Title: Happily Ever After
Disclaimer: Draco and Hermione belong to JKR. Beatrice is all mine!
Dedication: To Inell, for her birthday.
Summary: Draco's favorite fairytale. Pure cotton candy fluff.
Draco put down his quill with a sigh. Merlin's beard, how he hated paperwork! If he had known that so much red tape and minutiae went into running the various Malfoy enterprises, he might have had more patience with his father's eternal grumpiness during his childhood.
Of course, any irritation he felt faded immediately when he looked over the top of his desk and saw the very top of a headful of very curly hair directly across from him. The chairs in his office were designed for full-grown adults, not tiny little five year olds, but Beatrice loved her daddy's office, and often sat in there with him reading a book, or coloring a picture, or sitting on his lap and pretending to help him with his ledgers while he worked at his desk, especially when her mummy was away from home at another charity committee meeting, like she was that night.
Beatrice was reading this time, he saw when he stood from his chair. The enormous book in her lap held her full attention, just as it had for most of the evening, and Draco couldn't help but smile when he saw her forehead furrow in concentration as she silently sounded out a word, then brighten with a pleased smile when she figured it out to her satisfaction. He had told her when she picked the book out of their library that it might be a little difficult for her, but she had promised that she was up to the challenge, and had proven as good as her word. It was plain for anyone to see that his little girl had inherited her mother's love of books. Hardly surprising, really. His wife had started reading out loud to her at every opportunity from the moment she found out that she was pregnant. Draco had half expected Beatrice to come out of the womb with a book in her hand.
"Alright, princess," Draco stated indulgently. "Put the book away for now; it's time for me to get you to bed."
"Five more minutes?" she begged, her eyes widening pleadingly as she looked up at him.
In spite of himself, Draco felt his resolve go all soft and squishy. So what if he had already given in to those pleas for "just five more minutes" six times already and had given himself a mental pep talk that he would not, most definitely would not give in this time? He wasn't exactly giving in, he rationalized to himself, he was merely… re-evaluating his opinion. A man had the right to change his mind every once in a while. Or… every seven times in a while. How could he say no to those eyes? They made her look so much like her mother, and in six years of marriage, he'd never been able to resist that look in his wife's eyes, either.
He gave a sigh of defeat and opened his mouth to say that yes, of course she could have five more minutes, (but only five more minutes, and no more, and he really meant it this time) when he looked away from her eyes and saw the hint of a smirk that she was struggling to repress blooming at the edge of her mouth.
With a playful growl, he pounced, scooping her up into his arms, easily restraining her with one arm while he tickled her with the other.
"Daddy, no!" she squealed, struggling against him as best she could through her giggles, but her tiny body was little match for her father's strength. The infamous Malfoy smirk she had tried to hide on her own face was blooming fully on his, and she knew he wouldn't let her go until she had been properly tickled.
"Thought you could pull one over on me, did you?" he questioned playfully, continuing the tickling until his daughter was breathless from laughter. "Been taking lessons from your Mummy on how to always get your way?"
The tickling stopped, but Beatrice kept giggling as she snuggled into her daddy's arms. "Mummy didn't tell me," she protested. "I figured it out all by myself! When Mummy wanted you to donate your old broomstick to the charity auction and you didn't want to, she made her eyes get big and her voice go soft and asked you if you wouldn't change your mind, and then you looked at her and told her she could have anything she wanted. I was paying attention," she informed him proudly. "Mummy says I'm ob-swerve-ant," she added with flourish, proud of herself for remembering the new word.
"And I say you're a true Malfoy, you tricky little witch," Draco replied fondly, rubbing noses with her. Beatrice giggled and nodded happily.
"And now," Draco added, shifting her weight so that she was resting on his hip, "it's time for bed." She widened her eyes again and opened her mouth to protest, but one look at Daddy told her that he wouldn't be convinced this time. Beatrice shrugged philosophically, her innate Slytherin sense telling her that the time had come to cut her losses, and rested her head on Draco's shoulder while he carried her up the stairs to her cozy bedroom.
She prattled on to him about her book while he helped her change into her nightgown, brush her teeth, use the toilet, and settle her in bed, but as soon as he tucked the covers around her, she grew silent immediately, smiling up at him expectantly. Draco knew what she was waiting for.
"What story would you like tonight, princess?"
"You pick," she insisted, smiling a bit to herself. She knew which story he would pick. It was the same one he always picked, unless she specifically asked for something else. It was Daddy's favorite story. Sure enough, moments later, the familiar story began.
"Once upon a time, there was a princess who lived in a castle, all alone," Draco began. Beatrice grinned and snuggled under the covers, ready to enjoy the story that she already knew by heart.
"There was lots to do in the castle: lots of books in the library that she liked to read, and lots of flowers in the garden that she liked to grow, and lots of horses in the stables that she liked to ride—"
"Because she didn't like riding broomsticks," Beatrice interjected.
"That's right," Draco replied with a grin. "The princess definitely didn't like riding broomsticks. But even with all her books and flowers and horses, she still got lonely, all by herself. She tried to talk to her books and flowers and horses, but they never quite responded the way that a real friend would. At the end of each day, she'd climb up to the tallest tower in the castle, and look out over the countryside, wishing someone would come to her and be her friend, but no one ever did."
"Until the day the dragon came," Beatrice prompted when he paused.
"That's right, until the dragon came. The dragon arrived one afternoon, just as the princess was sitting down to tea. At first, she was excited when she heard the noise, thinking it might be a guest come to pay her a visit, and she ran outside quickly. But when she saw the dragon, she ran even faster back in.
Although the princess was very brave, she was also very scared of dragons. Everyone was. Not long before, there had been a Very Bad dragon who tried to burn down the whole world. Some dragons are good and some dragons are bad, and most dragons are in between, but after they got rid of the Very Bad dragon, everyone decided that all dragons were scary, and couldn't be trusted.
So the princess ran up to the highest tower and stayed there all day, watching the dragon closely, not daring to go outside. When it grew dark out, the dragon flew away, and the princess breathed a sigh of relief, thinking he was gone for good. But the next morning when she went outside to her garden after breakfast, the dragon came again.
Again, the princess ran inside, and again, the dragon made himself comfortable in front of the castle and stayed for the rest of the day. He didn't move until it grew dark outside, and then flew away, only to return again the next morning.
At first, the princess was all-over scared. But after a few days, she was only mostly scared with a little bit of angry mixed in. As the days passed, the 'scared' got less and less while the 'angry' got more and more. What right did that dragon have to come and ruin her routine? With that silly dragon outside, she was afraid to visit her horses or spend time in her garden except for at night, and even when she stayed inside, she couldn't concentrate on her books when she remembered him out there. The princess tried to tell herself that dragons were dangerous and that she should be scared and not angry, but it got harder and harder every day. She just couldn't be scared of a dragon that simply sat there each day, and it was so easy to be angry that she couldn't do what she wanted to do.
After a week or so, the 'angry' got so much bigger than the 'scared' that she was actually brave enough to dart out into the garden in the afternoon, just for a few minutes at a time, to check on her flowers. When the dragon showed no reaction, she stayed outside longer. Still no reaction. Tentatively, she visited the stables to see to her horses. When the dragon showed no reaction to that, all the scared went away and took the anger with it as she finally relaxed enough to resume her regular habits. She read her books, and grew her flowers, rode her horses just as she had before the dragon ever arrived. Only now, instead of just talking to them, she talked to the dragon, as well. He didn't speak, but he would nod or shake his head in reply to what she said to him, and she knew that he understood. After awhile, she almost came to like having the dragon there. It was nice to not be quite alone anymore.
But no sooner had the princess gotten used to the dragon then the knights arrived. There were two of them: one was tall and the other was short, one was dark and the other was red, and one was loud while the other was quiet, but mostly they were the same. They were brave knights, known for their abilities fighting dragons, and they had come to rescue the princess.
The princess was surprised to see them, of course, but she made them welcome just the same. She had not asked for anyone to come and get rid of the dragon, but it was still a friendly gesture on their part, she supposed, and it was pleasant to have company… or so she thought.
The knights arrived just in time for supper, and after they dined, she showed them around the castle and the grounds. She showed them all of her favorite things, leading them through her garden, and showing them the stables, and guiding them into the castle to the library, hoping that she could make them happy by sharing with them all the things that she liked so much. Their reactions were not what she expected.
'Your books are boring,' the tall knight said. 'You shouldn't read them anymore, or they'll make you boring, too.'
The princess opened her mouth to say that her books weren't boring at all, but she was cut off by the short knight.
'And you shouldn't ride horses,' he added. 'It isn't safe to have animals like that around a dragon. You'd be much better off with a nice broomstick. Broomsticks are better than horses, anyway.'
The princess tried to correct him, telling him that the dragon hadn't hurt her horses at all the entire time since he had arrived, but the knights refused to listen. Hoping to convince them, she told them that she herself had spent most of her afternoons in the garden growing her flowers, and the dragon hadn't bothered her, either. The knights started paying attention when she said that, but their response was not what she was hoping for.
'Out of the question!' they both insisted. 'You can't go and spend time in the garden when there's a dragon around. You'll have to give up your garden altogether.'
'But if I can't read my books or grow my flowers to ride my horses, then what am I supposed to do with my time?' the princess argued.
'You'll be our friend,' said the short knight. 'And you can play chess with us and watch us fly on our broomsticks and admire us when we go off to fight dragons.'
The princess was too confused to argue, so she told the knights that she was tired, and left them to go to her room. Once she got in bed, though, she realized she couldn't sleep, and she lay there awake, trying to sort through the thoughts running wild in her mind. The knights were nice, she supposed. They seemed to like her and certainly wanted to spend time with her. For years she had been wishing and hoping for someone to come along and be her friend, and now she had two someones. She should feel happy, she told herself. But the happiness just wouldn't come. Neither would sleep. Instead, the princess tossed and turned all night long. When the sun started to rise, she gave up on sleeping and got dressed, going outside to sneak in some time with her flowers before the knights woke up. She was in the garden when the dragon arrived.
'Two knights have come,' she informed him as she watered her plants. 'They say they're here to rescue me. They want to be my friends.' The dragon nodded his understanding. 'I thought I'd want to be their friends, too, but now I'm not sure.' The dragon cocked his head to the side in the questioning manner, waiting for her to explain. 'They say they want to spend time with me,' the princess explained, 'but they only want to spend time with me if I do what they want to do. They want me to give up all the things that I like just to be friends with them.'
As the princess stood there, trying to figure out what she should do, she was startled to hear a voice. For the very first time, the dragon spoke.
'Is that what you want?' he asked. 'Do you want to give up everything you like so they'll like you?'
At first, the princess was too surprised to speak, but soon the surprise passed, and she was able to answer the question. 'I don't want to give up anything,' she said, 'but maybe that's what it means to be a friend.'
The dragon shook his head. 'If they were really your friends, they wouldn't ask you to give things up. They'd only want to spend time with you, just as you are.'
'But if I say no to them, then they might leave, and then I'd be without friends again.'
'You wouldn't have to be,' the dragon replied softly. 'I could be your friend.'
The princess' eyes widened as she realized what the dragon was saying. He wanted to be her friend. In fact, she realized with a start, the dragon had been acting like her friend all along. He had listened to her when she talked, and watched over her while she worked, and come to the castle every single day, just to be with her.
'Do you want me to give anything up?' she asked softly.
The dragon shook his head.
'Do you want me to change the way that I am?' she asked next.
'I like you the way that you are,' the dragon replied.
'Do you want anything from me?'
'Just to be your friend,' he answered.
The princess smiled at him brightly and opened her mouth to reply, when she was cut off by the knights storming out into the garden from the castle.
'Get away from him, princess!' the tall knight shouted. 'He's dangerous and you're not safe out here.'
'Go back inside,' the short knight commanded. 'We'll protect you.'
Instead of running obediently into the castle the way that they expected, the princess stepped forward until she was standing in between the knights and the dragon, and turned to face the knights.
'No,' she said firmly, without a trace of the confused hesitance she had shown the night before. 'I won't go inside and I won't let you hurt him.'
'He's a dragon!' the short knight insisted. 'He's dangerous!'
'He's not dangerous,' the princess insisted. 'He's my friend.'
'But…' the tall knight stammered, 'that's all wrong.'
'We're supposed to be your friends,' the short knight explained, talking slowly as if he was speaking to a very small, very stupid child. 'You're a princess in a castle menaced by a terrifying dragon, and we're knights who have come to rescue you. We're supposed to save you from the dragon. It's what we do.'
'But I don't need to be saved,' the princess informed him, crossing her arms over her chest. 'Not every dragon is bad. Not every knight is right. And not every princess wants to be rescued. This princess chooses the dragon.'
The knights tried to argue with her, but she refused to be persuaded. She told them they could still be her friends if they wanted, but that they would have to accept her just as she was, dragon and all. The knights put in an honest effort, but they just couldn't manage being friends with a dragon. Before long, they left in search of a damsel in distress who actually wanted to be saved. The princess and the dragon weren't very sorry to see them go. With those silly knights out of the way, they had more time to spend together, doing all the things that they liked, and becoming the very best and closest of friends."
"And they lived happily ever after?" a sleepy voice added when Draco's voice trailed off. Draco smiled softly down at his daughter who seemed to be on the very verge of sleep.
"They lived very happily ever after. The princess made the dragon happier than any dragon has ever been before, and he made her very happy in return. Good night, princess." Draco placed a soft kiss on Beatrice's forehead. "Sweet dreams."
"Love you, Daddy," she yawned as he dimmed the lights and headed for the door.
"Love you, too, princess," he replied blowing her one last kiss before slipping out the door and shutting it softly behind him.
"And how about this princess?" a teasing voice whispered in his ear as familiar arms twined around his waist from behind. "Do you love her, too?"
With a broad grin, Draco turned in the loose embrace so he could wrap his arms around his wife. "I'll always love my princess," he whispered, kissing her softly.
"Mmm, and I'll always love my dragon," she replied, nestling into his arms and resting her cheek against his chest so he could rest his chin on top of her head. "Even if the story is complete nonsense."
"Not complete nonsense," Draco huffed, pretending to be offended while he played with her soft hair. "It's mostly true."
Hermione snorted. "How I wish you simply showed up where I was every day and sat there in silence," she retorted.
"I was quiet some of the time," he protested.
"You were quiet when I shut the office door in your face," she answered. "The rest of the time, you were busy following me through the hallways, coming up with ridiculous excuses as to why you just happened to be wandering around my department of the Ministry, and pestering me to go to dinner with you."
"A Malfoy never discusses his methods," he informed her loftily. "Only the results matter. It worked, didn't it? All I had to do was make a slight nuisance of myself and waste a couple of months hanging around the Ministry for no good reason, and out of it I got a wife I adore and an absolutely beautiful daughter. Fair trade, I say."
"So if Beatrice and I balance it out, then I suppose having a son would put you on the surplus side of the equation?" Hermione asked, tracing random patterns on the front of his shirt.
Draco chuckled. "I guess it would, at that," he replied. "If we…" his voice trailed off as Hermione leaned backwards and grinned at him, blushing slightly.
"You mean… we did?" Draco asked if a voice that choked slightly. "I mean, you… we… we're going to have a… oh sweetheart, are you sure?"
"Positive," she answered, giggling a little at the look on his face. "Beatrice will be getting a little brother just in time for Christmas."
Draco didn't wait for any more confirmation, scooping his wife up into his arms and covering her face with kisses.
"Happy, my dragon?" Hermione teased when he let her feet hit the ground again.
"Always, my princess," he answered, giving her another tender kiss, slipping his hand in between them to gently caress her stomach. "Happily ever after."