Hello hello hello - so this started as a drabble and ended up taking on a bit of a life of its own! The story is based on Jane Austen's 'Emma', but I'm hoping that it can be followed even if you're not familiar with that (do let me know if not.)
It takes place in a Harry Potter AU that isn't toooo far removed from canon, the main difference being that in order to introduce Tom Riddle Jr as a non-antagonistic character, I have made Grindelwald the aggressor of the Wizarding Wars.
This won't be a very long story (probably 4-5 chapters, 10k words in total), but hopefully it will be rather fun! Thank you to Aurorarsinistra for whom the initial drabble idea (a Frank Churchill/Jane Fairfax) was intended as a birthday gift. HAPPY BIRTHDAY have a ficlet instead.
Disclaimer: The world and characters of Harry Potter belong to J K Rowling. This is a work of transformative fiction written for no profit.
.~*The Perfect Match*~.
Chapter One: The Devil makes work for idle hands
Draco Malfoy, handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable manor house and a refined disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the Wizarding World with very little to distress or vex him.
Well. Not entirely true. He was frequently beset by Theo's endless ridiculousness, Potter's complete refusal to simply GO AWAY and the absolute disaster that was his apparent friendship with Hermione Granger, but really, his was a charmed life.
(There was also the small and now largely irrelevant matter of his family's implication in numerous of Grindelwald's more heinous crimes during the Wizarding Wars, but really, Draco was willing to put that behind him if the Ministry was, and look, here's a very generous donation to St Mungo's, so really the whole unsavoury business is hardly worth mentioning.)
In the wake of the Wizarding Wars Hermione Granger, eminently sensible witch that she was, had taken the generous settlement doled out to her by the Ministry (in exchange for not suing them for their complicity in Grindelwald's persecution of Muggleborns) and invested in a picturesque estate on the outskirts of Salisbury, which just happened to abut the lands that Draco had recently inherited from his father.
Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger had not had the smoothest path to friendship - indeed, their differing circumstances had found them on opposite sides of the War (but please, no more of that, have you not heard about the Malfoy scholarship for war orphans?) - however there are some things you can't share without becoming friends, and it turns out that volunteering to rebuild the library at Hogwarts following the frenzied destruction of half the school by Grindelwald's followers is one of them.
Now, with her living just over the crest of the hill, it was not at all uncommon for Draco to answer the door of an evening and find himself face to face with a great cloud of windblown hair, often with some terrible, lumpen attempt at a hat crammed on top, and peeking out from beneath would be Hermione Granger's irritatingly pink-cheeked features, arranged in an expression that was eager and hopeful and just begging for tea. And if Draco pouted and growled and feigned indignation at the frequency of these house calls, then it was fair to say that his heart wasn't really in it.
One could in fact argue (though Draco would be absolutely incensed were you to do so in his hearing) that he rather welcomed Hermione's tendency to drop in without prior notice, especially in the wake of Theo Nott making the rather sudden (or so Theo thought) announcement, having lived with Draco at Malfoy Manor since they graduated from Hogwarts four years previously, that he was in love with Harry Potter and would be moving in with him forthwith.
Theo: [striding dramatically into the breakfast room] "Draco, I have something I have to tell you."
Draco: [without bothering to lower that morning's edition of The Daily Prophet] "Probably best to get it off your chest then."
Theo: "I know that it will shock you to your core -" [Draco folds down the top third of his paper to frown over it at Theo] "- but for some months now I have been having a passionate affair with Harry Potter."
Draco: [weakly] "Oh...you have?"
In fact, having harboured a longtime fraternal affection for Theo, Draco had, once he noted the obvious attraction between his best friend and the loathsome, odious, but nevertheless hopelessly charming hero of the Wizarding War, spent a large portion of his energies in Not Entirely Opposing the Match.
Needless to say, when Theo made his grand revelation Draco had felt more than a little pleased with himself. That it left him to mope around his Manor alone (his mother having elected to spend most of her time at their house in the South of France) was simply an unfortunate side-effect of his own prowess as a matchmaker.
Anyway, one evening in late November, when Draco had just admitted a rather more bedraggled than usual Hermione to the Manor and watched her tramp snowy footprints across the recently polished marble floor, the conversation turned sharply upon the recent happiness of their mutual friends.
"It was surprisingly nice of you not to fuck it up for them," Hermione mused, as she cast a perfunctory drying charm over her hair.
Draco wrinkled his nose, considering whether or not to mention the mess in the hallway, and finally decided against it. "Much as I despise Potter, he seems to have somehow stumbled upon the trick of making Theo disgustingly happy." Draco examined his fingernails, and then sighed, "And I find I can't really oppose that."
"Darling Draco bears everything so well." Narcissa Malfoy stepped noiselessly into the room, prompting both Draco and Hermione to jump about a foot in the air, "But, Miss Granger, he is really very sorry to lose dear Theodore, and I am sure that he will miss him more than he thinks."
"Mother–" Draco tried not to betray his level of consternation at her unannounced entrance "–must you do that?"
"Do what, dear?" Narcissa frowned slightly at her reflection in one of the large mirrors that graced the walls of the parlour, and flicked one platinum curl so that it hung more satisfactorily.
"Just...pitch up like this." Draco waved his hand vaguely in the air. "What if I had been, you know, entertaining?"
Narcissa glanced between him and Hermione. "But you are entertaining, and I hardly think that Miss Granger minds –"
"Granger doesn't count," Draco sniffed, ignoring Hermione's scowl.
"Well," Narcissa said doubtfully, "that doesn't seem very polite, Draco -" Draco grimaced as Hermione threw him a triumphant grin "- but in any case, I apologise for dropping by with no prior notice. I just wanted to see how you were getting along, now that Theodore is no longer here."
"We were just talking about how wonderful it is for the pair of them," Hermione piped up. "It must be so nice for Theo to be living with –"
"Someone who doesn't mope about glowering at everyone all the time?" Draco supplied helpfully.
"Oh dear, do I glare at people?" Narcissa said, seeming rather upset. "I honestly don't mean to, we were raised to project an air of froideur and it's really terribly difficult to –"
"Mother, you cannot possibly think I meant you," Draco said. "Granger here enjoys a joke at my expense; I merely thought it would be expedient for me to make it before she could. After all, we always say exactly what we like to one another."
It had in fact taken one episode of screaming obscenities at one another over the top of a rare edition of Magickal Beastes of the Atlantean Grasslandes –
Hermione: "MALFOY ARE YOU A FUCKING IDIOT? ATLANTIS IS CLEARLY A HISTORICAL -"
Draco: "OH I'M SORRY, GRANGER, BUT I SEEM TO REMEMBER HIPPOGRIFFS STILL BEING ON THE SYLLABUS FOR CARE OF MAGICAL CREATURES, AND ALSO, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOUR HAIR -"
– for them to realise that they got along much better if they simply gave voice to their frustrations with each other.
Draco, for his part, was inclined to think that Hermione took rather a great deal of liberty with this particular arrangement, since she was one of the few people who seemed able to find fault with him (he was after all a trustee of the Foundation for Werewolf Rights), and she never hesitated to tell him so. Without even having the decency to modulate any criticism with a thick layer of sarcasm like Theo usually did. However, as disagreeable as he found this, Draco knew that Narcissa would find it doubly so: it would hurt her terribly to think that her precious only son was not thought perfect by everybody (did you know he was on the Council of Human-Merpeople Relations?)
"Draco knows that I would never flatter him," Hermione was saying, still wearing that unbearably earnest, winning smile that inexplicably seemed to make people like her. "I only meant that it must be so lovely for Theo to be living with Harry and not having to keep the relationship a secret anymore."
There was a pause while both Draco and Narcissa stared blankly at her. "A secret?" Narcissa echoed.
"Granger," Draco said patiently. "You are aware that I basically engineered the whole thing, aren't you? I have to say," he continued airily, "I'm really rather thrilled by my success in the matter."
Hermione gave an unattractive snort, reminding Draco of just how easy it was to be absolutely nothing more than friends with her. "Well, while they might be the only ones who thought the relationship was anything close to clandestine, calling it a 'success' supposes some endeavour on your part, Malfoy, whereas it seems to me that all you did was manage to avoid completely ruining it for them."
"I -" Draco spluttered, "You - how dare -"
"Quite." Hermione turned on her heel and started up the stairs. "Tea?"
"That's totally unfair," Draco said, following her up to the solarium. "Maybe I can't take all the credit, but I let you bring Potter over here with you, and I refrained from calling him a useless wanker in front of Theo."
Hermione said nothing, merely raising one, highly sceptical eyebrow.
"Alright, fine," Draco glanced over his shoulder to check that his mother hadn't followed them up for tea. "I might have called him a useless wanker a couple of times, but I wanted to call him an insufferable cunt, so I think it showed admirable restraint on my part."
"Genuine self-sacrifice." Hermione lifted the lid of the teapot to sniff at its contents. "Lapsang souchong, dear god your elves are good, I hope you're paying the-"
"Trained in France," Narcissa appeared on the other side of the room, causing both Draco and Hermione to jump, again.
"Mother please," Draco sighed.
"Sorry darling," Narcissa said, before turning to address Hermione, who was attempting to clear up the tea she had spilled. "You know, Draco almost never thinks of himself if he can be doing good to others. I am just so very sad -" this accompanied by a mournful expression "- that by facilitating such a perfect match he has left himself without his dearest companion."
See, Draco mouthed at Hermione, but she only rolled her eyes. "Very well, Mother," he said aloud. "But given that I am now quite bereft of Theo 's highly diverting company to drive me to distraction on an hourly basis, I need a hobby of some sort, and it would appear that I have a knack for matchmaking."
Narcissa pursed her lips but sipped her tea without argument. It was left to Hermione, glancing uneasily between the two Malfoys, to ask the question. "Which poor unfortunates do you have in mind?"
Draco smiled as he settled his cup back on its saucer. "You know how Pansy and I have always been terribly close?"
Hermione gaped up at him, her tea forgotten. "You cannot be fu-"
"Pansy is a ... unique young witch, and I have a great - ah - affection for her." Narcissa swirled the contents of her cup, obviously choosing her words carefully. "However, if you want to help her out why don't you ask her for dinner, Draco darling. Much nicer than foisting her on some unsuspecting young wizard. I'm sure she'd appreciate it, and Miss Granger can join us too."
"Oh I'd be thrilled to," Hermione said, with a significant glare at Draco. "And I agree, much better just to have her over for dinner, rather than making yourself an accomplice as she chooses her next vict-" she coughed, her eyes flicking towards Narcissa. "Her next suitor. I would imagine Pansy Parkinson can take care of herself in that regard."
"Dinner it is," Draco smiled. "I'll owl her directly."
A/N: Look out for an update early next week, and do let me know what you think!