" he asked, not seeing the elf around, when Draco thought the elf would stand out.

The other house elves scattered instantly, to get him food or to ignore his question.

Dobby came from under a table to stand before Draco, not looking at him. Of course he wouldn't. The creature had half-raised Draco, and Draco had done nothing nicer than telling Dobby to punish himself because Draco had thought it was funny.

"Thank you for giving me Ginny's message. Happy Christmas," he said, holding out the hat.

Dobby looked up at him, and those large eyes went wide. With trembling hands, the elf accepted the gift. It was a hat that Draco had never liked, Slytherin colours but with large flaps down to cover his ears, and strings that his mother always told him to tie under his chin, even though no one did that. Draco had made slits in the sides for the elf's large, bat-like ears, and magicked the strands together to not unravel decently well.

"You can tie the strings if you want- to make sure it stays on. I noticed that your other hats looked like they might fall off," Draco explained. "And I'm sorry for the way I treated you when you were our elf. I was young," he said, which would have been a better excuse if Draco had thought about the elf's well-being even once in the two years from the elf disappearing from the manor to Ginny Weasley mentioning him again.

The elf tucked his old hat into his shorts, shoved on Draco's hat, and launched himself at Draco, latching around his knees.

"Little master is a good wizard," the elf cried, using the name he'd called Draco when Draco was very young. And then the elf was actually crying hard before springing away.

"Dobby is serving Christmas dinner," the elf declared before swooping around and scaring as many of the other elves off as he could before presenting Draco with a heaping plate of all of Draco's favourites, not just the ones that Draco had mentioned.

So, Christmas wasn't so boring and lonely.

And, success with the elf gave Draco the confidence to make another visit he had considered, which brought him first to talk to an unpleasant person.

Dolores Umbridge stared calculatedly at him, wondering blatantly what she can get out of the situation. Draco despised the fact that the woman had been a Slytherin. She probably begged the sorting hat for it. The woman had no subtlety, and just assumed that all of the Slytherins would like her, though their head of house clearly didn't.

"Hello Draco, you don't mind if I call you Draco outside of class, do you? I see your father quite often at the Ministry, or I did before taking up my position here. He speaks very highly of you, and you have been pleasant to have in class," the woman spoke, clearly without need of Draco talking back.

"Thank you for taking time out of your holiday to see me, Professor," Draco said as politely as he could manage. "I stayed at the castle over the break to study for my OWLs. I want good scores so I can be well positioned to enter the Ministry in two years, of course," he added because she'd want to hear it. "But I know Mother would be disappointed if she didn't get to see me today, so I thought I would visit home for a few hours, if you would allow me the use of your floo, Professor," he asked.

"Oh, I would never mind doing a favour for a Malfoy. We old families need to stick together, after all," she said sickeningly sweetly. Umbridge certainly wasn't a name in the sacred twenty-eight like Malfoy and Black were- or Weasley was, actually. Draco hadn't bothered learning the rest of the woman's heritage. Which a year ago would have been something he would have done to feel superior to the woman who was an irritation in his life. "I am curious why you didn't go to your Head of House, Draco," she said.

Because Severus Snape actually talked to Draco's parents, and they listened to what he said.

"My esteemed Head of House is not the most cordial person to visit, as you might have experienced. The holidays do not improve his demeanor," Draco said, and he could tell that Umbridge appreciated it from her creepy smile. She didn't like Snape, after his dislike for the woman had become publicly apparent when she monitored his class.

"Yes, I understand that. We'll just keep this between us then, won't we, dear? I shall be here for the next three hours, will that be sufficient for your visit?" she asked. Easy. Especially if Umbridge never mentioned it to Draco's father, because Draco had no intention of staying at the Manor long enough to see anyone.

Draco nodded. He hoped Umbridge wouldn't ask for much of a favour in return later. Of course, she was foolish not to negotiate something before she granted his request. And, there was some likelihood that the woman would be dead or institutionalized by the end of the year, given the history of her position.

"Malfoy Manor, East Wing," Draco called.

Draco didn't even leave the fireplace of his sitting room, but dropped a bit more floo powder to be safe. "St. Mungo's," he said.

A/N: 'Why couldn't he have been born into a different family?' Not something I expected to write for a fifteen-year-old Draco Malfoy. Sixteen or seventeen, probably. It's been a rough few months. He's confused and angry