The scratching of nibs on parchment ebbs and flows, a gentle rhythm broken occasionally by soft laughter or the hollow thud of a book split wide against the hard surface of a desk. Madam Pince skulks the aisles, her sharp *tut* of disapproval following the noises without fail, or any sound above a whisper.
Draco's quill moves so fast, his hand can barely keep up. He bends low over his work, sweeping aside the loose strands of hair that brush his cheek, and wills his arm, under threat of every deity he’s ever come across, to steady.
Despite what the hacks at Spellbound! have to say, the Mercury model is not the most dutiful and professional quill on the wizarding market. It is an absolute menace. It yanks the tail end of Draco’s g’s and un-dots all his i’s, zipping across the parchment to strike entire paragraphs of it’s own volition.
Draco scowls, applying more pressure. He ought to have recalibrated the damned thing weeks ago, but that meant a trip into Diagon Alley, and as far as he was concerned, Diagon Alley remained off-limits.
From the corner of his eye, he spies a quill inching towards his inkpot. Frowning, Draco slides the bottle just out of Parvati’s reach.
“Oh come on, Malfoy!” Parvati pleads, quickly lowering her voice at the approaching click-clack of heels. “I’ve nearly finished my essay and if I don’t do it now, I’ll never get to my Charms work.”
“The only charms work you’ve planned is Anthony Goldstein,” sniffs Draco, curling his lip. “I hardly think that’s worth half a bottle of Dalston’s.”
“But it’s worth a working quill, isn’t it?” Parvati procures one from her bag, a gaudy, purple affair that promises sweet nothings and sneezing fits as she waves it under his nose. “Yours is a mess and I know you don’t have another.”
“I haven’t the vaguest idea what you’re on about.” The Mercury quill happily makes ribbons of his Runes essay in an attempt to cross several ’Ts’ at once. “You must think I’m desperate.”
Rather than answer, Parvati leans forward and sticks her finger through the middle of Draco’s scroll.
“You,” He grunts, swiping the purple monstrosity from her hand, “are spending too much time with Pansy.”
On the other side of the table, Pansy looks up from last month’s Witch Weekly to shakes her head. “There’s no such thing. The last year has made us fast friends and Parvati finds me perfectly lovely to be around. So much so that we’re spending Winter hols together, aren’t we?”
“I said I’d like to,” Parvati corrects, her olive skin flushing prettily. “Padma hasn’t decided what she wants to do and it’s likely to be our only chance to see each other now that she’s on the continent.”
“So bring her along,” says Pansy, waving a flippant hand. “We’re not going to my home if that’s what she’s afraid of. My mum and Greg the Muggle™, have a place in Islington that is perfectly on the up and up.” She rolls her eyes. “Goodness, I thought Ravenclaws were supposed to be the smart ones.”
“And Gryffindors are the braves ones. So you can see the complication,” says Parvati.
Draco snorts. “The pompous, stubborn, fool-hardy ones, you mean.”
“If you’re referring to one Gryffindor in particular, it had better not be me.”
“Oh I think we all know who Malfoy is referring to,” Blaise drawls, somehow both mocking and fond. “He’s only been glancing at this table every five minutes.”
Draco feels his face heat. “It’s a symptom of habit,” He refuses to turn around, suffering Pansy and Blaise’s knowing looks instead. “Potter spent an entire year playing my warden while we repaired the castle and now it’s a nervous tick. If he doesn’t see someone about it, it’s likely to continue the rest of my life.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you,” quips Parvati, taking a generous dunk of ink. Draco mentally adds her name to the small list of obnoxious people in his life. It’s also the list of people in his life at all.
“Well, tell Padma if she doesn’t favor Pansy’s, she’s welcome to stay at mine,” Blaise winks, settling back. “Bit low on bed space though, so we’d have to share.”
“You’re a pig,” Pansy scowls, though her words hold no real bite. “I swear I don’t know who’s worse, you or that succubus that spawned you.” Pansy’s turns back to Parvati, who wears a solemn expression. “I could write her if you’d like?” Pansy offers softly, her voice gentling as she reaches across the table to place a hand over Parvati’s. “I wouldn’t mind, you know. I don’t want you to be alone.”
Shaking her head, Parvati slips her hand back. Curls it into the sleeve of her robes. She clears her throat. “We’ll talk about it later.” Her eyes dart to Draco with something like guilt, before turning back to Pansy. “So, about this Greg. How does your mum plan to get around the statute on holiday?”
Relieved, Draco allows the others to continue discussing their plans and attempts to slip back to the relative safety of his essay. He’s determined to avoid the topic of Christmas altogether and Parvati’s hapless reminder leaves something sour in his chest.
Outside the tall, thin windows, the weather is frightful for early December — snow coming down so thick that even the best owl would be waylaid by it. It’s a perfectly reasonable excuse as to why his mother has yet to communicate any definite plans. Last year’s celebrations hadn’t exactly left them in the mood for a repeat.
Ernie McMillan gently knocks his shoulder against Draco’s, rousing him from his reverie. “Alright, Malfoy?” He nods and Ernie nods back, satisfied. He flashes Draco a conspiratorial grin. “Listen to them go on, then.” He indicates the others. “Three more weeks and they’re scheduling shag appointments.”
Blaise overhears them, propping an arm on the back of his chair. “And what are you doing then, McMillan, if it’s so boring to you? Trip to the moon?”
“Oh yeah,” Ernie lilts. “With your mum. She told me to let you know that you’re staying home for the hols, and I forgot. Sorry mate. But we’ll have a good view of Uranus from up there.”
Mean laughter breaks out across the table as Draco ignores it. Madam Pince will swoop down on them soon enough. The thought of cancelled plans and holidays spent alone aren’t all that funny to him at the moment.
“Piss off,” say Blaise. There’s no winsome smile now, just teeth. “I suppose you think that’s funny.”
“It was, a bit.” Draco instantly realizes his mistake. Blaise’s eyes flash, and in that moment the target of his vitriol switches.
“And how about you, Draco?” Blaise asks, as if he and everyone else at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Misery couldn’t already guess. “Any plans yet? I hear traveling alone can be quite rewarding. Sailing, perhaps. There’s one island in particular I know you’d just love to visit.”
Several people wince as Draco shoots up from his chair, the legs making an unpleasant screech. “Book,” he grounds out, holding himself erect until he turns a corner, walks several feet and sags.
Unfurling his fist, Draco grimaces. He’s still holding Parvati’s monstrous quill, the shaft snapped a third of the way down.
He tosses it in disgust, shaking his head when footsteps come to a stop behind him. Draco really ought to have known. He’d probably watched the whole thing like some vigilante voyeur.