Draco Malfoy sat in the leather wing-backed chair in his study, the well-worn old chair so regularly occupied it conformed to the shape of his body. A fire popped and crackled merrily in the hearth, a book was open in his hands and a steaming cup of tea sat on the table at his side under a stasis charm; he often became so engrossed in his reading that the tea would sit at his elbow for hours before he drank it.
He heard the sound of the door chimes echo through the cavernous house but out of habit he ignored it. Flossy would see who it was, although who could be at the door in the middle of Whiltshire he couldn’t imagine.
Moments later there was a pop to his left, and he looked up, faintly irritated.
“Apologies, Mr. Malfoy,” the little elf murmured. She was immaculately clothed in a spotless tiny maid’s uniform, complete with the ruffled cap perched between bat-like ears. “I know its reading time, but there is being – “
“Not ‘there is being’,” Draco corrected. “Just ‘there is’.”
Flossy dipped her head in a solemn nod. They’d been working on her patterns of speech but Draco doubted they’d ever cure her completely of sounding like an elf, no matter how much she wished it. She had come to him, asking him to ‘fix her talking’ so she sounded like ‘Missus Cissa’. The little thing adored his mother, and he thought her wish to transform was to somehow honor her memory. Draco, who wasn’t much for emotional displays, and been so touched he’d had to dismiss her before he embarrassed himself.
“Yes,” Flossy finally went on. “There is a caller who wishes to be seeing you.”
“Just ‘who wishes to see you,” Draco corrected again. “And who is it?”
“Mrs. Hermione Weezy, sir.”
Draco didn’t bother to correct this mistake. They’d been trying for months to get ‘Weasley’ right, without success and Draco decided it wasn’t worth the headache.
He hadn’t expected Hermione, and she was usually so careful to observe proprieties that he was surprised, and faintly alarmed that she was there.
“Show her in, Flossy.”
She nodded and popped out of sight, and Draco closed his book, setting it aside. It was the biography of a fifth century potions master and not terribly gripping, but Draco long ago decided if he was interested enough in the subject matter to buy a book, he’d damn well finish it.
He heard footsteps approaching and rose from his chair, turning toward the door just as Flossy appeared with Hermione Granger-Weasley. The elf stepped aside as Hermione stepped forward, and Draco opened his arms to embrace her.
“Well, this is a pleasant surprise,” Draco said, hugging her. A floral fragrance lifted from her soft hair, no longer frizzy but lying over her shoulders in soft curls.
Of all of his classmates, Draco thought Hermione was the most improved since their Hogwarts days. On that horrid night when Potter, Weasley and Hermione had been hauled into the mansions great hall, Potter’s face all but unrecognizable, it had struck Draco how beautiful she’d become. Listening to his aunt torture her had been the turning point for Draco; the sound had haunted his dreams for months.
She stepped back with a slight smile, and Draco took in the sleek black slacks and cranberry velvet blazer over a black high necked jumper, and felt a pleasant hum of approval.
“You’re looking lovely today,” he said honestly. “Flossy, tea please.”
Flossy nodded and disappeared, and Hermione gave him a faintly reproving look. He held up his hand, palm out, trying to hide his amusement. “You know I’ve tried to pay her.”
“So she tells me every time I ask,” she muttered, and Draco allowed himself a slight smile as she sat in a chair opposite his in front of the front of the fireplace, and he reclaimed his.
She rubbed her hands together, and then reached out toward the flames. “Gods, it’s cold out there.”
Draco crossed his long legs, glancing at the snowy scene outside of his windows. There had been an uncharacteristically early snow storm just days before and the temperatures hadn’t warmed up enough to melt any of the several inches on the ground. The bare trees were still tipped with frost as well. Draco frowned at her. “Why didn’t you come through the floo?”
She gave him a pointed look. “I would love to, Draco, if you’d ever unlock it.”
“Oh.” He looked toward the opening of the fireplace sheepishly. “Sorry. But ever since the little snot figured out how to levitate the bowl of floo powder down from the mantle,” he said fondly, “I’ve had to lock them all. I forgot to exclude this one.”
She sent him a grin. “I told you he needed more play dates.”
Draco was saved from responding to that distasteful idea when Flossy returned, pushing a tea cart complete with steaming porcelain pot and a platter of elegant little tea cakes.
“Thank you, Flossy,” Hermione said when the little elf presented her a full cup. The elf nodded, glanced at Draco’s cup and saw that it was still full, then Apparated away.
“So,” Draco removed the charm from his cup and picked it up, “to what do I the unexpected pleasure?”
Hermione smiled over the rim of her cup. “Unexpected, at any rate.”
“You know I’m always happy to see you,” he said mildly.
She nodded. “You are,” she said, setting her cup aside. “I hope you still are when I’ve told you why I’ve come.”
Draco set his cup aside as well. “That sounds ominous.”
“I don’t think it is, but given the subject matter…”
“Hermione, honestly, you know there’s only one subject that we might not agree on, and…” He caught sight of her grimace, and exhaled in exasperation. “Oh, for gods sakes.”
“Draco, I know you aren’t going to want to hear this, but we really do need to talk about it.”
“Why? Why do we need to discuss it? I can’t think of a single reason.”
“You can’t?” she said. “Not even one?”
Almost as if they’d been summoned by their conversation, the sound of rapidly approaching, light footsteps sounded in the hall and moments later a small blur of perpetual motion burst in the door.
“Draco, Draco, I cleaned my room.” The little boy with the white blond hair threw himself at Draco’s knees and Draco caught him under the arms. “I even putted away all the toys where they live.”
“Put away,” Draco corrected gently, his exasperation fading as he looked into the wide brown eyes. He lifted the child to his lap. “And did it escape your notice that we have a guest, young man?”
The boy made a happy sound and hopped down, running to Hermione, his hair instantly darkening and curling wildly over his ears. “’Mione, ‘Mione, I cleaned my room up real good.”
“Very,” Draco said, resigned. “Very good.”
“I cleaned my room up very good, and I putted away all my toys. You can even see I has a rug, now, cuz Draco said he didn't think it was still under there.” He giggled. “Isn’t he silly?”
Hermione wrapped her arms around the little boy and hugged him, looking at Draco over the top of his head. “Very silly, Teddy,” she murmured, her tone faintly wry.
Inside, Draco sighed. He supposed they were going to have to discuss bloody Potter, whether he wanted to or not.