"He was not at all an unpleasant person really, but clever, quick, proud, passionate, and ambitious. He was one of those people who would be neither a follower nor a leader, but only an aspiring heart, impatient in the failing body which imprisoned it." – concerning Kay in T.H. White's "The Once and Future King"
Christmas Day, 1986
Draco's gifts remained unwrapped, ignored, disdained. The abundance should have been overwhelming, but the lack of his heart's true wish left little to be excited about.
He refused to even touch them, because he concluded that if none of them were living, breathing entities, he had no use for them.
So he sat in a petulant vigil, with his arms crossed resolutely and a pout on his mouth. His large, grey, child eyes were bright with an impatient tantrum waiting to be thrown.
Then, the subtle turning of the knob and the swinging creak of his bedroom door turned his querulousness into inquisitiveness and he slowly crawled to the foot of his bed. He meant to cautiously, gradually peek over his gifts, but a whimper caused him to duck.
But a whimper…
Shifting to his knees, he used the bedpost for support and a covert, although realistically it offered little concealment. There upon his bedroom floor was a long-haired Weimaraner puppy, sniffing its surroundings charily.
Draco sprung from his spot, landing spryly a few feet from the puppy, and with youthful eagerness, picked it up from the stomach and brought it up to face level.
A humongous, ecstatic grin broke across Draco's face as the pup pressed its cold nose to Draco's pointy one.
Christmas Day, 2005
Draco had not stopped touching her. It would seem that once he began, he found he could not. Or would not. Either or, but really, it was simply the fact he did not want to. The feel of her against his bones was comforting and he was not emotionally prepared to break the connection of reassuring humanity anytime in the near future.
What began as a desperate clutching of a profound kaleidoscope of emotions (affection anger, attraction, fear, sorrow and regret) ended in a subtle clasping of sweaty palms designed to correspond accordingly. It was a funny thing, that. The way her small hand fit against his. Her fingers were slender and graceful; it was easy for his long artistic digits to curl around them. So perfectly made that he swore he could feel every line and whirl that her creator printed upon her palm. It was an amazing concept and he barely could fathom it. How did he, Draco Malfoy, a being of all things unholy and terrible --a Death Eater-- come to share a bed with his antithesis?
The fire popped and crackled in the hearth, tamed to nearly embers, and underneath the thick quilts of her bed the temperature was nearly sweltering. Tendrils of Hermione's hair stuck to her flushed cheeks, her mouth was parted and her soft breathing was deep and cadenced. Draco watched her face, as it was tilted towards his, and thought that with little effort, he could drop his head and fuse his mouth on hers. To taste the peach again, to become intoxicated in its nectar. He nearly did, but he feared waking her. She had to be weary from the unintended expelling of her magic. With such a wild and powerful combustion, it certainly would have to take a toll on her corporeally. He could only guess, for he couldn't remember the last time his magic slipped from his control.
Gods, she was pretty.
In a really tragic way, like a care-worn doll. Only beautiful in moments of uninhibited adoration and affection. Broken, bruised, beat around, but loved. Loved to the point that no amount of mending would make her perfect again, but adored more for each memory represented by each stitch. To be never forgotten and always wanted. A rag doll that was needed more than air. To chase away the big bads, to hug when sad or ill, to reassure in times of cowardice.
Hermione Granger deserved to be loved that way. She deserved to be needed, wanted; unconditionally, undeviatingly.
A good love. That never doubted, never strayed, and never hurt.
When her lashes fluttered from blinking eyes, glorious topaz pools that shock the system, Draco returned her endearing smile.
He decided he had something else to be good for, someone else to make proud. He realized that she had always believed in him, had always seen the good and that without her warm hands to melt and guide his cold heart, he would have never Felt again.
He would have remained locked in a dark forever watching life pass him by, never really living it.
"Hi," he whispered.
"Hi," she breathed.
When he lowered his mouth to hers, it was not with a passion of a thousand suns, but with the pied promise that he would try.
To be a good wizard that would love her. After all, he was better with her than without.
Christmas Day, 2003
Hushed, urgent voices resonated from the foyer of the Malfoy Manor. The demanding brogue of Draco's mother and the nasal, bored drawl of Severus Snape.
"… you vowed, Severus. I see no reason why you cannot secure this for me. I have given you everything you should need. Have you spoken with the girl? Did she decline?"
"I assure you that I have and she is very hesitant." Snape said lazily.
From Draco's vantage point, he was able to eavesdrop without being noticed and with a side step into the shadows, was able to see only Snape and that he held a black case in his hands with his mother's family crest locking it.
There was a shuffle of Narcissa's robes and suddenly she had rounded on Snape, and began to feign interest in the festive holiday vase on the sideboard. "I do recall you claiming that she had a soft spot for him."
"It is only speculation due to my observation. However, you must admit that he has always been unkind to her. I daresay she is well within her wits to be suspicious." Snape turned to face Narcissa's back.
"Hmm, yes, I suppose she wouldn't be very clever if she wasn't suspicious. It's imperative that she assist us, Severus, you must realize that." When Narcissa pivoted to Snape, there was a needful persistence weakening her beautiful features. His mother was painfully, obviously, very determined about whatever was in the black box.
"I do, Cissa. I do."
"Draco?" Lucius voice boomed from the deep cavernous hallway.
As Draco turned to greet his father, he saw his mother flinch and Snape whisper a charm to shrink the box before he hurriedly pocketed it.
"Ah, Father! I was on my way to fetch you for Mother. Severus Snape has arrived to join us for breakfast." Draco smiled and decided in that instant to forget what he overheard and saw.
He would not damn his mother for her secrets.
Christmas Day, 2005
As dawn bloomed in a spectacle of pinks, purples and greens, Draco awoke again. His palm was still clasped with Hermione's and they were still wrapped in their sweltry cocoon. However, Draco felt refreshed, brand new.
Leaving a soft kiss on Hermione's nose, he released her hand and extricated himself from her embrace. He yawned and stretched his arms above his head, curling his wrists outward and pointing his toes; relishing the feel of his lethargic muscles as they loosened and moved over his bones.
When he unfolded himself from the bed, the cold chill of the shack bit at his flesh in a shocking contrast to the warmth of his haven with Hermione. Thankfully, he still donned his long underwear and he hurried to the fireplace to throw a few rounds onto the hearth. All the while a familiar hum dancing in his throat.
He returned to the bed and retrieved his sock from the covers. Quietly of course, as not to wake Hermione. His other sock was rogue and he took a peak under the bed. It had found residence under a black box. However, when Draco snatched it up, he saw the familiar crest of the Black family. Silver and bright, reflecting the morning sun. Gingerly, he pulled it from its spot and marveled at it.
He set it on the harvest table without opening it and prepared himself a cup of tea. As it steeped, he simply stared at the box. Afraid of what it contained. Curious too.
Finally, after fifteen minutes of indecision, he sat before it at the table and set his tea cup beside it.
It was the epitome of Pandora's Box. Once opened it would release old spirits. Some would be dark, some would be light. All would change everything.
It wasn't locked and clicked and groaned with age.
He found the deed for the Dell and learned that it used to belong to his mother. The money in the vault was from her share of her inheritance from Grandfather Cygnus. An inheritance, Draco guessed; his mother never indulged to Lucius. It was all there in ink and vellum. A conspiracy to save Draco's life.
Because although he knew that Narcissa loved him more than anything other on the planet, he was never aware of the lengths she went through to secure him salvation. And through his grief he knew pride. An overwhelming sense of achievement. For his mother had known him better than he had and in her intuition was able to provide him with everything he needed to sustain on his own. She had even betrayed her own husband and begged assistance from Severus Snape and the lovely woman asleep in the bed across from Draco.
He felt ambitious and suddenly knew what he had to do.
Crossing to his trunk he removed the trousers and jumper he had arrived in.
He sighed. It was almost over. He could die. But at least he would know he did what was right. He would avenge his mother. But the right way. With no blood on his hands.
He was folding the long underwear when he heard Hermione stir.
"Morning." He smiled at her.
She rose from the bed and crossed to him slowly. Concern puckered her brow, but then she spied the black box and as she hugged herself she bit her lip and comprehension softened her visage. "I see you found your box."
"Yes, thank you for keeping it." He tapped it. "Could you keep it a bit longer?"
There was a long pause where he couldn't look at her, but then he turned to her. "I have to go now," he said softly.
Her lips pressed into a sad smile and her large brown eyes began to glister with tears. "I know." She reached out her hand and without hesitation, he clasped it in between both of his palms. Using his fingers he caressed the softness, keen to make his whorls never forget how she felt. "What will you do?"
He smirked good-naturedly and quirked an eyebrow, "Oh you know, Floo Voldemort and say: 'Sorry Mate, I've decided to join the Light. So long and thanks for all the Cruciatus'.'"
She let a breathy, short laugh and dropped her chin, averting her eyes. "Don't joke."
His mirth faded into earnestness, "I have to go be good."
"Yes. I reckon it is that time." She was watching his thumbs make circles on the inside of her wrist and Draco guessed it was because she was hiding her reluctance. It was nice to know she didn't want to let him go, even though she knew she needed to.
He cradled her hand in his and brought her palm to his lips, and as he pressed them into it, her eyes met his and her sorrowful saline escaped past her lashes down the lovely curve of her cheek. "I will come back."
She nodded dully. "I know." Because she knew everything.
"Then I'm going to build a castle."
She curled her fingers into Draco's. "For me?"
She smiled widely then. A shiny full expanse of humor bright as a supernova, and a giggle to tremble on her bottom lip.
"There it is, that elusive happy grin." He whispered tenderly and took it and folded it neatly into his heart's pocket. To keep forever because it belonged to no one but him.
He wanted to pull her into himself and embrace her, to soak her up into his soul until she was imprinted upon him for all of eternity, but that was a goodbye and he couldn't bear to say it. It was too final. Too permanent. So he kissed her chastely and released her hand and moved to pull his cloak around his shoulders.
She watched him tacitly as he arranged it properly and once he checked for his wand and pulled on his gloves, he found her gaze again and gave her an affectionate smirk. "I'll be seeing you, Hermione."
"Not soon enough, Draco," she whispered and lifted her hand in a feeble farewell.
As he strolled lazily down the lane, he forced his face forward, embracing the painful cries of his morose heart until he reached the point where the shack would begin to disappear in the horizon. Turning slowly, he knew she was watching from the window. He didn't wave, didn't move. But somehow he promised, one last time, that it was all going to be Good again.
Christmas Day, 2007
The maul crashed through the log in a crescendo, the splits falling into the snow with dull, simultaneous thuds. He bent and retrieved the wood and put it into the stack. He took a deep breath as he stood to survey his achievements: a tall wall of perfectly cut rounds, waiting to be burned.
An adult Weimaraner, called Huskerdoo (a derivation from Buster Deux), sat beside him and gave a soft snort. He patted him and grabbed a few rounds as he made his way back to the shack. Which was quickly transforming into a quaint cottage.
As he entered it, the warmth of the fireplace greeted him along with the sweet aroma of brandied ham and Yorkshire pudding. In his favorite corner, a large blue spruce sparkled and danced with fairy lights and iridescent ornaments and seemed to be supported by an array of colorful packages.
He dropped the rounds into the basket and removed his gloves, coat and boots before he entered the newly enlarged and enclosed kitchen.
A happy grin spread his face as a sweet voice clinkered from the pretty woman at the stove. A new lullaby, one he had written for the miracle cradled in her womb.
"Finished already, darling?" She turned her cheek up to accept his kiss. "I do hope this ham is fully cooked by the time Harry and Ron arrive. I'd hate to have to keep them waiting for their dinner."
He watched her quietly as she rambled, only listening half-heartedly, but fully enjoying the way her ring blinged with each turn of the spoon.
Gods he loved this woman. She gave him so much life. So much to live for. All was well. All was good. He knew peace.
It was a long hard road to get here. To share this quiet, magical moment. He had been disowned by his Father, who now resided in Azkaban, awaiting the Kiss. He had been severely injured and nearly died in the last battle at Hogwarts, and still had a stiff knee that only seemed to pain on rainy days. But it had been worth it. He was awarded with a Merlin First Class and was now considered a war hero. So he could walk the streets of Diagon Alley without shame staining his character. He knew, though, that his acceptance was only because of her, and would be forever grateful.
And although there were moments when he'd lose his head and lose sight of himself. She was always there to let him wrap himself into, to invade until the big bads and beasties returned to their lairs. Funny how she slayed his dragons and rescued him. How she became his savior. How she kept his heart warm and beating.
"--aco, get that dog out of here! Look at this mess! He has completely ruined my floors with his muddy paws! How many times must I ask you to—"
And Draco kissed Hermione quite thoroughly because he had learned that it was the only way to stop her nagging, besides it was what the Byronic Hero always did to his protesting Heroine who was sensationally out of his league.
"…a house to shelter you, a horse to bare you, a bag of gold to sustain you, and a wife to make it all worth the while. Then, you will truly be human, and may stay so with my blessing forever." Father Winter to Jack Frost.