Despite having been bitten by this plunnie something like 1 & ½ to 2 years back, I'd pretty much decided I wasn't going to write it. But then, a few days ago, the lovely Windyshoes (katemaplebranch on tumblr) came to me, asking if I would mind if she did an art based on the plunnie from when I had mentioned it on tumblr. Of course I said yes (after I got my happy, fangirlish squeals in check). And then, I thought, well, if there's going to be such a wonderful piece of art for this plunnie, then it should at least have a one-shot, too.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, or any affiliated characters, and make no profit from this story.
SWEETER THAN THIS
A Lumione One-Shot
"I heard about this . . . turn of events, but I daresay, I didn't believe it until just now."
Hermione's shoulders hunched and her happy expression was in danger of melting into a frown. She'd not heard that voice since graduating Hogwarts—certainly he'd been there, too, far less unpleasant than he'd been before the War, but he had still been no prize in the few conversations they'd had during that final year. Forcing a smile onto her face, she set aside the tray of biscuits she'd just taken out to cool.
Spinning on her heel to face the counter, sure enough, there stood Draco Malfoy. A customer is a customer, she reminded herself as she managed in a chipper tone. "Well, Draco, haven't seen you since school. What can I do for you?"
He frowned—though not as severe as the scowl he'd always worn when they'd been children, the soured expression twisting his handsome face was still unpleasant to behold. His grey-eyed gaze darted appraisingly about the bakeshop.
"I was talking with Theo the other day and he mentioned you left the Ministry to start . . . this," he managed to work in a haughty sniff, for effect, she imagined. "I had to come see for myself."
Hermione nodded, dusting off her hands on her pretty, pale-blue apron and folding her arms under her breasts. "Yes, well Theo is a rather good customer. Comes in once a week for our chocolate meringue biscuits."
"Our?" Draco arched a brow, he'd been told she was the sole proprietor, but then he remembered what else Theo'd said. "By that, I can only assume you mean your employees."
As though on cue, Winky came bustling through the door to the back with load frosting ingredients in her skinny arms. The elf set the items down beside the tray Hermione'd taken out, and then bustled off, again.
"You," he said in an almost scandalized tone that actually made the witch laugh, "working with elves? Honestly?"
Her brows lifting, she tipped her head to one side. "Yes, with. They're freed elves. I pay them equivalent to any witch or wizard for the same job, and there are rooms downstairs where they're permitted to board, free of charge if they've nowhere else to go."
His mouth opened in question, but she jumped in before he could get the question out. "They sometimes get taken with late-night cleaning fits. So, I suggested they simply take those rooms, since they weren't being used, so they could pop upstairs and clean or bake whenever they wanted."
He nodded, genuinely surprised. "Seems some human employees don't have it so good."
"What is it you want, Draco? If it's to see the shop, you've done so." Honestly, she'd barely thought about the Malfoys, anymore. In fact, barring every publication in Wizarding Britain making a fuss about Narcissa and Lucius divorcing roughly two years back, which made avoiding thinking about them impossible, she tried not to think about that family, at all.
The way he was looking about, she was surprised he hadn't pulled out a white glove to check the countertops for dust invisible to the naked eye. Another haughty sniffle and he clasped his hands behind his back.
Finally turning his attention to her, he met her expectant gaze and held it for a few, irritating moments before speaking. "I require a caterer for my engagement party, and was shopping around, as it were, for a suitable establishment to take the job."
"Oh?" Hermione asked, making what she felt was an appropriately-girly gushing face. Walking up to the counter, she braced her elbows on it and leaned toward him. "And who is the unfortunate creature?"
"Well, now, you really haven't changed have you?" Despite his words, his tone was playfully chiding.
She nodded and crinkled the bridge of her nose. "Refreshing, isn't it?"
Arching a brow, he nodded. "Huh, you know, it actually is. Astoria Greengrass."
"Our old classmate Daphne's little sister? Poor dear. Did she lose a bet, or something?"
"Ouch," he said, though he couldn't help a chuckle in spite of himself. "I was wrong, you've gotten more vicious over the years."
"And I wish her loads of luck dealing with you. Well," she said with a sigh and gestured toward the tray of samples on the far right of the counter, "you're looking for a caterer, right? Help yourself to a test of my culinary skills."
Draco approached the silver tray, piled high with confections of varying color and texture. He plucked on that looked to be chocolate with some sort of fluffy, whipped topping. He couldn't help but notice Granger watching him like a hawk from the corner of his eye.
"You'd really want the job if we offered it to you?"
Hermione shrugged. "Work is work, Draco. I can be perfectly professional, if you can manage not to be a nightmare to someone you'd be paying to prepare your food."
"We'll see about that," he offered with a smirk. "Still a few more places I need to look into before we decide anything."
Leaning her hip against the counter, she once more folded her arms. Now, it was her turn to arch a brow as she watched him sink his teeth into the chocolate pastry puff.
"And it was delicious!" Draco spat the words with what might be fury.
Astoria offered a confused pout, while Lucius simply sniffed and snapped the copy of the Daily Prophet he was reading. "I daresay, Draco, it seems you have found the caterer for the event, I do not understand why you are acting as though she murdered your familiar."
"Oh, no, no. I didn't offer her the job, Father."
At this, Lucius lowered his newspaper. After sharing a quick, confused glance with his future daughter-in-law, they asked in unison, "Why not?"
Draco looked from one to the other, and back, before shaking his head. "Okay, first, I'm simply upset because it wasn't enough she bested me at school, now she even has to be good at something like this, too? Oh, wait. Did I say good? Because that's a drastic understatement. No. I could not possibly just go and hire her on the spot, not after the fuss I made, I'd look like a total arse."
Lucius merely stared at his son.
Astoria chewed on her bottom lip for a moment before deciding to point out the obvious. "Yes, because I'm certain she had a lovely opinion of you before this."
The way Lucius raised his paper just then seemed suspicious to Draco. He was rather sure his father was hiding a snicker at the witch's quip.
"I asked for references, and every person on the list absolutely raved about her services." Draco's shoulders slumped. He hadn't told Granger her culinary skill was extraordinary, no, that would sound far too much like flattery, even if it was the truth. It would've felt too much like she'd have gained a victory, somehow, had he admitted to that.
Letting out a sigh, he said, "Father, will you please go and hire her?"
Lucius folded down his paper and locked eyes with his son, one brow arched impossibly high on his forehead. "Why in the name of all that is magical should I?"
Draco pulled his gaze from his father's to dart his attention about the room as he answered. "Because I sort of . . . told her that since you're financing all the expenses for the event, that I would need to discuss our options with you, first."
Uttering an indelicate scoffing sound, Lucius shook his head. But then, he recalled the fiercely proud Muggle-born witch. The notion of her working such a . . . common job, with former servants, no less . . . .
Yes, that was something he had to see for himself. He also sincerely doubted her baked goods were as delicious as Draco's tirade just now would lead one to believe.
"Fine," the elder Malfoy said, with a second—albeit exasperated—shake of his head.
Hermione was preparing to close up the following evening when she heard the distinct whisper of the shop door opening and closing. But, the footfalls that entered the shop did not move from the floral-printed welcome mat.
Frowning at the way Winky blanched and disappeared into the back, the witch dusted off her hands and turned to face the late customer. "I'm so very sorry, but we're actually . . . ." The words died on her lips and her brow furrowed as she saw Lucius Malfoy standing there.
Oddly, he actually looked not a day older than she remembered . . . well, than she remembered from before the War and Voldemort's abuses had taken their toll on him. She could only guess he'd used the five years since to recuperate and find himself, again. Perhaps she should've expected this after Draco's visit yesterday, yet, somehow, the Malfoy patriarch setting foot in her shop was not something she could've ever imagined.
He merely arched a brow at her sudden silence.
Clearing her throat, she gave herself a sobering shake. "Mr. Malfoy, I'm terribly sorry, but as you can see, we're just closing up for the day. Is there something I can do for you?"
She thought she should've also expected the haughty sniffle—just like his son's yesterday—as he stepped toward the counter and started looking about.
"Draco has expressed an interest in hiring you to cater his engagement party," he said, his expression bored. There was a certain, strange charm to the streaks of flour on her cheeks. Perhaps it was the way it made her large brown eyes darker, somehow.
"I see." She fussed with a wayward lock of her wild hair that had tumbled out of the sloppy up-do she kept it in while she worked, before simply tucking it behind her ear. "That is good news, but I don't see why you couldn't have simply sent an—"
"I understand Draco explained to you that I would be financing the party, yes?"
Clearing her throat, once more, she couldn't help but avert her eyes for a fleeting second. His admonishing tone reminded her of exactly why she'd found him so terribly intimidating as a child. "Yes," she said, her voice steady, despite that she had to put effort into calming her suddenly stammering heart.
His brows drew upward ever so slightly and his tone softened, if only fractionally. "And, as such, it would be unwise to hire you without sampling your product for myself, would it not?"
Hermione forced a smile. She didn't really want to take a job from the Malfoys, customer is a customer be damned. They probably only wanted to hire her so they could pick apart her services and have fun at the expense of the proud Mudblood.
Well, if that was so . . . . She would simply have to take the job and be so unbelievably amazing at every turn that there would be nothing for them to pick apart.
She often took the leftover samples up to her flat with her for nibbles—and Crookshanks did so love the lemon custard pastries Winky made—and so she was in the habit of placing a quick stasis charm over the tray when the last customer had left for the day. The enchantment allowed her to take as much time as she needed to clean up and prepare for the morning without worry that any of the more delicate pieces might start to get a little stale.
"You are right, of course, Mr. Malfoy," she said, with as much cheerfulness as she could work into her voice. Retrieving the tray of samples, she tapped it with her wand, removing the charm.
Lucius peered doubtfully as the array of confections. Tapping his chin, he thought carefully before selecting something that looked like a madcap version of Linzer tart. It was a magnificent little monstrosity, topped with bits of fluffy cream and dabs of chocolate in a pattern so intricate, it almost seemed to have no pattern, at all.
Hermione had to put in serious effort not to prop her hands on her hips and impatiently tap her foot as she waited for him to taste it. Honestly, at this rate, she was surprised he hadn't give the bloody thing a test-sniff.
Another thing she was not expecting was the way Lucius Malfoy's face positively lit up as he finally put the sample in his mouth and started to chew. She would ignore the odd little quiver in her belly—she always got excited when a new customer loved her work, this was no different.
After a moment, Lucius schooled his features, and Hermione folded her lips inward so as not to giggle at how obvious his effort to do so was.
"Well, Miss Granger," he said, thinking he was not about to tell Draco that he'd not been exaggerating in the slightest. "I would say the job is yours, if you want it."
Hermione retreated to the kitchen of Malfoy Manor for what she hoped would be the last time. Bracing her back against the door, she caught her breath and wiped the back of her hand across her forehead.
The elves looked up at the sound—the little darlings had sensed the party was starting to wind down and so were already cleaning up. She adored her staff to pieces, they were so on top of everything!
"Sorry," she said with a sheepish laugh. "Just . . . I had no idea pure-bloods could pack away the pastries like that!"
Confident the guests would not hear their response, the elves snickered at their employer's quip. They might be free, but many of them still cowered at the thought of an unhappy pure-blood.
She was more than happy that they'd been so busy keeping everyone's taste buds appeased that she'd missed Narcissa Malfoy's cameo at the party to wish the happy couple well. The awkwardness that must've been there between Mr. Malfoy and his ex-wife had lingered, making the environment tense for a good half hour following her departure.
Soon enough, however, the atmosphere had settled, and everyone simply went back to enjoying themselves. And, shockingly enough, that included heaping compliments on Hermione about the food.
Mr. Malfoy found his way into the kitchens just as Hermione was putting on her coat. She'd been about to go out into the main hall of the grand house to find him, though, truthfully, she was sort of glad he'd come to find her, instead. Being in Malfoy Manor, even with all the life and pleasantries in it now, was a bit unsettling for her. She'd been able to ignore the sensation during the celebration, but now that the place was mostly empty . . . .
She wondered if a person could ever get used to something like that.
The smile on his face nearly caught her off-guard. She wasn't certain she'd ever actually seen the man smile, before.
"Mr. Malfoy, are you all right?"
His expression faltered, until he realized why she was asking. "That is an odd inquiry simply because someone is grinning."
She folded her lips inward to keep in a laugh at being so easily called out on her line of thinking.
"Your payment for services rendered."
Hermione held out her hand for the bag of Galleons he offered. But, as he set it on her palm and she weighed the bag, she started, "This seems like—"
"It includes a hefty gratuity for the excellence of your work, Miss Granger."
Her brows shot up and her jaw fell. Lucius could not resist a chuckle at the genuine shock in her expression.
Giving herself a shake, she simply nodded. "Well, then, thank you very much, Mr. Malfoy." There was a catty little thought in the back of her mind to open the bag and count it to ensure he'd not simply weighed it down with lead, but he'd been surprisingly not-terrible each time they'd spoken during the party. Not to mention counting one's pay right in front of one's employer—even a one-time-only employer—was in poor taste.
"I do hope I can count on your as a reference for future events."
He nodded, but then halted mid-motion. Tapping his chin thoughtfully, he said, "Speaking of future events, I may be planning to hold a Mayday celebration."
Lucius shrugged. "It was an old Malfoy tradition I thought might be nice to bring back. I thought designing themed fare, something in keeping with Spring . . . not that I have the faintest notion what that might be, but if you are interested—"
Hermione cut him off with a tiny gasp. "Oh, yes! That sounds amazing. I would—" She then cut herself off with a frown and a look of disappointment at herself. Honestly, how could she get so carried away like that? "I am so sorry, Mr. Malfoy. I simply love what I do, now, and I get a bit ahead of myself with it, sometimes."
"Do not apologize, Miss Granger," he said with a small smile. "It is a rare few who get to truly love what they do. Relish it."
He watched her leave with her staff, a smile on her face as she audibly discussed ideas for the Mayday fare with them. And . . . there went a curious little thump in the center of his chest.
Over the next several days, it seemed many times he could not get her smile out of his head. But each of those times, there went that curious little thump, once again.
The Mayday celebration was another rousing success for Hermione and her staff. The atmosphere, this time, was so boisterous, that each time Mr. Malfoy needed to discuss something with her, he had to draw her close and speak right into her ear.
She pretended not to notice that the sweep of his warm breath against her skin as he did so brought with it the winging of butterflies through her stomach. And, of course, she did not feel her heart skip a beat when she was forced to lean into him, pressing a hand to his chest for balance as she stood on her toes to answer in his ear.
"I'm stepping out, everyone. I'll be back in an hour," Hermione called over her shoulder, several weeks later.
As she stepped out the shop door, she nearly collided with someone as she faced forward. Strangely, she recognized the hands that gently gripped her shoulders, steadying her.
"Oh, Mr. Malfoy, I'm sorry I didn't see you, there."
"Clearly," he said with a smirk as he dropped his hands from her. "I came to speak to you about another event I'm planning."
"Oh?" Her brows arched upward ever so slightly—she'd not imagined him such a festive person, but here this was probably the fifth time he'd sought to hire her for some party or another.
"Are you going somewhere?"
"Oh, just a lunch break." She laughed at his confused look—she worked in a bakeshop, after all. "There's only so much of one's own cooking a woman can eat, Mr. Malfoy."
With a thoughtful expression, he said, "Well, then, would you mind if I joined you? I could fill you in on the details without taking time away from your day."
Hermione blinked a few times in rapid succession as she processed his request. "Oh, um, all right."
And so it was that she had lunch that day Lucius Malfoy. Moreover, she had quite a lovely conversation with him. So lovely, in fact, that before she knew it, her time was up.
Furrowing her brow, she said, "I can't believe it, but it's already time for me to return."
Lucius' brows shot up. "Oh, I am sorry. We did not even get to talk about the party."
"Well . . . ." Hermione shrugged lightly as she stood from the table. "I suppose then, you'll simply have to see me back to the bakeshop and explain along the way."
Scraping together a terribly put-upon expression, the wizard said with a heavy sigh, "Yes, well, I suppose there's nothing to be done for it."
Another event catered for Mr. Malfoy, another raging success among Wizarding Britain's uppercrust. Hermione'd had so many bookings recently—in part thanks to the events she catered for Mr. Malfoy, she was aware—that they'd had to plan around her now-busy schedule as to when he would have it. She'd been disappointed when he told her the original date, as she'd already had a baby shower to work that day.
But then, rather than dismissing the notion and choosing to hire another establishment, he offered to change the date of his soiree. Hermione ignored that this acquiescence made her happy.
Her staff had started on tidying up later than usual that particular night on account of how busy they were. She'd had her hands so full with being out on the floor among the guests—what with Mr. Malfoy insisting he introduce her to anyone she hadn't already met, so that they might give credit for the lovely fare where it was due—that she'd not even managed to get away until after the last guest had left.
Winky scooted past her, accidentally knocking Hermione on her bum. In a trail of flour that had spilt, and not been cleaned up, just yet.
Startled at the collision, the elf spun on her heel. "Oh, Miss 'Mione, I's—"
She was cut off by her employer tossing handful of flour at her. Her employer, who, in turn, ducked out of the way of a bonbon. Derner, one of the other elves who'd been bustling just behind the witch at the time, unceremoniously plucked the bonbon from his eye and lobbed it back across the kitchen.
Hermione found it blissful, just how free the elves could be when they were permitted to be themselves—when they were introduced to fun, and allowed to indulge in it. She wasn't as ignorant of their nature as she used to be, though. She understood they only really gave themselves over to the notion of fun because in a warped way, they viewed her as their Mistress, and they knew watching them be lighthearted would make her happy. But that thought process, that they were still serving someone, made them happy, and that she'd brought them happiness did make her quite pleased with the situation, even if she didn't find it ideal.
However, that was probably precisely how she ended up in a full-on food fight with her staff in the kitchens of Malfoy Manor.
Amid the laughing and playful name-calling as they ducked frosting and flour and baked goods, no one noticed the silver-haired wizard step into the room.
"Miss Granger, I—" Lucius Malfoy promptly fell silent as a thick helping of custard hit him square on the jaw.
"Oh, no!" Hermione clamped her hands over her mouth, her eyes wide as she stared in horror.
Immediately the elves muttered apologies and leapt to cleaning the mess they'd created.
Mr. Malfoy met the witch's gaze. Grey eyes narrowing, he folded his lips inward. Turning on his heel, he trooped right back out of the room, custard-faced, still.
"Oh, no," she said, again, her shoulders slumping as she hurried after him. "Mr. Malfoy?"
He hadn't gone far beyond the kitchen doors as she exited and caught up with him. "I am so sorry. I know that was horribly unprofessional—" When he continued walking through the room, she determinedly picked up her pace to get ahead of him. Rounding to place herself before him, she effectively forced him to halt.
Staring up at him, she started again. "I know it was horribly unprofessional, and it would never happen again, if . . . if you so choose to ever hire us, again, that is. We were simply letting off steam after a long night, and it got out of hand. I'm sorry."
Lucius rolled his eyes. It had actually been quite pleasant to see them letting off steam, as she called it, in such a ridiculous way—and her staff were elves, he trusted them to clean up after themselves.
What he'd not expected was to be traversing his own home with a face full of custard! He'd been so caught off-guard by the incident that it hadn't occurred to him to simply wipe it off.
Licking his lips impatiently—well, that was good—he let out a weary sigh. "Miss Granger—"
"Oh," she said, laughing in spite of the situation. "No, no, wait. Let me." She retrieved a cloth napkin from the pocket of her apron.
Shaking her head, she reached up, gently wiping custard from his jaw.
There was simply something in her smile as they stood there, in the dining hall of his home, her features softly illuminated by the moonlight through the too-large windows. Meeting her gaze as she gently swiped at his skin, he felt it again. That curious little thump that had become something of an old friend over these months.
Hermione sensed a change in how he was looking at her. Her smile faltered and her hand stilled, mid-motion.
He slid his hand around hers, holding it there for what seemed an eternity.
She knew he was giving her time to move, to pull away, if she wished. She only continued looking up at him, waiting to see what he would do, if she allowed it.
Cupping her jaw with the fingers of his free hand, he urged her up onto her toes and dipped his head.
The first brush of his lips over hers stole her breath. She leaned closer, deepening the kiss for a few, dizzying moments.
Pulling back, she opened her eyes and met his gaze.
At the strange little grin turning up the corners of her mouth, he gave an uneasy half-smile. "Was that all right?"
She couldn't help an airy giggle at the idea of this mature, formerly-Dark wizard sounding so uncertain of himself. Sounding so uncertain of himself, because of her, no less.
"It was actually quite nice," she said with a nod. "But you'd still had a bit of custard on your lip, so I suppose I should say it was sweet, too."
His brows inching upward, a thoughtful smile replaced the uneasy one. Glancing at the napkin in her hand—still clutched in his—he noted the smear of custard on it.
Hermione mirrored his expression as she watched him lift the napkin back toward his face. He dabbed a bit of custard across his bottom lip.
A bit breathless at the obvious invitation, she couldn't help a grin as she stood on her toes, closing the distance between them, once more.
FYI . . . I made myself want cookies SO bad while writing this XD