Questions and Answers


Story Summary:
What happens when the past collides with the present and threatens to cast the Potters' and Weasleys' lives into disarray...

Chapter 95 - Good Things In Small Packages


The sound of the tinkling bell made Daphne look up from her book. Ginny walked into the coffee shop, shaking the cold, misty rain from her hair. She ordered a latte and joined Daphne at the small table tucked into a corner. 'Bloody miserable weather,' Ginny grumbled. 'It certainly doesn't put you into a holiday mood, does it?'

'The weather is the least of it,' Daphne responded. She pushed an envelope bearing Scorpius' neat penmanship across the table. 'You can read it. It isn't as if you can't guess the contents.' Daphne glanced out of the nearby window, in a visible attempt to control her emotions. Ginny grimaced and pulled a single sheet of parchment from the envelope. It was brief to the point of terseness.

5 December 2022

Dear Mother,

As agreeable as I would find it to spend the holiday with you and see Grandmother, I have no desire, nor wish, to spend my Christmas holidays in Nice if it means spending an extended period of time in the presence of my father. I will be of age soon, and able to legally make decisions that affect my future. Perhaps it is a good time to put such things into practice. I will, however, be amenable to spending Christmas at home, provided I may stay with Mr. and Mrs. Potter for the remainder of the holiday.

I will await your owl.

Your son,
Scorpius E. Malfoy

'Scorpius can be quite stubborn,' Ginny said lightly, folding the parchment and slipping it back into the envelope. 'I see he's inherited the Malfoy trait of cold and aloof formality when dealing with an unpleasant situation.' She gave the envelope back to Daphne. 'You know he's always welcome to stay with us.'

The corners of Daphne's mouth turned down. 'I do.' She tapped the envelope with a fingernail for a moment. 'I wonder if Draco wasn't going to Nice, would Scorpius decide to go?' She folded her hands together, fingers twisting. Daphne continued in a low murmur. 'I already know the answer to that. Of course he would.' Daphne's face briefly crumpled. 'It feels as if I have to choose. Do I choose my husband or my son?'

'You can't,' Ginny said simply. 'Not without alienating one of them. Unfortunately, I happen to have some experience in that area.' She sipped her coffee and set the large cup on the table. 'I'm going to stay something that isn't very popular, but there we are,' Ginny began. 'You have a life separate from your child. Making yourself unhappy and miserable in order to make your child happy isn't going to work in the long run. I'm not saying you shouldn't take Scorpius' feelings into account, of course. That being said, if you're not happy, you're not going to be the kind of wife, mother, or even person you want to be.'

'That sounds... selfish,' Daphne observed.

'It is,' Ginny agreed. 'But you lose yourself as a person otherwise, don't you think? Look, love doesn't mean you have to give up what you want out of life. Make compromises? Sure. They have to meet you halfway, and yes, that includes Scorpius. At some point, Scorpius is going to have to see the Draco you've come know and respect. For that matter, Draco is going to have to learn to put himself out there and risk rejection so Scorpius can learn who he is.'

Daphne slowly lifted her cup and took a thoughtful sip. 'So you're saying they both have to grow up.'

Ginny grinned. 'In so many words.' She stirred her coffee and the smile shifted into something more wry than humorous. 'Something a few people in my house need to learn as well,' she sighed.


Scorpius glanced out of the window of the train. The skyscrapers of London loomed on the horizon. They would arrive in King's Cross soon. It had been a quiet journey, quite the departure from the much more boisterous trip in September. Scorpius couldn't account for other houses, but it seemed as if the rambunctiousness had been left behind in the common room the night before. Gryffindor's students didn't vacate their common room until the wee hours of the morning when Sadie Riverton, one of the seventh year prefects reluctantly shooed everyone to their beds.

Al had spent most of the trip from Hogsmeade gazing silently at the passing landscape. He turned his head and his attention to Scorpius. 'You going to be okay at home?'

Scorpius picked at a loose thread on the cuff of his jumper. 'It's only a week,' he sighed. 'Mother said I could come stay with your family on Boxing Day.' He paused and licked dry lips. 'What about you?'

Al's throat bobbed. Had it been last Christmas, their conversation would have flowed effortlessly between them, without this constricting sensation around the words. But he could easily and privately shoulder the blame for it, due to his own poor behavior. 'Try to apologize to Lily. If she'll listen, that is.' His mouth twisted slightly. 'I've tried, but she just walks away or ignores me all together.'

'What about your parents?'

Al shrugged. 'Try not to rock the boat. Make it back to school without any major arguments or running away to Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione's flat.' He attempted a smile, but ended up grimacing instead. 'I'll probably end up staying in my room a lot.'

The train pulled into King's Cross in a cloud of steam. Al could see Harry waiting on the platform, standing with Ron, Hermione, Penny, Charlie, Katie, and Bill. A swish of auburn hair signaled Ginny leaning against a pillar, chatting with Daphne. 'Sometimes, I think things will never be the same,' Al murmured as he stood to retrieve his case from the overhead rack.

'We'd never grow if things remained the same,' Scorpius pointed out philosophically.

Al slid his arms into the sleeves of his coat. 'Does it get easier the whole not talking to your parents thing?'

Scorpius opened his mouth to say yes, but found himself telling Al, 'No. It doesn't. It's always there, like a bloody basilisk in the room. You can't look at it, but you can't very well pretend it isn't there. You learn to dance around it. Eventually.' He yanked his own case down and pulled on his coat. 'It's different with me,' he added, buttoning his coat. 'You have -- well, had -- a good foundation with your parents. I've only had Mother.' He opened the door of the compartment, flinching slightly as Rose passed by in the corridor. The look she gave them could have melted stone. 'There's hope for you. Even with all the shite, you know your parents love you, if not your actions.' Scorpius motioned for Al to precede him from the compartment. In the corridor, Lily paused to allow a sizeable gap to form between Al's retreating back and herself. Acting almost before he could think, Scorpius withdrew his wand on the pretense of rooting in his knapsack and concentrated while thinking, Diffindo! To his relief, the handle of Lily's case suddenly ripped free and the heavy piece of luggage thudded to the carpeted floor. 'Could I have a quick word?' Scorpius asked, stooping to pick up Lily's case on the pretext of attempting a repair.

'I can fix that,' Lily huffed.

'I know you can,' Scorpius said mildly. 'I need to say something to you without everyone else overhearing,' he muttered, jerking his head toward his compartment. Lily's eyes narrowed slightly, but she edged into the compartment, while Scorpius said a little too loudly for it to be anything other than a means to deflect attention, 'Let's go in here to fix your case, so we're not blocking everyone else, yeah?' He sidled in and set the case on one of the seats. As he lined up the torn edges of the leather handle, he glanced at Lily's impassive face. 'Look... I'm not going to ask you to forgive Al. I wouldn't ask you anyway. That's between you and Al. But could you do something for me?'

'What?' Lily asked warily.

'If he does try to talk to you, just listen. Hear him out. Nobody's asking you to act on it immediately, and you have every right to be angry for the things he did and said to you.' Scorpius rested the tip of his wand against the handle. 'Reparo.' The handle restored to its former appearance and Scorpius hefted the case from the seat. 'I'll just carry this to the platform,' he said. Lily followed him, mentally turning over what he had said, examining it for ulterior motives. Scorpius exited the train and set Lily's case near Al and James. 'Hope you have a good Christmas,' he told her, before striding to meet his mother.

Lily stared at him, a thoughtful frown briefly lighting on her face.


Ginny took a slow sip of tea and cleared her throat. The breakfast table was uncomfortably - and uncharacteristically -- silent. She glanced at Al, his head bent over his porridge. He hadn't looked up once since he'd slid into his chair. James and Lily were methodically eating their breakfasts. James had elected to bring a book to the table and from time to time he turned the page. Lily had no such recourse, and contented herself with looking out of the kitchen windows. Ginny caught Harry's eye and looked pointedly at James. Harry glanced at James' book. It was his Arithmancy textbook. He couldn't fault the boy for studying, but as a rule, they didn't allow books at the table during family mealtimes. 'James,' Harry said softly into the silence. He might as well have shouted the single syllable was so loud in the quietude. James' head tilted back and Harry gestured to the book. 'Please put it away, son,' Harry told him.

'But Dad! I've got N.E.W.T.s in June!' James protested.

'I understand,' Harry said, suppressing a sigh of impatience. 'But you know the rules. No books at the table when the family's having a meal together. Between breakfast and dinner you can revise until your eyeballs fall out, but right now, please put it away.'

James glanced heavenward and exhaled gustily. 'Fine,' he muttered and closed the book with a snap. He Banished the book to the counter with a murmured, 'Depulso.'

Ginny plucked a slice of toast from the rack and spread it with marmalade, more for something to do than an actual desire for the toast. 'I thought we might go into London and finish Christmas shopping,' she said.

Lily grimaced at the idea. It was bound to be crowded, even in Muggle London. It was, however, probably less tense than staying in the house all day with Al, even if he did stay in his room aside from meals. 'All day?' she asked.

Ginny shook her head. 'Just the morning. I have some work to do at the Prophet this afternoon.' Lily made a small moue of distaste. The Prophet offices were extraordinarily boring to her. Rows and rows of witches and wizards scribbling on parchment or fiddling with the placement of photographs. It was quite enough to bore her to tears.

'You can come spend the afternoon with the Auror trainees,' Harry offered, catching the slight frown on his daughter's face. She never missed a chance to spend even an hour or two with the Auror trainees.

'Brilliant,' Lily enthused. 'I don't have much. Just Grandmum, Granddad, Teddy, and Scorpius.'

Ginny didn't miss the way Lily's ears turned pink at the mention of Scorpius. 'Muggle London, Diagon Alley, or both?'

Lily stirred her porridge. 'Both,' she said finally. Arthur, Teddy, and Scorpius would love anything from a Muggle shop, but unless Lily was prepared to buy out an entire bin of wool, Molly's personal tastes leaned toward the wizarding shops.

Ginny nodded and turned her gaze to James. 'James?'

James glanced at his textbook on the counter, worrying his lower lip between his teeth. Surely even his aunt Hermione had taken a day off from revision from time to time. He hadn't managed to find anything yet for Maya and he was rapidly running out of time. 'Yeah, okay. Besides, Uncle George said they could probably use some help during the afternoons anyway. I could use the pocket money.'

Ginny picked up her mug and took a sip of tea. 'What about you, Al?' she asked, her throat tightening as he shot her a look, flinching slightly. Ginny frowned, wondering where she had seen that particular look before. It was achingly familiar.

'No, thank you,' Al murmured. 'I did all mine through owl post.' He dropped his spoon into his half-eaten porridge. 'May I please be excused?' he asked quietly, keeping his eyes trained on the faded tea cozy in the middle of the table.

'Of course,' Harry said hoarsely. Al slipped from his chair and padded from the kitchen, his sock-clad feet hardly making a sound.

Ginny watched as Al pushed the kitchen door open just wide enough to sidle through the small gap in an almost furtive manner. 'Where have I seen that before?' she muttered.

'Seen what?' Lily asked.

Ginny shook herself. 'Nothing.' She toyed with her mug for a moment. 'Why don't the two of you go finish getting dressed, all right? We'll Floo to the Leaky Cauldron around nine.' She followed Al through the door.

'Finish your breakfasts,' Harry ordered, quietly, but firmly, trying to give Ginny a moment of privacy with Al. He understood all too well what Al was doing in trying to make himself as small as possible in an effort to deflect attention away from himself. He had employed the same technique quite often when he was Al's age. 'You've got time,' he added, with a pointed glance at the clock on the wall.

Ginny found Al browsing one of the bookcases in the sitting room. 'Al...' His shoulders jerked, but he didn't turn around. 'I know you think your father and I are still angry with you. We're not. People say things when they're angry and they don't mean them. There were so many things your dad and I said to you in anger that if we'd been thinking clearly we'd never have said.' She inhaled deeply. 'There are things all of us could have done differently. We made mistakes.' Ginny's eyes closed briefly. 'I won't choose between you or your father,' she said softly. 'I can't. You might as well ask me to cut off an arm.' She reached out and laid a hand lightly between his shoulder blades, then drew it back. 'But I can forgive you. Perhaps not for everything right now and then there's the small matter of regaining our trust...' Ginny rubbed a fingertip over her eyebrow, attempting to soothe the flare of pain that blossomed there. 'Bloody hell. I'm making a dog's breakfast of this...'

'What do you want me to say, Mum?' Al responded wearily, turning to face Ginny. 'That I should have gone about it differently? Fine. I should have gone about it differently. All I could think was that I wanted it so badly, but it didn't matter, because I just knew you and Dad would have said no, regardless of any argument I would have made. You and Dad have tried to keep all three of us wrapped in layers of cotton wool, all in the name of protecting us. From what? Our own choices and decisions? You can't do that forever, Mum. Merlin's y-fronts, Mum... Does James even really want to take over the joke shop? Or is he only doing it because it's something you and Dad approve of? Lily's so tied in knots about what she wants to do when she's done with school that she's all but sworn everyone to secrecy, because Dad'll probably go spare if he knew what she wants to do. That's what I can't forgive, Mum... That the two of you have no respect for what we want to do.' Al visibly cut himself off. 'I'm sorry,' he murmured. 'I didn't mean to say that.' He blinked rapidly and rubbed his nose. 'I can't manage to say anything right lately,' he sighed. 'I'll be in my room.' With that, Al spun on his heel and all but ran up the stairs, the door to his bedroom closing with a soft click.

Ginny stared unseeingly at the spines of the books in front of her. 'It's not just you,' she whispered.


The bookshop wasn't terribly crowded for a pre-holiday rush, but all that really meant was that James didn't have to squeeze between people in order to see what was on the shelves. He still had to thread his way around clusters of people, which diverted his attention from the merchandise. A familiar cover with three broad stripes of red, white, and blue leapt out from the shelf. He happened to own a copy, having discovered it just before school began in September. There were several Muggle references James didn't quite understand, but he loved the novel's main characters, a pair of social misfits. They were both quirky enough to appeal to Maya's sense of humor. 'Beg your pardon,' he murmured, as he snaked a hand through a tight group of girls roughly Lily's age, giggling over some thick book James had tried to read once, wondering what the fuss was about, but couldn't make it past the first chapter.

'You're getting Maya a book?' a voice piped up at his elbow. 'Really? A book?' Lily scoffed. 'That's not very romantic.'

James scowled at her and began to pick his way toward the tills. 'Maya will like it. That's all that matters.' He edged around a cluster of young children, whining for candy, while their harried mother attempted to balance a stack of picture books and a wailing baby. 'Are you ready to go? Mum had to pick up something in another shop down the street. She said she'd meet us out front in a few minutes."

Lily held up a slim box. 'Ready.'

'A pen?' James deliberately mimicked Lily. 'You're getting Scorp a pen?'

'It happens to be a nice pen,' Lily informed him loftily. 'And it's more durable than a quill.'

'So it's practical, hmm?' James chuckled.

'You have no idea how difficult Scorpius is to shop for,' Lily grumbled. 'He bloody doesn't really want things.' She sighed. 'It'll work with ink he can buy at Flourish and Blotts. Teddy's got something similar, and he was dropping hints for ages that I get one for Scorp.'

James tilted the box so he could examine the price printed on a small tag. His eyes bulged slightly. 'Blimey,' he breathed. 'Do you have enough pocket money?'

'Just barely,' Lily admitted. 'Teddy warned me it's a bit dear, so I saved every Knut I could. I had a decent bit of gold saved from my birthday, too.'

'You must really like him, then,' James observed. 'Scorp, I mean.'

Lily flushed. 'We're just friends,' she said stiffly.

'Mmm-hmm.' James eyed his sister's pink face. 'Got enough leftover to get a Christmas gift for Granddad and Teddy?'

'Yeah. I made sure to set that aside before we came in here.' The queue moved forward a few feet and Lily shuffled to close the gap. She opened and closed her mouth a few times before muttering, 'Does Al seem... off... to you?'

The queue inched forward. 'What do you mean by off?' James replied.

Lily nibbled her lower lip. 'Just... Before we went back to school, he was insufferable. You could feel the superiority just rolling off him. But since, well, you know... That night he shouted at me in the common room, he just seems more subdued. Like he wants to crawl inside himself and disappear.'

'Would you say his behavior at breakfast was an example?' Lily nodded. James blew out a long breath. 'Yeah, I've noticed.'

Lily twirled a lock of hair around a finger. 'On the way home from school, Scorpius and I had this really weird conversation,' she began.

'So?' James nudged Lily in the back. The person in front of her in the queue had moved forward.

Lily took the few steps forward. 'He said that if Al tried to talk to us, he was probably going to ask for our forgiveness,' she snorted. She wound the lock of hair in a tight sausage around her index finger. 'He made me promise to at least listen to Al,' she mumbled.

'Do you think you could?' James asked, blue eyes hooded and contemplative.

Lily sighed gustily. 'I don't know,' she admitted. 'I miss him... The Al we used to know.' She shook her head. 'I wish...' The spotty teenager at the next vacant till waved at her. She trudged in their direction.

'Me, too,' James murmured.


Al peered around the edge of his bedroom door. The house was empty and for the first time since he'd come home, his shoulders relaxed. He slowly exhaled and massaged the bridge of his nose. He supposed it was a measure of how much Harry and Ginny were trying to trust him once more by leaving him alone in the house. After the past several months of constant attention, both good and bad, Al was slightly startled to find he enjoyed the solitude. He would even go so far as to say it was somewhat soothing. Al snorted and began to walk down the stairs. If he ever dared to mention it aloud, he would lay odds on the level of smug satisfaction that would descend on his father's features to hear Al admit the attention was more than a little suffocating. He let his fingers trail over the polished bannister, the dark wood gleaming in the snowy light from the windows. Al stood on the bottom riser, breathing in the familiar sights and smells of his childhood home. He recoiled visibly at the idea. Childhood home. Was that a measure of why it felt so differently now? Had he abandoned his childhood and this house was no longer the welcoming refuge it once was? Al made a mental note to ask Hugo next time they had a few moments together without ten cousins around them. Hugo liked those sorts of questions, sometimes to the detriment of his other studies. Al had to give Hugo some respect, however. As much as Hugo tended to neglect his homework and put it off until the last minute, preferring to study a topic of his own choosing, he usually managed to scrape together an Acceptable, if not an outright Exceeds Expectations or Outstanding on his assignments and exams, much to Rose's chagrin.

Al shoved his hands into his pockets and began to pace around the sitting room. Everything was still as it had been in August. The photographs crowding the mantle. The rows of books on their shelves. The collection of films. The hand-knit afghan thrown over the back of the sofa. The faded rug in shades of dark blue and burgundy. The photographs told Al he belonged here, and yet Al couldn't shake the feeling that perhaps he didn't quite fit in as before. He wandered into his parents' office, inhaling the familiar scents of parchment, ink, and faint, floral aroma of his mother's perfume. Light poured in through two windows on either side of the hearth. Ginny's escritoire stood open, with several pages of blank parchment littering the desk. A quill lay across one of the pages, its tip stained with bright red ink. The many small drawers inside beckoned to him. When Al was a small child, he entertained himself for hours opening and closing the drawers, poking a chubby finger into their depths. Al experimentally extended a hand, holding his breath. Nothing happened. No protective charms on the desk. Cautiously, Al moved to Harry's desk, nearly fortress-like compared to the spindly delicacy of Ginny's escritoire. Al wasn't interested in the desk itself. He dropped into large leather chair and closed his eyes as he leaned back into it. He loved this room. It reminded him of the many hours he'd spent curled up in Harry's lap while his father helped him learn to write with a Muggle pencil, then later a quill; or listening to the peaks and valleys of his father's voice as he read stories to him, stretched out on the rug in front of the fire. Al felt himself sink deeper into the chair and began to twist the chair slightly from side to side, using his toes as a fulcrum, and his hands curled over the arms.

The gentle repetitive motion of the chair was soothing, and Al felt himself drift away. He wasn't conscious of the passage of time, but allowed his thoughts to ebb and flow where they might.

The best thing might be to find his own place. He would come of age in June, so it wouldn't be a problem. Al knew how much gold he had in his Gringotts vault. Between what Harry and Ginny had set aside for him when he was born and what he'd earned as part of England's Quidditch team the previous summer, it wasn't out of the question to at least let a small flat next summer hols. But... No. Al reckoned it had more in common with running away than actually owning up to his actions, and running away wouldn't solve anything. Besides, the awkwardness couldn't last forever, could it? One day he and his parents would have to find common ground once more. Furthermore, as soon as Al signed with a team, he'd buy or let a flat in the team's home city. And who was to say Al would stay in that location permanently?

Al was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't hear the back door open. Harry pushed the door to the office open and paused, with a strange look on his face. He wasn't quite sure if he should open his mouth to scold Al for setting foot into the office or feel relief that Al felt comfortable enough to treat the house as if it was his home again. Caught in his indecision, Harry stood with one hand on the doorknob, and said nothing.

Al jerked back to the present with the unsettling feeling that someone was watching him. His eyes snapped open and he saw Harry on the threshold. Al lurched to his feet. 'I'll just... I'm going...' he babbled.

Harry shook his head. 'No... it's fine...'

'Oi! Harry, I'm starved...' Teddy's bright turquoise hair appeared over Harry's shoulder.

Harry lifted a hand and raked it through his hair. 'You know, Teddy, I'm not very hungry just now,' he remarked. 'I'll just grab those papers and get back to the office. Next time you're on days, all right?' He strode into the office and tapped a drawer in his desk. It unlocked and slid out on command. Harry plunged in a hand and withdrew a stack of purple folders. Harry jabbed his wand at the desk, and the drawer closed, just as silently as it had opened.

Al stood rigidly in the center of the rug, the tendons of his neck standing out painfully. 'Dad, I'm sorry...'

'It's quite all right,' Harry said mildly, pushing his glasses up to the bridge of his nose. He hurried from the room without saying another word. The silence was only broken by the loud pop of his Apparition.

'Blimey,' Teddy breathed. 'Get your coat,' he ordered.


'Your coat,' Teddy prompted. He glanced at Al's feet and added, 'Shoes would be a good idea, too.'


'Because I need food, and you look as if you need some fresh air,' Teddy retorted. 'Lunch is on me.' He said it the air of someone who expected to get his way in the matter. 'Come on, then. We'll go somewhere in a Muggle area.'

Al did as he was told and followed Teddy into the cold wintery garden. Teddy Apparated them to an alley somewhere in London near Heathrow. Teddy led Al into a small restaurant that smelt strongly of curry. Al let Teddy order for them both, and kept his opinions to himself until they were both sitting over plates of steaming lamb curry. Teddy tore a piece of naan in half and handed it to Al. 'You can't act like you expect your mum and dad to bite your hand off at the wrist for living in the house,' Teddy commented, dunking a bit of naan into the sauce.

Al glanced up from his plate. 'I don't.'

Teddy sighed. 'Look, you made a stupid mistake.' He held up both hands. 'Now, I don't know exactly what happened the night of the final. Harry and Ginny won't talk about it. You're sixteen. Your head is supposed to reside firmly in your arse a large portion of the time.' Teddy poked a bite of his lunch into his mouth. Swallowing it, he continued, 'It's what you learn after you did something colossally stupid that matters.'

'Like you ever said anything you didn't mean,' Al said mulishly.

To Al's surprise, Teddy began to laugh. 'I said plenty when I was your age,' Teddy wheezed. 'I was a right moody pain in the arse; feeling like the world owed me something because my mum and dad died before I was even a month old. You were just too young to remember it.' He chuckled a few times and sipped his water. 'The world owes you nothing. And it owes you even less because you're a Quidditch star,' Teddy said bluntly. 'It's a brutal game that will chew you up and spit you out the second you stop performing at a level to which the fans have become accustomed.'

'I know that,' Al scoffed.

'Do you?'


'Fan-bloody-tastic,' Teddy drawled. 'Now. Quidditch hero or no, you're still part of this family, damn it. Slinking around like a wounded hippogriff isn't going to help.'

Al toyed with his food. 'Again, what do you know about it?'

'Enough to know that lurking in the background like a homeless ghoul isn't going to help,' snapped Teddy. He toyed with a bit of naan before he said, 'Listen mate, we don't give up on family easily around here. You know that. Even when they are behaving like complete prats. But everyone's got their limits. Even the Weasleys.'


Draco peered into the display counter. It was still there. A round amethyst in a gold filigree cathedral setting, reminiscent of leafy, flowering vines. A matching band nestled next to it, the vines echoed in the engraving wending around it. They were elegant. There was no other word for it. Restrained and understated in their elegance, but still beautiful. And absolutely perfect. 'Could I help you, sir?' an unctuous voice murmured into Draco's ear.

Draco blinked, fingertip tapping lightly on the glass. 'Could I see that one, please?'

'Ah. An excellent choice, sir.' The clerk theatrically unfurled a square of black velvet over the counter before drawing out the rings and ceremoniously setting them on it. Draco picked up the engagement ring and squinted at it, holding it out until it came into focus. 'Planning a Christmas proposal? Or perhaps New Year's Eve?'

'Neither,' Draco said shortly, replacing the amethyst ring and picking up the wedding band. He ran a fingertip lightly over the engravings. 'I want to replace my wife's wedding ring,' he allowed.

'Was hers lost or stolen? Such a shame,' the clerk tutted.

Draco frowned, brows drawing together irritably. He ignored the clerk and slipped the wedding band over his smallest finger. It stopped just above the first knuckle, just as Daphne's despised wedding ring did. 'I'll take them,' he announced, setting the ring carefully on the velvet.

'Of course, sir,' the clerk beamed. Draco could practically hear him counting his commission. 'And you'll be paying with...?'

Draco reached into the inner pocket of his jacket. Perri had sewn a moleskin pouch into it and Draco withdrew a money clip and began counting out Muggle banknotes. Four hundred and thirty pounds. Truthfully, Draco would have willingly paid more and been glad to do it. 'I'll just take the box,' he said when the clerk attempted to wrap it in a brightly colored bag, stuffed with festive tissue paper. The clerk dropped the velvet box into Draco's outstretched palm with a disappointed sigh. The wrapping was the best part of the transaction. Draco tucked the box into the moleskin pocket and murmured a polite, 'Good day,' to the clerk. As he stepped into the icy wind whistling through London's streets, Draco felt a wave of giddiness arise inside him tempered by tendrils of unease. Even though it wasn't as if he were actually planning to propose to Daphne, he was asking her to openly wear a symbol of their marriage. The rings in his pocket eminently suited Daphne. Ever since he'd seen them months ago, he could picture them on her finger. Inasmuch as their relationship had undergone quite the transformation, there was still a niggling doubt that Daphne would admire the rings, but still refuse to wear them.

It seemed such a small thing for Daphne to wear a ring Draco had chosen for his wife. In the end, even if she chose not to wear them, it wouldn't make them any less married. There was something in the mere act of Daphne choosing to wear them. It was a public declaration that she was his wife.

Tomorrow was Christmas Eve. Draco would present them to her then, at midnight, he decided, as he hurried down an alley to Apparate. He was certain he wouldn't sleep a wink tonight, anxious to see the expression on Daphne's face when she opened the tiny box.


'Draco, come to bed,' Daphne said drowsily, burrowing into the duvet. 'It's late.'

Draco glanced at the clock on the bedside table. 'Just a moment,' he told her, patting the pocket of his dressing gown.

'Father Christmas won't come if you're still awake,' Daphne yawned.

'I'm a little old for Father Christmas, don't you think?' Draco quipped lightly, but keeping an ear cocked for a signal it was after midnight.

Daphne propped herself on an elbow. 'Can't sleep?'

'No.' Draco's head turned toward the window and the far-distant sound of church bells. He moved to sit on the edge of the bed. 'I wanted to give you something,' he told Daphne, his hand slipping into his pocket. His fingertips grasped the small box and he held it out to her.

'What is it?'

'Just open it.'

Daphne took the proffered box and contemplated it for a long moment. 'What is it?' she repeated. 'Animal, vegetable, or mineral?'

'Do you always do this with gifts?' Draco groused, standing up. He removed his dressing gown and tossed it over the arm of a chair.

'Only unexpected ones,' Daphne told him, rubbing her thumb over the nap of velvet. 'We don't exactly exchange gifts very often.'

'Fair point,' Draco conceded. Exchanging gifts of any kind was territory for them both. 'I won't mind if you don't like it,' he added. -Liar, his inner voice taunted him. 'Much.' He climbed into the bed and sat ramrod straight, watching every move she made.

Daphne decided to put Draco out of his misery and slowly opened the box. 'Oh...'

'Would you do me the honor of wearing them?' Draco asked formally.

Daphne held the box out to Draco. Frowning, Draco reluctantly took it. Daphne then extended her left hand toward him. Draco's mouth went dry and he shakily took the rings from their slot in the box and carefully slipped them on her ring finger. He lifted her hand to his mouth and pressed a kiss to the palm of her hand. 'They're beautiful,' she said.

'Not nearly as beautiful as you,' he replied, mouth moving against the skin of her wrist.

It was later, much, much later, when Daphne lifted her head from Draco's chest, her hair trailing over the pale skin. 'I would be honored to wear them,' she murmured.

Draco slowly stroked her hair. 'I thought that's what you've been saying for the past...' He turned his head to glance at the clock. 'Hour and a half.'

'It was well worth repeating,' Daphne replied with a smile.


A/N: First and foremost, my most humble apologies. Last year I applied to a graduate program to earn an MLS: a master's degree in library science. Needless to say, it's been a lot of work. Let's just say that last fall and spring semesters, I easily put in 60 or more hours of work per week to my studies. There's been a lot of reading and writing involved. So much that I really haven't had the mental energy leftover to write anything that wasn't a paper about library practices. I should graduate in December.

I have not abandoned anything. I can't promise when I will be able to update this or any other story, though. I appreciate all the kind inquiries and patience.

Finally, two things. One, my children's and YA lit classes required I keep a blog to review various children's and YA books. If you're interested, it's called 'Some Of My Best Friends Are Books' at www [dot] mapleglazedtexan [dot] blogspot [dot] ca. I'll continue adding book reviews (probably predominantly YA lit) once my current YA class is complete in a few days. Two, read Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl. It's a book about fanfiction, people! And she treats it with respect and kindness. But I must say, it was neat to see Rowell address so many of my own fears and issues with writing. She gets it... She really does. Also, read her other novel Eleanor & Park. It's utterly brilliant, heartbreakingly so. If you loved Gilmore Girls or Bunheads or John Hughes movies, Eleanor & Park will make you feel like you've been handed an Amy Sherman-Palladino television show or John Hughes movie in book form.