A/N: I'm aware the plot is slow in taking off, but give it some time, please. Anyway, read and review. Tell me your thoughts, and if you have any questions or suggestions, I'm open to hearing them. I may not be able to answer them right away or even use the suggestions in the story, but know they will not fall on deaf ears.
Assuming (and rightly so) that Weasley would fail to appreciate Draco entering his humble abode via Floo, the blond chose to apparate a few blocks away from the home. Also, he had yet to visit the ginger's address since the bloke's last move five years ago. Previously, Weasley and Granger had lived in a small but comfortable and quaint cottage with a decently cared for garden outside of Ottery St. Catchpole.
It was not a habit of Draco's to visit the Weasleys' home regardless of where they dwelt, but the reasoning for his visit to their first home was to drop off a baby gift to them from his mother who attempted to reach stable ground with the couple in hopes of destroying family feuds and retaining some social status once more. After the war, becoming a respectable citizen of Magical England required getting in good graces with Potter and his two trusty sidekicks, and Narcissa Malfoy was no fool. She started delicately, going after the infamous couple first. It was all too easy, considering Weasley and Granger were the first to have a baby. His mother had sternly instructed him to deliver the expensive baby gift to their household at precisely noon that balmy day in March, and thank Gods, it wasn't Weasley who answered the door. It would have been bloody embarrassing, and both of them would have died from killing each other because the ginger git had been more of a temperamental fool than presently.
Parenthood and a smoldering hot wife mellowed the bloke out quite a bit.
Furthermore, the one who answered the door had not been Granger either, but her father and fluffing hell, he was nothing like Draco imagined. Not that he wondered what Hermione's parents looked like all that much. At a juvenile age, the absentminded wondered who was capable of creating such an annoying and unattractive character had flittered through his mind, but it was nothing in-depth.
Before his second year, the blond recalled catching a glimpse of Granger's parents in Diagon Alley but didn't take the time in stapling his precious Pureblood focus on the Muggles. For all he knew, they could have been infected with some visually contagious diseases. Like their daughter. The moment he first saw her, it was like she was a damned optical magnet, the effects worsening as she grew older. As he pondered previously, she was one of those peculiar creatures whose physical attractiveness flourished with each passing year.
Granger's father had been tall and intimidatingly so, standing 1.93 meters. Only a little more than five centimeters taller than Draco but still…
The man had been broad-shouldered with a close buzzed haircut with more patches of grey than brown. Also on the man's right forearm was some sort of Muggle tattoo with a pair of black crossed ship anchors over an English flag.
Bucking up courage, Draco had puffed his chest and dutifully and announced his name and purpose for visitation.
"Malfoy, huh?" The man's accent was deep and grumbly, not at all a smooth tone like a man of good-breeding and high-class. Yet, his clothes were tailored and made from fine Muggle cloth.
"Yes," he said with a bow of politeness.
"The brat from my little girl's school?"
Heart sinking low in his stomach, Draco fancied the idea of making a run for it but hesitated when hearing a much more soothing and feminine voice from inside the small cottage. It sounded remarkably like Granger's and delivering the gift to her sounded peachier than the bint's murderous looking father.
Alas, the woman appearing behind the man was short, curvy, and middle-aged, barely coming to the man's shoulders. She was unmistakably Mrs. Granger with a greying bob, resembling her daughter greatly with the exception of coloring. The older woman's hair was blonde beneath the aging tendrils and her eyes were a dark blue. Aside from those factors, Granger looked much like her mum.
Draco had not wasted much time talking or even mumbling uncomfortably. Clearly Granger had talked with her parents about his younger self and were not impressed, so he handed over the gift, bowed again, and sprinted away like a lunatic.
Presently, Draco lifted a square bit of parchment from his trousers and studied the address and then the neighborhood around him. Godric's Hallow was a perfect place for the upper middle class to reside and raise their two or three children. He then peered through the gated community at the high-valued homes and flawlessly paved cobblestoned streets before punching a series of numbers on the keypad located on his left.
"Place your wand in front of the circle above the keypad," an emotionless female voice alleged. Draco unsheathed it from his pocket and did as such.
"Thank you, Mr. Malfoy, for your visit," said the voice and the gates opened. He sauntered through, keeping an eye out for Lion's Heart Drive. He had been told the road was third to the last street and located on the right down from Main. Increasing his pace, he marched up Main Street, passing by bustling, yet attractive mothers raging in their late twenties to early thirties. Some tossed him looks ranging from irate to confusion while others smiled flirtatiously. To those select few, he rewarded them and their young moppet an endeared wink.
After ten minutes, he found the street and searched for the number twenty-six, finding it at the end of the street. Muttering curses under his breath, he checked his watch and scoffed. He only had another ten minutes to get the file and return to work.
Stomping up the pathway towards the front door, Draco surveyed the property and hypocritically pondered why the couple needed such a semi-large estate if they only had one child. The house was clearly built for a family of five, seven if counting the parents. The front yard was large with lush grass and a sturdy oak tree, a quaint swing tied to a thick branch.
He knocked on the mahogany door and stuffed his hands into his pockets. A few moments later, much to his surprise, Granger opened the door. Doing a double-take, he awkwardly greeted her with a hesitant, "Hi."
"Hi," she replied with a perplexed frown of her and then formed her pink little mouth into an 'o' in revelation. "Oh, you're here for the Ron's file. Come in, come in."
Wordlessly, he allowed himself to be ushered into the lion's den, entering the entry where he saw cleanly scrubbed tile floors and light brown carpet. The walls were cream-colored with carefully crafted whorls in the plaster.
"I'm actually surprised to see you," Hermione said breathlessly which was when Draco noticed the flush in her cheeks. "Pardon my frazzled state, but I barely got home. Got a call from Ron telling about an emergency and George's shop and if it would be at all possible to rush home and take care of Rose for the rest of the day. He mentioned something about a file and someone picking it up. I thought it would be later. Goodness, it's lunch time. Why are you here?"
"Er…for the file, Granger," Draco said slowly, his brows cinching together.
Scoffing, she placed her hands on her canted hips and tossed him a bemused glare. "I know that, Malfoy. What I want to know is why you are here at such an hour. I wasn't expecting anyone until at least two or maybe three o'clock."
"Well, I'm sorry my presence isn't in tune with your bloody schedule. Potter sent me over here because he needed your husband's report immediately," Draco hissed and Hermione slit her eyes.
"What an uncomely time to send an employee on an errand. I'll have a word with Harry, and you probably haven't had a bite to eat since breakfast if even that. Come." She grabbed his tie and pulled on it causing Draco to teeter forward in alarm.
"Granger," he practically squeaked, trying to push her hand away. "I need that file, so I can return to the office in a timely manner."
To his astonishment, she rolled her eyes and gifted him a playful stare that caused him to be undeniably parched. She then asked, "When did you become such a Hufflepuff, Malfoy? I'm offering you lunch, and you will take it like a gracious, well-mannered boy I'm sure your parents raised you to be."
"Hufflepuff?" he sputtered at the insult.
"Yes. Since when has Draco Malfoy ever cared about silly things like being back to work on time?" she asked and tugged on his tie again.
"Since Potter became my boss," he answered with an annoyed growl and she laughed.
"You let me deal with big, bad, scary Harry. If he gives you any fluff about being late from your little gander here, you can notify me and I'll set him straight. Stupid boy sending his workers out on errands when it's time to eat. You need your strength for the field which is why I send Ron off with a pail of goodies. Oh, Malfoy, you seriously need to consider settling down. Either that or move back home. You clearly need a woman with a matriarchal touch to take care of you. Your socks aren't even matching."
Fighting the shame, he wondered how she was able to tell with his trousers being a respectable length.
"Not all of us are cut out for marriage, and I don't really need your charity. If you think I'm going to tell anyone about…you know…then you have nothing to worry about."
Hermione let go of his tie, the light and mirth fading from her demeanor, replacing them with a barricade of iciness.
"I was offering out of kindness, Malfoy," she informed coldly. "You think I would ever try to buy your silence by offering you lunch? That's absurd. I know you won't tell." Her voice had turned soft at the end, her focus off in some corner. "Theo assured me you wouldn't. I just hope he can say the same for Blaise."
"Blaise knows?" Draco feigned surprise.
"Shut up," she quietly snapped and protectively crossed her arms. After a pregnant pause, she sighed and said, "I'll get you that file, but you will have lunch first, all right?"
Not waiting for an answer, she grabbed his tie again and led him out of the entry and through the sitting area and passed a swing-door where he saw a humble-sized dining table in the middle of the room.
"Sit," she commanded, pointing at the table with the three chairs. "I'll be out in a few minutes." She disappeared through another swing door on the opposite side of the room. Awkwardly, he stood, studying the room. Truthfully, from the moment he arrived, there was something odd about the house. It didn't take him long to realize what was bothering him. There were no portraits at all. Not in the entry, in the sitting room, or the dining area which was rather different. It was Magical English culture to have portraits throughout the home and from where Draco was standing, he couldn't see one. The walls were plain, giving the home an almost empty feeling.
"Who are you?" asked a small, high-pitched voice from behind. He stilled and whirled around to see a little girl about six with dark ginger hair, a freckled nose, and cornflower blue eyes. She wore a light pink cotton nightdress with a small, galloping unicorn prints on the material. In her hand was the fluffiest looking stuffed bear Draco had ever seen.
"Hello," he greeted with a small wave. "I'm Mister Malfoy. How do you do?"
"All right, I guess," she said, her skinny shoulders bouncing up to her ears in a shrug. "Where's my mum?"
The swing door on the opposite side of the room swung open to reveal Hermione coming through levitating a platter a food. She set it on the table with a cautious wave of her wand, drawing Draco's attention to the wood, recognizing it as his late Aunt Bella's.
"What did you make for me, Mummy?" the little girl asked as she toddled towards a chair. Draco then noticed how pale and thin she looked and remembered she experienced surgery only days before. He also noticed that Rose looked exactly like her mum with the exception of the Weasley coloring. The child's hair was thick and curly, almost to the point of bushy. Her front teeth also appeared longer than normal.
Rose Weasley was not ugly in the least but, indeed, Potter's brats were far better looking. Draco wasn't worried, though. If the little girl was anything like her mother, then she'd grow into a fit young lady.
"Awww," the girl lamented at seeing the steaming bowl of tomato soup. "Can I at least get have a grilled cheese sandwich with it?"
"Sorry, love," her mother apologized. "But remember what the Healer said. 'No solids for a week', but I'll let you have an extra scoop of ice cream for dessert tonight. I think that's fair."
Rose climbed up on a chair and situated herself in front of her bowl and dipped her spoon into the rich, scarlet liquid. The aroma from the soup seeped through the air, tickling Draco's nose and his mouth watered in anticipation.
Merlin, if it was homemade…
"Come sit, Draco," Hermione said and gestured to the seat next to her. She set down to two dishes by the chair, one holding a hearty sandwich with thick, whole grain slices of bread along with sliced apples and mini carrots on the side. The other dish was a bowl filled with what appeared to be chunky potato soup with chives.
The smell of food, home-cooked and made with care sunk deeply into his nose and on their own accord, his feet marched him to the seat where his lunch dwelt. When his bum hit the cushioned chair, his senses went into overload and he had yet to even take a bite. It was simply overwhelming never having anyone, let alone a woman, prepare a meal for him. The last female to do so was back at the manor with Mippy the kitchen elf. On holidays and by invitations were when he basked in the enjoyment of having finely prepared dishes.
He bit into the sandwich first and resisted the urge to moan because he always thought it silly when people moaned over food and regardless of how effing spectacular the meal tasted, and Draco was not going to succumb to such a ridiculous thing. Instead, he chewed his first bite, swallowed and steadily told Hermione, "This is good."
Halfway through his lunch and when Hermione was nearly done with her chicken salad, Rose had grown bored with her food and set aside her spoon with an audible sigh. "Mummy, why is Mister Malfoy here?" she asked and then yawned. She rubbed her eyes and smacked her lips sleepily.
"He works with Daddy, pumpkin. He needed to pick something up for him and take it back to work. I thought it would be nice to invite him to have lunch with us."
"Like how that one man comes over sometimes. What's his name?"
Draco blinked at that and tossed Hermione a questioning glance and thinking, Great Gods, she lets the bloody wanker into her home where she has sex with her husband and where the innocent live? What kind of wife does that?
A bad one, concluded Draco, and not the kinky, need-a-spanking kind.
"Rose," Hermione whispered in admonishment and the girl blushed in abashment.
"Uh oh, I forgot. I'm not supposed to talk about it." After a beat. "To anyone."
More than a little uncomfortable, Draco itched to tell Granger off but thought it better to finish his meal because it could very well be the first and last time a human woman ever cooked for him for a long time. His spoon dove into the chunky potato soup and brought some to his lips and wanted to hum because surely it was fit for the gods. The subtle starchiness of the potato mixed with the creaminess of cheese and whole milk swarmed inside his mouth. His tongue came into contact with something tender and smoky and he quivered in delight. The taste of bacon permeated his tongue and shot chills down his spine. Great Merlin and Salazar's rod, it wasn't a wonder why Theodore the Wanker couldn't simply let her go. The bloke's mother had died when he was no more than three and up until Daphne, he had never had a proper relationship with women. Sure, he seduced a few Ravenclaws and fellow Slytherins out of their virginity at Hogwarts, but Theo never had a proper connection with a female.
Call Draco soft or plainly pathetic, but he had truly thought Daphne was the right one for his mate. She was pretty, not too smart, and could hold her own in an argument. Her relationship with Theodore had gone relatively smoothly up until they decided to be spontaneous and elope while they were vacationing in Iceland. Apparently, the night following consummation of the newlyweds, Theodore and his skills hit the gambling room while Daphne visited the bar for a little buzz before going to cheer her new husband on at the poker table. One small drink turned into several and several turned into too many. Needless to say, she woke up with a hangover and a poor sod named Anton in his hotel room.
On a similar note, Theodore woke up in a very serious predicament. He'd won the game, drowning in bills and coins at the expense of his fellow players. One would think they'd be angry, possibly even murderous if they were the type but, alas, no. Mister Goðrúnarson was impressed by the lad's card skills and saw an opportunity. The man possessed a daughter of eighteen and to him was a complete waste of space, money, and time. He kept the drinks flowing and purposefully gambled away his daughter without even a grunt of dismay. Theodore won her, and she had all been too exited in getting away from her father. Her enthusiasm mixed with his insobriety caused another rift in his and Daphne's short matrimony. From there, accusations were tossed at one another and words of wrath, too. Three weeks later they filed for divorce. The Wizengamot, being a group of old-fashioned codgers, denied them that relief and ordered them to take marriage counseling which forced poor Mr. Lang into early retirement. After his departure, the unhappy couple asked the Wizengamot for a divorce once more and which was granted. Court dates concerning money and property trudged on for months before both parties were satisfied.
Draco finished his soup and his glass of water and dabbed at his lips with the provided cloth napkin and muttered, "Thank you," to Granger, still irked by the news that she invited her lover into a house that was supposed to be full of trust. It had him wondering if his father had ever taken a mistress or several. Growing up, Draco had never doubted the man's love for his mother, but he'd once thought that Weasley and Granger had the perfect marriage. It reaffirmed his knowledge that no one and nothing was perfect, and everyone was fully capable of betrayal and dishonesty.
Even a goody Gryffindor like Granger.
"You are welcome," she said curtly.
"Am I allowed to tell Daddy about Mister Malfoy, Mummy?" asked Rose in a whisper. Her head rested on her forearm and her eyelids were almost closed.
Hermione coughed throatily, obviously annoyed by her daughter's question. "Yes, you can tell him, but I plan to when he arrives home this evening. He'll want to make sure his report made it to the office. And look at you. Your medicine must've kicked in." She got up from her seat and walked around the table and picked up her daughter. The child's head rested on the woman's shoulder with her arms and legs lazily draped everywhere.
The child was toted off, leaving Draco alone in the quiet, naked room. It then hit him like a chilled, damp windstorm as to why there were no portraits in the house. Paintings were partial in chatting about gossip, especially those depicting departed family members. Granger, being Muggle-Born, lacked an ancestor to place on the wall. Weasley on the other hand could've probably collected a few in his life time, for instance Fred Weasley or even Molly Weasley. Draco reckoned that the Madam of the household would not appreciate clucking, tattling tongues for when she invited her lover over for an illicit visit. It was probably difficult enough keeping her daughter quiet. She could have merely Obliviated the girl but was loving and smart enough to refuse such a sickly task.
When Hermione returned, she was carrying Ron's file. He stood up from the table and accepted it with a courteous nod.
"Thank you," he said, "for this and the lunch. It was hospitable of you, but now that we're alone-"
She raised a hand as to keep him from continuing, an enlightened smile on her lips. "I'm flattered. And I'll be honest, I did have a little crush on you when I was younger. But you obviously know that I'm in no way fit to entertain a third party, Mr. Malfoy." She exhaled softly and reached to pat him on the chest. "Though you are very attractive."
Draco frowned and peered down at the faultless manicure that were Granger's fingernails. They were connected to a pretty and soft looking hand. That hand was a part of one lovely woman. Nevertheless, he was not going to proposition her in hopes of becoming her second lover.
"I wasn't propositioning you in hopes of becoming your second lover, Mrs. Weasley." He teased himself a bit by caressing the back of her hand with one of his digits before dropping his arm. Bullocks, her skin was soft! He resisted in shivering at the thought of her soft, experienced hands doing naughty magic on his person. But he couldn't help flash a smirk. "So you had a crush on me, huh?"
"Years ago," she said and took back her hand, a faint blush pinking her cheeks. "After the war when everything had settled. I admired your goal for redemption, but I was with Ron at the time, so I never pursued you."
"Regrets?" He had to ask. He had to know if there had been anything there beyond his vivid wank fantasies which were reoccuring ever since he saw her again, standing in his best mate's kitchen wearing the man's old Quidditch uniform and looking nine kinds of guilty.
"No," she whispered, shaking her head and said, "Rose," as if the name explained everything.
Draco nodded and slipped his hands inside his pockets. "What I was going to ask is that if you…cared for Theo. He's my mate and despite not approving what's going on between you two, I want to make sure he's looked after."
A somber expression trickled over Granger's face. She cocked her head to the side and she told him, "Theodore is aware of my feelings for him. He also is aware of my feelings for my husband. I love Ron very much and married him for that reason. I may have broken my vow in staying faithful to him, but it will be him I grow old with. I've told Theodore this and he understands."
Knowing he was meddling in territory best left for the woman standing in front of him and his best mate, he still foolishly jumped in and tattled, "He told me he thinks he can get you in the end."
Unperturbed by his information, she asked in mild confusion, "The end of what?"
"You know, Granger. The end. The affair will end sometime, I assume."
"Yes, but it will not be in his favor," she said resolutely. "Though I care for him deeply, Malfoy, it is not him I have a child with."
"Perhaps I should let him so. It might soften the blow."
"We're not children, so I shall have to remind him tomorrow when I see him."
"It may break his heart," he lightly said, a small smile on his lips.
"I wasn't aware that Slytherins had any," she sassily retorted and then sobered. "He'll be fine. He's not the type to mope around and pine. You know that."
To be continued...