A Bit of Friendly Encouragement
Summary: Neville is goaded into talking to Hannah Abbot by Malfoy of all people. Astoria mediates and ponders the idiot which is her husband.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to J.K. Rowling, although my interpretation of Astoria Greengrass is my own. :)
"Aren't you going to ask her out, Longbottom?"
The question came out of the blue, or to be more exact, the darkness which was the Leaky Cauldron.
At nearly half-past-eight in the evening and smack-dab in the middle of the week, the pub was starting to look a little bare. A witch with a furry bonnet sat in one corner, crooning at a stuffed cat, and there was a tired Ministry clerk in shirtsleeves off to the side, his robes of office chucked on the chair beside him, but by all accounts the place was mostly empty. Excepting the two loners, himself and the blonde woman mopping up a spill. A blonde woman he'd been watching surreptitiously out of the corner of his eye.
Plus one more, apparently.
Neville had arrived with a bit of a recharge in mind, needing adult company after a Very Long Week. The straw which broke the camel's back being a recent event: namely a Ravenclaw fourth-year using his newfound knowledge of Snarfalumps to show off to the Syltherin redhead across from him.
It hadn't ended well. Thus the drink he was nursing, and the tentative desire for very specific feminine companionship.
"Sorry?" the comment, dryly spoken, elicited a turn upon the bar stool with its decorative wooden back, but when he spied his querrant Neville's open, surprised look dropped down into a glare, "Malfoy."
The blonde man seemed only mildly amused at the epithet, remaining where he sat with ledger sheets in front of him and a half-empty teacup of liquid on his left. His expression was bland and calm, robes a deep bottle green and hair starting to recede. The stress must have done it to him, Neville thought was unflattering satisfaction.
"Yes, I am aware that I am a Malfoy. Very observant of you. So," the man paused, shifting away from his papers, "you going to buck up and ask her out, then, Longbottom? Or am I going to have to watch you pine after her for another hour more?"
Flushed with irritation and embarrassment, Neville gripped his mug of Butterbeer tightly, denial on his lips, "I don't know what you're talking about. Nor what you're up to, so just…shove off."
Ignoring the command, the former Syltherin dodged a glance at the pretty fair-haired landlady, "that is Hannah Abbot, isn't it? The one you've been staring at for forty minutes? She's gotten a mite better looking, I imagine. Never mind the fact that she's just a Hufflepuff. Lost some of the dough in her cheeks."
At his words Neville's expression grew dark, his wand in his hand before he could blink. But his old bully wasn't worried, continuing in the same vein.
"The men in my family always were fond of blonde hair,"
"Don't you dare, Malfoy," the former resistance leader hissed out.
Malfoy blinked in all innocence, before his lips tugged into what could only be termed a mischievous smile, "don't what, Longbottom?"
"You leave her alone. Or I'll have Aurors on you faster than you can say, 'Death Eater.' I'm sure that there are a few more than willing to take up their former guard duties."
"As if I'm unaware," Draco responded drily, unconsciously rubbing his left arm, "and I wasn't intending on hurting her by any means. Just becoming acquainted. Because, after all, if you won't, then I will. It's good to be…friendly."
When the other's man expression blackened further, yet he still made no motion toward moving from his chair except to grip the back of it tighter, Malfoy rolled his eyes and huffed as though they were back in school.
"C'mon, Longbottom, where's your so-called, 'Gryffindor Courage?' Left it behind in the old sorting hat, eh?"
Which, of course, was the correct button to push. Never mind that it had been years since Hogwarts, nor even that, as grown men, their rivalry was virtually nonexistent. None of it mattered because, while likely able to ignore it in other situations, this one was special. This one involved her.
Chair slamming backwards, form ramrod straight, Professor Neville Longbottom, former war hero, strode across the room to a very surprised pub owner. He took one of her hands in his, thumb circling on the top of it, and asked a very swiftly-spoken, rushed question.
Of course, that's when the courage—and rage—decided to cut and run on him, and Longbottom was faced with the object of his desires. Who had yet to respond at all, gaping as she was. Very quickly the solid shoulders rolled into a bashful duck, his overlarge ears red and mumbling words becoming even more incoherent.
But it seemed to be doing the job despite all that, the young woman gripping her broom ever-tighter and a match blush forming on pale, soft cheeks.
The sole spectator gathered that her response was in the affirmative when Hannah finally murmured something and Longbottom gained a few more inches in height, before he stepped back, hand awkwardly ruffling his mousy light brown, formerly blonde, hair.
Watching on, Malfoy absently finished his tea, laughing into the empty cup.
"What are you up to now?"
The unamused question broke him from his grinning observance of the bumbling duo. Instead, his pale eyes slowly scaled up long, deep-purple dress robes, tailored to her figure, to the disapproving green ones of his wife. As green as the grass upon which her family was named. She'd come in through the entrance facing Diagon Alley, Scorpious tugging at her dark curls and the purse at her side noticeably lighter.
"I'm not up to anything," he remarked openly, before rising to ruffle their son's hair, the toddler reaching out to him, burbling, "so, did you find everything you needed?"
"No, I didn't," she answered sharply, finger in his face, "and don't dodge the question. I know that look, and it only ever appears when you're up to something."
Of course, typically his, "up to somethings," lately involved a surprise number of new canvases, the dedication of one of the Malfoy House Elves, a shy one, named Nips, to his wife for her creative endeavors—a situation which suited both Elf and Witch—and her favorite flowers being planted in the garden among all his practical and potions-based vegetation.
Draco raised his eyebrows, knowing that he seemed most innocent of wrongdoing when facing his accuser head-on. Although these days he typically was innocent, so that helped.
"It's nothing, really. I just decided to give an old acquaintance some…encouragement," he couldn't help the grin which accompanied this statement, hands in pockets and bounce to his feet, revealing him in an instant.
Her tone was as dry and flat as the Sahara during summertime, "Draco, your particular brand of encouragement went out with the Dark Ages."
"Say what you will, but you can't deny that it gets results," he murmured tartly, enjoying himself for the first time in a while. Which wasn't to say that he wasn't content, even happy, in his marriage and position as young father. But it was nice to get that thrill of danger going again…that is, in a harmless, controlled environment.
At that moment Longbottom ceased his awkward, bumbling flirting, the pair flushing as red as Neville's old house colors. The Leaky Cauldron's proprietress was reduced to a shy Hufflepuff once more by way of a few simple sentences, the two of them nearly knocking over a chair and several mugs at the bar, respectively.
Aw, the Curse of the Klutz. It must be love.
Malfoy chuckled, biting his lip, and something in his wife's expression cleared, "wait, is that what you were up t-."
She never finished her sentence, his old victim turning around as Hannah went back to work. The Slytherin could almost pinpoint the exact moment Longbottom spied Astoria, frown bewildered as he caught the two Malfoys, plus a small child—mind putting things together and scowling all the while.
Astoria then took it upon herself to introduce her elbow to her husband's ribs.
He winced and pasted on a bland smile as his victim warily returned, "Longbottom," he began as the Gryffindor trudged closer, still wary, "I would like to introduce you to my wife, Astoria Greengrass Malfoy. And my son, Scorpius."
All former malevolence was gone in the face of his spouse's wrath, even the taunting nature of his words forgone in favor of lighter conversation. The change wasn't lost on the Herbology Professor, eyes darting between them and arms slowly crossing.
"Greengrass?" Longbottom began, brown eyes still wary, "are you by chance related to Daphne Gr-."
"She's my sister," the Witch interrupted with only the slightest bit of a sigh. Blood may be thicker than water, but every time Draco suggested a sibling for their Scorpious she inevitably told him to shove his wand where the sun didn't shine. For good reasons, "I went to Beauxbatons. There was no art program at Hogwarts, so I made my choice early on."
"I…see," the Herbology Professor said, although he really didn't.
Well, it was time for true introductions, Malfoy supposed.
Pasting on a painful smile, the one used when visiting his father in his retirement, Draco motioned toward the love of his life, "Astoria is going to be working on Headmistress McGonagall's portrait this semester. Meanwhile, I'm just the pocketbook," he waved toward the documents which had conquered his table, "Which reminds me, did you get all the things you needed?"
"Mostly," she shrugged, shifting their son higher on her hip. Currently he was playing with her necklace, a tangle of dangling spider webs, as he drifted off against her shoulder. The lad could sleep anywhere, and it helped that they had been out and about, probably getting cooed at by Astoria's bevy of acquaintances. She really did tend to make up for his lack, "I got all the basics, some Phalo, some Ultramarine, my Viridian and all the new paintbrushes and palettes I need."
The platinum blonde said nothing, knowing that she had a tendency to destroy the former by way of forgetting to clean them and as for the latter—well, they were generally good for throwing in a fit of pique.
Mostly at her husband's head.
"I couldn't pick up Antimony White, Burnt Umber, or any of my Cadmiums. The shopkeeper said that he didn't carry those colors, but that a store down Knockturn alley might," ignoring Draco's suddenly sour look, she turned toward Neville as though she was answering a question. Although he had not once opened his mouth to speak, "as a painter, these pigments are highly toxic even in their Muggle form. And with magical properties added to them, for the movement and personality effect, they are practically dangerous. And somewhat explosive."
She shrugged as though this couldn't be helped, one-handedly, flashing practical nails with their slight colored stain beneath the nails and along the pads of each finger.
Draco's tone and expression were flat, "I'll pick them up tomorrow."
Astoria's green eyes flashed as she whacked his chest with her hand, "no. You're not."
"Yes. I am," he said with a large degree of the old Malfoy coldness.
"No. You're not. Not after what happened last time," she ground out. Then, with all the swiftness of the sweetest hostess, she turned again, "And how do the two of you know each other? Are you old schoolmates?"
She asked this brightly, a bit of a French accent seeping in unnoticed, emotions affecting her words. This was only one effect that seven years of schooling had had on her. The other being that it was her go-to language for anger, particularly while painting, the beautiful language muttered beneath her breath as though she was cursing the very ground he walked on.
It was part of what had endeared her to Draco, the first time they met. That and the fact that she'd thrown Citrine on him the minute she realized that she had a spy, assuming that his intent was to "ferret out the details of her secret project."
Neither man wanted to answer, a kind of mental wince shared between them. For once both were on the same side, "we did go to school together, yes," her husband said carefully, and the Witch's features sharpened at his deliberate choice of words.
"Yeah," Neville piped up, not-so-helpfully, arms crossed and the most wicked smile he'd ever seen lingering about the man's mouth, "Draco helped me learn loads of new spells. There's the Leg-Locker curse, and Confundo, then there's the Freezing Charm, the Furnuculus Curse, Impedimenta, the Jelly-Legs Jinx-."
Malfoy's scowl intensified, but he remained silent. After all, it wasn't as though what Longbottom was saying was false.
She hadn't seemed to notice, however, her eyes falling on the table Draco had previously taken. Ignoring the paperwork entirely, she lifted up the empty teacup and frowned at its interior.
"Draco, is this firewhisky?"
He rolled his eyes upward and heaved a heavy sigh, "and does one drink firewhisky in a teacup, Dear?"
"You do at home," was her sharp, ironic retort, "you'll use anything that holds liquid, including my Grandmother's vase."
And had he not had an audience, the rat-faced Slytherin would have had a lot more to say on the subject, "that was just…the once."
"Yet I'm not letting you forget it," his wife huffed.
"And I'm not letting you forget the fact that I haven't touched the stuff in a year. Not since Scorpius was born," he remarked softly, taking her free hand in his.
The Greengrass girl seemed to melt under this different tactic, finally nodding. It was as though the Professor was watching a theatrical, and Draco of all people was a romantic figure worthy of a trashy Flourish and Blotts bestseller. Heaven forbid, he immediately thought with a certain amount of queasiness.
Having been forgotten, Professor Neville Longbottom, Order of Merlin, shifted awkwardly. Pulling Malfoy, businessman, husband, and father, from his reverie.
His jaw clamped shut, his eyes grew cold, and it was Astoria who finally made amends, "it was a pleasure to meet you, Mr…what was your name, again? It started with an L?"
"Longbottom, Professor Neville Longbottom," he answered warmly, grasping the hand she held out to him. Anyone who could keep Malfoy in line was a friend of his, his smile expanding slightly when her eyebrow went up in recognition.
"Yes, it was a pleasure meeting you, Neville. And good luck with…" her eyes flickered to the blonde currently wiping down tables, "with everything," she turned to face her spouse, "I'll just go see about getting our things packed up for travel, then?"
Without pause she extracted herself from the conversation and was soon chatting amiably with Hannah Abbot, motioning toward the room that they had upstairs.
It was only after several moments of silence that the two former enemies realized that they were gazing at the same vision with matched fondness. The Syltherin blinked, then straightened, moving to shuffle his documents together and placing them in a very Muggle-like briefcase before setting a coin of high denomination on the table in payment.
The Gyffindor made sure that he hadn't left anything at the bar, checking and double-checking his pockets by way of habit. And then neither of them had anything to distract themselves with, forced to exchange final pleasantries.
"So. The men of your family like blondes, then?" Neville remarked quietly.
Draco's shoulders went up in a tiny shrug, "I am rather fond of my son. And my mother."
The taller, still more awkward of the two chuckled slightly, "well, I have to agree with you. I am rather fond of them—blondes, that is—as well."
Opening his mouth to speak, he was cut off as Draco abruptly jumped subjects. Looking as though he had quite had enough of that conversation, thank-you-very-much.
"Look, the real reason I spoke to you earlier is that I recently became aware that you may be raising certain poisonous plants currently, which have curative powers. Hellebore, Baneberry, and Venomous Tentacula, for example. Is this true?"
Professor Longbottom blinked in surprise, "yes, I am. How did you—?"
"I'm currently in the market for those ingredients. Not for anything that would go against your conscience, Longbottom," Draco sneered slightly before it cleared.
"They are just the same ingredients used in most poisonous pigments my wife uses," he explained dryly, "after Astoria is done with McGonagall's portrait she's signed a commission to restore those paintings which were ruined during the Battle of Hogwarts. The ones that are salvageable, that is. And…I like to keep her up to her ears in supplies. It keeps her…less violent."
Neville said nothing, merely raising his eyebrows with a slight smile. Malfoy clasped his briefcase more tightly, ignoring the creeping sensation of heat crawling up his neck to his ears.
"Which is to say, I can make up the potions myself, but-."
"You need the raw ingredients," Neville finished. Calmly, as though he was the professor and Draco the student. Which wasn't all that far off the mark.
"Yes. And with a young child in the house…especially one that likes to play hide-and-seek with the House Elves…" he hesitated to finish the sentence and what it amounted to. That he was, essentially, asking the Gryffindor for help. But, well, times changed. And with necessity came a kind of bridge between two worlds, mending what always had been and supposedly always would be broken.
"Plus there's Knockturn alley, and I would like to avoid that if possible," now he was truly frowning, and while Neville was somewhat curious he opted not to ask. It was Malfoy, after all.
"I've made room in the business budget to cover those kinds of expenditure, among the repairs and efforts to restore the Muggle town below us after the Malfoy…distraction of late. The family's shirked its duties long enough," he remarked ironically, "if you're interested, just let me know your price."
The Gyffindor pondered the request for several moments, enjoying the worried furrow of his old enemy's eyebrows and the clenched grip he had on his belongings. Nodding thoughtfully to himself, Neville spoke, "so you weren't just trying to goad me, then. The opportunity to challenge, poor, defenseless Longbottom was just an added boon, I suppose? But you wanted to do business," he nodded, pseudo-conspiratorially, "between you and me, you might want to fine-tune your methods."
This response seemed to be what he expected, the other man sighing deeply and nodding as his shoulders stiffened, "I see. Well, I'm sure that I can find someon-."
"I'll send an owl," the Herbologist cut him off, "Headmistress McGonagall shouldn't have a problem with raising such plants on school grounds given the cause. And Hagrid might even join in on their care."
The sudden affirmative surprised the blonde, he could tell. In the past the grudge would undoubtedly have been maintained and cultured, like a tender plant in need of sunlight and rich nutrients. It was very much the Slytherin thing to do, just as asking for help definitely wasn't in line with his House colors. But Neville Longbottom wasn't a Slytherin—he was a Gryffindor, and sometimes the brave thing to do was to let bygones be bygones.
Particularly if he was to interact with the man's wife on a regular basis.
Draco slowly smirked, the tension leaving his body, "I imagine so—he was always fond of his, 'flesh-eatin' slug repellant,' wasn't he. Well…thank you. And good luck with, as my wife said," his lips twisted in a merry sort of smile, "with, well, everything."
"Bugger off, Malfoy," he muttered in slight exasperation, turning away. Although a moment later he couldn't help but come back. Sighing deeply as though what he was about to say pained him in the extreme.
"Look, I hate to say it, but thank you as well, for…that," he motioned his chin toward the woman sweeping in solitude, her cheeks still rather pink, "it did the trick, fortunately or unfortunately. And I'm fairly certain that if you hadn't said anything I…well, let's just say that seat is my regular one."
"You just needed incentive," his former enemy remarked dryly, the words 'we all do' going unspoken, before he pulled out a mock frown from his array of scowls, "but don't think I'm not going to hold this over your head once Scorp attends school, you mark my words," he threatened mildly.
Neville's smile was a match, "I would think less of you if you didn't."
But both men were laughing as Draco headed off to find his wife and child.
Well, that was an unexpected fanfic! XD Don't expect it to be super-accurate, as I wrote it in a very short period of time. Still, not bad, not bad at all. (Of course, not super-spectacular or highly detailed, either, but I certainly enjoyed it. :D)
Lately I've been reading a lot of NevilleXHannah fanfics, and while pretty much all of them are sweet (you can almost guarantee it with a pairing like this. *laughs*), a lot of them start in the same way.
But I wanted to change things up a bit. Expand my creativity.
Plus, I'm not entirely certain about my ability to write Neville and Hannah yet, so it's good to have a backup set of characters to work with.
Because, honestly, I love the Drastoria pairing for the same reason: we know very, very little about one member of the relationship, and therefore we as authors are able to explore it and expand on it so that each version of their love is different. They are all, "what-if" scenarios.
In J.K. Rowling's epilogue we were given details about what went down on the Platform, and it seemed like Draco and Harry + company hadn't seen each other in quite a few years. But, while the Malfoy family has definitely stayed out of the limelight, that doesn't mean that they've entirely withdrawn from Wizarding society. Leading to this exploration. :D
All of the paint stuff, by the way, is because I paint. XD I have no other excuse for that. Nips are a kind of candy by the Nestle company. And the song that was running through my head during the entirety of this was, "He's a Little Bit of a Fixer-Upper," from Disney's Frozen.