There is nothing worse than idiots, Draco decided, as he kicked a lonely rock like a petulant child. He had spent his day listening to morons with absolutely no common sense.
We should do this, Mr Malfoy. We should do that.
“We should kick your buggering arses so you twits can speak sense,” he mumbled darkly to himself.
A small laugh drew his attention and he felt his shoulders relax instantly.
“You’re late,” he said without turning around. His tone was curt, but not without a teasing lilt to it.
“Come now, Draco. Have you known me ever to be late?” she said with a light, teasing tone.
He had fully intended to be difficult, but hearing her voice, knowing that she was there, his baser instincts won out as he turned to face her. He couldn’t hide the scowl that played on his lips, though.
His wife made a happy tsking sound. “You really should smile more.”
His scowl deepened, and her laugh was short and sweet.
He stood under an impressive tree, one that has been in the Malfoy family for centuries. Its branches were strong, the roots deep, and as usual, his wife sat gracefully on a thick branch as she looked down at him with amusement colouring her brown eyes. Not for the first time, Draco thought of her as a wooden nymph. There was a carefree quality to her, one that made him smile.
“Who was it this time?” she asked, teasing him.
Draco felt the smile he sported immediately morph into a bitter frown. “Melson,” he said, spitting out the name with distaste. “How can someone be so socially acceptable and yet not have a proper brain to lean on?”
Her brows scrunched up in thought. “Andle Melson?” she asked.
“Wasn’t he Fudge’s friend?” she asked thoughtfully. “I remember him attending some of our events with his wife.”
Draco let out a tired sigh. “That’s the one. He came highly recommended by Fudge himself. I should have known the twit was useless.”
She looked at him gently, her expression one of understanding. “What happened?”
“He suggested we pull out the funding for the Muggle businesses. I suspected you might have something to say about that.”
She shifted on the branch so she could look at him better, her expression curious. “What did he have in mind, exactly?”
Draco scowled as he looked away from her. “I didn’t listen, did I? I kicked him out of the office the moment he opened his useless mouth.”
A sound of exasperation passed from her lips, causing Draco to look up at her in surprise.
“Of course I disagree. Businesses are just that, businesses. You can’t keep funding the same things. Times change and Malfoy Enterprises must keep up with those changes.”
“We can do what we bloody well want.”
“Even if it means losing opportunities?”
He snorted. “No one would dare pass on us.”
“What about losing your business? Or even the poor employees who would be out of a job?”
He scoffed. “First of all, employees can be easily replaced, and second,” he said quickly, determined to interrupt her blossoming argument, “that would never happen.”
“Why not?” she asked innocently.
“Because my beautiful wife will be coming back to take over the reigns she left behind.”
The corners of her smile dipped, her eyes saddening by the mere thought. “You know I can’t do that.”
“Why not?” he asked stubbornly. “I hate to admit it but they all prefer having you over me.”
“I’m nicer,” she said teasingly.
“You’re a bloody briber, that’s why,” he said with a smirk. “You promise them raises and vacations. You ask them about their mothers and fathers and babies. You even know the names of the bloody doormen!”
“Dexter, Alfred and Rolf,” she recited proudly.
He looked at her pointedly. “You can come back. I can fix it. No doubt everyone would agree with me. Especially Potter and Weasel.”
She leant her head against the large bark of the tree, her smile becoming sadder than before. “I miss them.”
“You would, even though no one else likes them half as much,” Draco said quickly, hoping to bring the subject back to lighter matters. “Potter has been more broody lately. He snaps at people for no reason and nearly punched me in the face.”
“He did?” The question seemed to perk her up.
“Twice,” Draco said with a scowl. “He seems to think it’s my fault.”
Her eyes softened. “He knows that’s not true. There was nothing any of you could have done. What about Ron?”
Draco snorted, looking away. “Depressed,” he said softly. “Won’t talk, won’t eat, apparently…” He kept his gaze down, focusing on the base of the tree. It took him a while to notice her calling to him.
He looked up reluctantly, the laughter having gone out of his eyes.
Her voice was soft and coaxing. “You know that there was nothing you could have done, right?”
He nodded for the benefit of his wife, his hand rising to run pale fingers against the bark of the tree he stood under. He didn’t know if he believed her. He still blamed himself, if only partly.
“Draco?” she said again, her voice softer that before.
When he finally looked at her, his grey eyes held the sadness that he had been hiding for the benefit of his wife. “You can come back.”
“No.” She shook her head, her eyes kind. “I can’t.”
“You know why.”
It was the same argument they had had every single day for a while now. He couldn’t help but think that they were both too stubborn to move past the stalemate.
“Explain it to me.”
She sighed, the sound soft and full of frustration. It reminded him of the countless times she had used that same sound to get him to do things that he never wanted to do in the first place. How he missed that sound. “There’s a time for everything to begin and end. I have completed my time.”
He looked at her stubbornly. “No, you haven’t.”
“Yes, I have.”
He knew what she was asking of him. He knew he was selfish, but the thought of the alternative alone, seemed harder than what they currently had.
“You have to let me go,” she said softly.
He shook his head instinctively. “No.”
“No!” he said forcefully. “I’m…” He paused, letting a low breath escape him. “I’m not ready yet.”
Her smile was sad, yet understanding. “Then I shall wait until you are ready.”
“That might never happen.”
“I think it might.”
He couldn’t help but let himself smirk at the familiar characteristic that was still present. “Always the optimist.”
“Always the cynic,” she countered with a wide grin. “Now,” she said quickly, no doubt trying her hardest to change the subject to something less dreary, “tell me, who agreed with Melson’s proposed changes?”
Draco rolled his eyes as he regaled her with the horrid tale. His wife laughed when she was supposed to, and chastised him for his behaviour when it was appropriate. By the time the sun had set and she had left, he had a soft smile fixed on his lips.
Thinking impatiently of his next planned visit, Draco knelt down at the base of the tree and conjured a bouquet of his wife’s favourite flowers to be placed on her grave that was marked by a simple tombstone before he pulled his robes around him tighter and started for Malfoy Manor.
Hermione Jean Malfoy.
Hero, Wife and Friend.