Draco Malfoy did not disappear after the war, but sightings of the slender man were few and far between. His eyes were haunted and no smile reached his mouth when he was spotted wandering the streets of London. He was a ghost in material form with his pale skin and white blonde hair. His grey eyes held no warmth, barely any life after the war, after his father’s death and his mother’s imprisonment. The world became as bleak as his own coloring.
Until the day he stumbled upon Neville Longbottom in Muggle London at a small corner shop. It was a florist shop that Neville owned. He grew wizarding plants as well as Muggle plants, and drew in quite the crowd from all walks of life. On the rooftop of the building is where all of his wizarding collection of plants resided, and only those who knew the magical spell would be able to make their way up there away from the Muggles' prying eyes.
As Draco stumbled into the shop his gaze travelled over all the vibrant colors and he easily recalled which flower meant what. His mother had taught him from a young age that flowers each held a certain meaning and to choose wisely when gifting a girl a bouquet.
Somehow, in the short span of time that Draco stood within the walls of 'Blissful Botanicals’, Neville had befriended him and offered him a job.
That had been two years ago.
He had never felt more at home than within the open walls of that shop, surrounded by waves of colors and different fragrances. Before he knew it, he was greeting all walks of life with a wave and a smile.
Until the day the wind brought her in from out of the storm.
Draco had just been cleaning up the front counter when he heard the bell above the door chime in the empty space. Without looking up, tying together the last bouquet of the evening for the next day's pick up, he called out gently, “Sorry, we’re closed now, but we’ll open again at nine tomorrow morning. You’re welcome to come back at -“
“I bloody well know when you open.”
His blood ran cold and a shiver snaked up his spine. He paused in handling the delicate bouquet as he heard an exasperated sigh escape the female before him. He hadn’t seen her in two years and she still induced fear within his soul. A phantom pain echoed across the bridge of his nose. Part of him wished to reach up to shield it from view, but he couldn’t let her see that.
He heard the clang of coins hitting the counter and her voice hiss out, breaking him from his internal thoughts. “I’ll pay you triple your daily wages if you help me right now.” The anger radiating from her voice had him turning to glance over his shoulder. If he had been a lesser man, he would have ducked from the flames radiating from her mouth and eyes. He could almost feel the heat spreading across the counter.
“You’re… okay with me helping you?”
“Well, I don’t see why not. I came here for Neville but surprise for me, here Draco Malfoy stands.” She put her hands on her hips and stared at the ground, her breath coming out in quick succession. “I really don’t care who helps me so long as SOMEONE does help me.”
She lifted her head then. Her eyes heated as she spat, “How do I passive aggressively tell someone to fuck off in flowers?”
He paused. Gaze still trained on her wild eyes, he reached forward before hesitating when a thought popped into his mind. His hand stopped midair as he watched a flurry of emotions crack like lightning behind her whiskey colored eyes. Heat, not warmth but fury, lit them up like a beacon warning those near and far. Furrowing his brow, he glanced behind her at the darkening sky, the crackle of thunder echoing in the empty space. “Why not just tell them?”
She hesitated, which only spiked his interest as he watched her lean against the counter and heave out a sigh. The fury in her eyes dissipating into a low ember, burning quietly. Her shoulders dropped and her head hung low, the weight she had been carrying falling at her feet. “If I tell you this, Malfoy, you have to swear on your mother’s life not to repeat this to anyone. Ghost or living body alike.” She shook her head when he opened his mouth to question her. “Ghosts are awfully chatty.”
Her darkened eyes turned to his and he could see the desperate plea hidden behind her gaze. The downturn of her lips didn’t help matters either as he watched it slip between her teeth as she waited. Despite his better judgement, he found himself nodding his head.
She accepted his quiet agreement with a quick tilt of her chin. With a deep breath, she turned to stare out the windows of the building. They reached from floor to ceiling giving her a view of the rain that had started falling from the darkened skies outside. He watched as the rest of her anger fell away her eyes turning down in despair, and the fight leaving her body into a broken woman before him. A sympathy pain stung his heart as he watched the fire inside of her die down into dust.
“I found Ron in bed with some floozy.” Her left hand stayed on the counter as it traced a pattern on the wooden top. He watched, trying to discern what pattern she was tracing while listening to her quiet voice speak out into the empty space. Draco and the flowers were the only listeners for her confession. “I should be more surprised, but I’m not. I had concerns but Ginny and Harry both reassured me they were unfounded. They were obviously wrong.”
“Obviously,” he murmured, his eyes following her index finger. Merlin, he felt his breath pause in the middle of his chest as realization hit him. She was tracing runes, unknowingly, on the wood top of the counter.
“I had my suspicions but they told me it wasn’t true. That Ron only ever talked about me, but I think they were trying to protect me in their own way,” she said as her eyes glossed over. “He shouldn’t have this much power over me.” Her voice hardened as she spoke. The pain was a quiet whisper under the steel she was trying to project.
He paused, ready to help her in her quest when he caught a few of the symbols. A fear, valid and healthy if the woman before him was anything to go by, ran up his spine when he recognized the runes for justice and destruction. Yes, this woman was on a warpath and the Slytherin in him knew he could not deny her request or he may end up on the other side of her wand, or worse - her fist. Again.
He cleared his throat as his eyes dragged away from her shortly clipped fingernails, clear from any nail polish or anything to mar them in any way, and continued up her arm to see her eyes watching him. Clear and curious, but the melancholy seemed to have dissolved slightly through her honey whiskey irises, which was good for him.
He pushed off the counter and walked around to start looking through the flowers laid before him. Sectioned off by colors, he found himself wandering to the farthest corner with colors of yellows. Often associated with happiness, but few knew the truth behind some of the meanings that had negative associations.
“Flowers, some at least, have different meanings. For example,” he murmured as he slowly picked up a yellow rose from its vase. “A yellow rose to most of society is for happiness, joy - to be given to friends. However, on the flip side.” His eyes trailed to her curious expression, eyes wide watching him, and he knew she was absorbing all the information he was laying before her. “It also can stand for extreme betrayal and infidelity.” He watched the hurt flicker in her gaze but she nodded anyway. Her eyes slid down into the pocket of her Muggle jeans, tight against her hips. He turned then to the opposite side of the shop with her in his shadow, quiet with her light footsteps. He grabbed a black, also considered burgundy, dahlia from it’s spot in the corner. “A black dahlia also can signify betrayal.”
Her eyes rose to meet his own. From there, he saw the fire building once more. The flames licking higher and higher, heated from her internal rage. Rubbing his chin, he asked gently as he started mentally running through his mental list of possible candidates for the bouquet. “Tell me your feelings.”
“I told you what happened -” she started but he raised his hand to stop her, the other one going into the pocket of his canvas apron. Inside he found a pen, a Muggle contraption that he’d grown to appreciate in this environment with constantly being on the move, and the little notepad he kept inside.
“I need emotions - betrayal, hurt, one word answers.” He put the pen to the paper and looked at her expectantly.
She seemed to hesitate as she looked at the paper before him. “Betrayal. Anger. Frustration. Disappointment. I hurt - I'm just so angry! He lied. He cheated. He fooled me,” she grounded out between her teeth as she glanced back out the window.
He wrote all the words down with a quick note of which flower may match for that specific feeling. “Are you wanting one bouquet, or are you planning to drag this out?”
She turned back to him, unease in her eyes. “I-I’ll admit I hadn’t thought that far ahead… I just want him to be fooled. I want him to hurt .”
He saw the self doubt lingering there in the shadows.
Draco started back down the aisle of flowers, his eyes drifting back and forth between their petals and bursts of colors. “Flowers won’t make him hurt - unless you want to poison him,” he glanced over his shoulder and had to laugh as she stopped to think about it, truly pondering the idea. He wouldn’t have had to think about it, but she was the greater witch because she shook her head. A true test to how good she really was. “We can definitely make him the fool though. Anonymous bouquets showing up with insults tied to every single floral arrangement and he won’t have a clue.” He paused in his steps, his gaze still on the flowers. “Only you will know his idiocy though. It’s not a public humiliation.”
“I know… I can’t hurt him - I want to, but hurting him hurts my other loved ones. I just need to do something . So yes, I like this idea. It’ll help the sting.” She stopped beside a bunch of Scottish thistle, the faint purple bud against her fingertips. He couldn’t help the chuckle that slipped out, causing her to pause. Her eyes moved to look at him as she tilted her head in question. “What?”
He nodded his head toward where her fingers were resting. “Just fitting is all, I suppose.” Her fingers slipped away from the batch as if they burned with his words. Guilt washed over him when he realized his slip up. “No - no, it’s just… Scottish thistle,” he nodded again at the purple flower. “It’s meaning is retaliation .”
Her eyes flitted back to the tiny flower. Her mouth formed a small ‘o’ as she glanced over at him. Moments passed between the two until suddenly she let out a laugh. A true laugh that rose from deep down inside her and rose up like a hurricane to wash over everything around them. Crashing out of her, damage was done to his poor heart as he heard the true sound for the first time in ages. Watching her clutch her sides and bend over as the laugh seemed to sweep her in its tide, he couldn’t stop the tilt of his lip moving up. Amusement inside him bubbling to the surface. He bit the inside of his cheek from interrupting her with his own laughter. Taking this moment, he watched her and enjoyed her freedom for those quiet moments.
It took her several moments to collect herself, but soon she righted herself, pushing the hair off of her shoulders as she stood up straight. With an inhale of her breath, attempting to catch it, she let out a nervous smile. “I’m so sorry - that was… unbecoming.”
“It’s fine,” he shrugged his shoulders before turning back around and making his way around the shop. This time, Hermione did not follow him - instead she found a spot at the counter, leaning her spine against the rough wood and watched him. He could feel her eyes on him as he moved about the room finding the selective few items he wanted to throw into this specific bouquet. Colors of yellows, oranges, and reds to mimic the fire he saw simmering inside her.
When he was done, he took the carefully selected items to the counter. Rounding the corner, he came to stand opposite her and set out the items flat on the surface of wood. With long, dexterous fingers, he pointed to each one. In a low tone, he began to explain each and every one as his finger gently touched the stem.
“Lobelia, also the cardinal flower, red - represents malevolence.” These tiny dark red flowers were scattered all along the top end of the stalk he touched. “The greenery I'm adding is called creeping willow. Love forsaken,” he touched a long stemp of soft green leaves. A few were stacked around the bottom of the florals sticking out from the vase. “I am adding an orange lily too. Hatred.” He started arranging the florals as he talked. Slowly adding until it looked like a bouquet. “I’ve added yellow snapdragon for deception, and some red geraniums for his stupidity too.”
With slow, gentle movements she reached forward to pull the bundle into her own grasp. Wide eyes stared down as she took in the reds and touches of yellows and oranges, a flame come to life before her eyes. “Malfoy, this is beautiful… I almost want to keep it for myself.”
“No - no.” He took it from her then. “It’s riddled with bad emotions. I can’t let you bring that into your home. Weaselbee though,” he smirked. “I don’t mind one bit sending this to him myself.”
“Anytime, Granger.” He turned to place the bouquet in a vase. “Come back in two days. We’ll get a new one made up.”
The Daily Prophet was splashed with photos of Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley the following day. Their breakup plastered all over the front page. The sneer on Hermione’s face when she caught sight of the photographer was captured and, even though Draco knew it wasn’t directed at him, he felt his soul chill at her gaze staring back at him.
A photo near the corner showed Weasley getting stung by a Bat-Bogey Hex and hollering at Hermione before running off. The article went on to paint a rather colorful picture of the very public break-up. Her words were biting and sharp as she laid into Ron Weasley at a restaurant in the heart of wizarding London. He had tried to argue and deny the accusations but then she started naming the women. Someone reported that his face had lost all color when she went after him then. He knew a war when he heard one. Hermione Granger had gone for the jugular and let him bleed all over, because, if there was anything Ron Weasley loved more than Quidditch, it was the limelight the war brought him.
Hermione Granger had let him have all the limelight he wanted that night but with negative repercussions. He’d be a laughing stock now because no one, no one , slighted the ‘Brightest Witch of Her Age’. The article went on to reply that Hermione had disappeared after the fight, leaving Ron to storm off in a rage. The families had chosen not to respond to the Daily Prophet on their thoughts of the very public scene.
Probably smart of them, he thought as he folded the paper up and set it under the counter. Granger may end up cursing them next, otherwise. A small chuckle slipped out as he started bundling up a bouquet for a customer who came to the counter.
Hermione Granger was not a fool, and yet she felt as if she were one thanks to Ronald Billius Weasley. Her heart ached, not because of love lost, but because years had passed with this falsity. They could have - they should have - ended their relationship years ago, but they had been comfortable. It had been safe, and yet here she was betrayed by her boyfriend and best friend.
Anger coursed through her veins as she tucked her coat closer to her collar and walked along the pavement in downtown London. The rain hadn’t started yet but she could smell it in the air. She had limited time before it would be pouring down in a torrential storm. Picking up her pace, she whirled through the streets with quickened steps until she slipped in through the open doors of the flower shop. A few stragglers were hunkered in the corner with the premade bouquets, but she found the man she was looking for over at the counter. His white hair shining brightly like a homing beacon.
Hesitating in the doorway, she pulled herself up and took in one long deep breath. Curiosity slowed her steps as she moved toward him though as she took the time to take him in. The few photos she had seen in the Daily Prophet over the past few years were unbecoming, not a true likeness to the man before her. He was in his element - that much was obvious. He was studious and methodical as he leaned over the counter arranging a floral set into a clear glass vase. The colors of the flowers were bright and the greenery only added to the effect of the bouquet. His eyes were trained on the flowers before him while his long, slender fingers moved with the grace of an artist as he preened and prodded them into place. The look in his eyes, though, is what caused her knees to buckle.
They were looking at the flowers with such love and care that it felt like a punch in the gut because Ron hadn’t once looked at her that way in the past two years. If someone, someone like Malfoy , could look at flowers as if they were his entire life then it was certain that she should be able to find someone who looked at her that way. But the hollow ache in her chest returned anew. So many years wasted on someone just because it had been comfortable . How could she have been so stupid to not see what had been happening in her own home?
Tears flickered in her eyes, so she stopped a few feet away from the counter to gather herself before talking to Malfoy. A few blinks, a sharp pinch to her side, and she was feeling grounded once more. Another calming breath and she was stepping forward, clearing her throat to call his attention. It worked because she watched his deep gray eyes, smooth as granite, drag up to look at her. From over a set of scottish thistle, it’s purple pale but beautiful nonetheless, he watched her movements as she stepped closer to the counter.
“Good evening, Granger,” he murmured, his voice low and deep. Hermione felt her insides quiver, but she quickly brushed it aside as she looked into the bouquet before him. Reaching forward, she brushed the pad of her thumb over a petal of a deep, dark purple. So dark it seemed to suck in the light. “That’s hellebore.” She glanced up at him to see him smirking. “It can stand for scandal.”
She couldn’t stop the chuckle from whispering over her lips, her gaze flickering back to the bouquet of purples and greens, with a dusting of white little flowers. “It’s rather fitting after this week's papers, hmm?”
His hand reached forward in her view and he pointed to a soft purple flower, with bluish undertones, compact on their stem in front of her face. “Billberry - treachery,” he said as his own fingers brushed over a petal before slipping back.
“I know I said this last time,” she commented as she took in the flowers in all their glory. “It seems almost a travesty for something so beautiful to go to that git.”
Malfoy laughed, “Granger, for all the shit he’s pulled he deserves every little thing that comes to him.” And some more, he thought to himself, afraid to vocalize his thoughts to the woman before him.
Hermione hummed but didn’t respond for a moment. The silence around them quickly became a quiet comfort from the business of the past few days. Tucking her hair behind her ear she found herself staring at the purple flower petals and softly touching them as she lost herself in thought.
Draco Malfoy watched this girl - No. That was an old memory flickering through. This person standing before him was all woman. The curves were there under the layers of clothing and the lines around her face spoke to the horrors she had to endure as an adolescent. And here she was. Standing in front of him slowly coming undone before him. The fierceness, the rage, the anger slowly seeping out of her every pore as she walked toward him. He had seen her the moment she walked in the door, but he kept quiet, allowing her to find the silent courage she had needed, but what she hadn’t noticed was that with every step her shoulders dropped from her ears, her fists had unclenched and every deep breath she took helped release that anger.
Her eyes were sad, the warm brown now touched with a hint of coolness that he had not seen in his time around her. Even after the war, there had been a fire blazing beneath the surface that could not be dampened, but today, in his shop, he saw that fire dim. Weasley hadn’t broken her heart - he knew that - but he had broken her spirit and what rage Granger lacked, Malfoy was feeling tenfold. Her movements were so gentle and slow, that he wondered how something so strong, resilient, could be unappreciated.
“What’s the black ribbon for?”
His head whipped up, shocked out of his own thoughts. He shifted on his feet as he took in her question. “It’s to show that these flowers have negative connotations.” He cleared his throat as he fought against the rage bubbling to the surface. “Sometimes flowers have good meanings behind them as well. The yellow rose for example can symbolize friendship-”
“Or betrayal,” she finished with a sardonic half smile. He could only nod at the look of defeat washing over her face. A shrug of her shoulder then she turned away from him. “This is probably ridiculous to you. Childish.”
“Honestly,” he started but then paused, waiting for her to turn back toward him. When she didn’t, he kept his voice low and used his words to attempt to heal the wound that the Weaselbee had left gaping open on her soul. “I think this is quite clever and somewhat kind for what he truly deserves. If this helps you to feel better then I am one hundred percent for it. I’ll do whatever you need me to,” he let a true smile leak through as she looked over her shoulder at him. “Anything to make the rodent look more foolish.”
“Thanks, Malfoy,” she murmured as she fully turned to face him. He sucked in a breath as he realized she was wearing those Muggle jeans that seemed to be a second layer of skin, so tight and hugging every curve, and her shirt, beneath the open coat draped over her, was simple and just as tight. He felt his eyes drift but the damned bouquet’s longer leaves were blocking his view. “How much do I owe you?”
“You paid last time -”
“Malfoy, I paid for last time’s flowers. What do I owe this time?”
But she ignored him, just like he knew she would. Her hand dropped a few coins on the counter and, like a summer storm, she was whirling out of the shop as quietly as she came in. As she walked out the door, he watched the sunlight, peaking through the gray clouds, filter through the cracks she was slowly letting him see.
He didn’t see her again for two weeks. The papers were slicing Ron Weasley to pieces as they found different indiscretions over the years. All of them coming to light and different women stepping forward to tell their tales. But Hermione Granger was nowhere to be found for her comments on the incident. Speculation came, from Rita Skeeter of course, that she had run away from a broken heart, but Malfoy highly doubted it. In the quiet of the mornings, before the shop would fill with the hustle and bustle of the coming and goings of people and the sun would filter in through the wide windows, he thought of her and where she may be, what she may be doing at that particular moment.
In her brokenness he could see the beauty that lay beneath all that fierceness. She was always beautiful, but he caught a glimpse of something more under the surface. A hardened diamond could fracture under enough pressure, but, instead of covering it up, he had seen the light shine through those cracks. Doubt filled him though, because as much as he wanted to know her more , there was no way he could attempt that with her when he was a former Death Eater. He was a nobody, and he liked it that way - away from the spotlight, away from the Daily Prophet, and away from all the gossipers.
He found peace in the flower shop between the rainbow of colors. There was no way he was about to leave it, but temptation bit at his heels each morning when he thought of her. He couldn’t go find her - that was ridiculous. So he stayed rooted in his safe place, his thoughts lingering on her, as he took precious care of each flower that found its way into his hands. A simple red carnation lay in his palm when he heard the front door open.
With gentle touches, he put the carnation back in its place before turning to greet the newcomer. His words left his lungs before he could voice them when he turned to see Hermione standing in the doorway. The sunlight casting a warm glow around her through the window.
“Hello, Malfoy,” she greeted with a kind smile, causing his heart to flip flop in his chest. Words would not rise to greet her back.
Hermione Granger stood in the doorway, her heart hidden beneath her sleeve, as she shuffled from one foot to the other as the tall man stood several feet away from her. A simple white shirt encased his upper body, while light brown chinos with a black apron covered his lower half. His shirt was undone at the sleeves, rolled to almost his elbows, showing off the beautiful tattoos that encased his arms. Colors trickling in between the delicate lines of black. Her gaze moved up to see the shock in his face, but, when he wouldn’t respond, she felt her arms falling back behind her to play with the sleeve of her shirt. “I’m sorry to impose -”
“NO!” He stepped forward, bumping against a table which he turned and glared at before he turned back around. Wide eyes looked down at her. “I’m sorry - I’m just surprised to see you here, I heard you were… gone.”
She tucked a loose hair behind her ear. Tilting her head up to look into his worried stare, she smiled gently. “Needed to get away for a bit. Clear my head from all… this.” She pointed to the folded Prophet that peaked out from under his notepad.
He nodded once, slowly. “I cannot blame you. Go anywhere worthwhile?”
She shook her head. “Not particularly.” They stood there, in the quiet of the morning light, watching the other as Hermione tried to formulate her thoughts. “I-I don’t want him to think he won. I want to show the world that I am strong,” she huffed a breath and dropped her head. “But I struggle because I don’t want them to be watching me through a magnifying glass either.” Her admittance came in a quiet whisper. If anyone had been in the shop, they wouldn’t have heard it and neither would have Malfoy. But the fates were on her side.
She felt a finger rest beneath her chin, gently bringing her face up to look into dark gray eyes. Her own hesitated, but when she saw the understanding lingering behind his eyes she felt the worries trickle out of her.
“You do not need to hide from me,” he murmured with a gentle smile. His eyes shifted then to look around and he took his hand away, leaving her feeling a phantom touch in its place. “I’m going to close up shop for the day.”
“Oh, Draco - you don’t need to - I just-”
“Neville won’t mind.” He started to untie his apron. “I’d like to take you to tea.” His smile was warm as he looked over at her in earnest, his hand hesitating from pulling the apron off completely as he watched for her answer.
A warm tingle shot up her chest as she returned his smile. “I’d like that very much.”
“What flower would you give me?” She felt brave as they sat at a corner table in the Muggle coffee shop just a few meters from the florist. So she threw caution to the wind and voiced her question before she lost her nerve. One hand underneath her thigh to keep from fidgeting.
“Clover, both the four leaf clover and the flower itself.” He didn’t hesitate in answering her which had her pausing her movement of stirring her tea with her free hand. Tilting her head, she watched him speak and felt the familiar warmth in her chest from earlier as she realized he had already thought about it before her question. “Gardenia. And red carnations.”
“Because different colors mean different things,” he answered quietly.
His gaze was so intense that she had to lower her lashes to the warm liquid sitting in front of her as she tried to gather her nerves. She heard him pause. Glancing up, she watched as he pulled his jacket away from his chest and pulled out a perfect red carnation and set it before her. His fingers left the flower slowly, gently.
“What does it mean?” she asked tentatively, pulling the delicate stem into her fingers so she could admire the beautiful flower.
“Guess you’ll have to research it,” he smirked in response as he watched her blush. His smirk only widened when he caught sight of her blush, making it deepen even further.
“Good thing I like books, hmm?” she teased, which caused a laugh to escape the quiet man creating a warm atmosphere around them.
Taking her hand from beneath her thigh, she grinned at him. With the mug in fingers, she sipped from the warm tea before pulling the flower in her other hand.
Neville pushed open the door to Weasley’s office and paused mid-step at the bouquets placed in odd spots around the room. Furrowing his brow, he glanced around, taking in the spectacle before him. A charm was obviously placed on them all to maintain the life of the floral arrangements but, as his eyes spotted the dark ribbon threaded around each vase, he felt the blood chill in his bones.
“Mate, who the hell did you piss off?”
Ron glanced up from his paperwork, eyes rimmed red and his complexion paler than normal. It only made his freckles stand out more. “Whacha mean?” He sneezed then. “Damn allergies,” he grumbled under his breath.
“You should probably get rid of these,” Neville commented as he stepped around one sitted on a table beside one of the chairs in the office. A fully bloomed yellow rose sticking out from a specific bundle of orange and reds. Neville felt his eyes widen as he recognized this specific bouquet. “Fuck,” he murmured under his breath.
“I can’t! They’re from a secret admirer!”
Neville shook his head. “Mate - a secret hater is more likely.” Ron’s confusion was clear by his squinty eyes and squished lips as he stared back at Neville. “This isn’t a nice bouquet - the black ribbon? It’s a bad omen and each of these flowers -” he pointed, not bothering to name the specific flower as it would only go over the man’s head, “-love forsaken, infidelity, treachery, anger, resentment -”
“Okay, okay I get it!” Ron dropped his head onto his desk. “Fuck,” he hissed into the stack of papers around his head.
“Sorry, mate,” he chuckled quietly from his chair though his mind went to a certain pair he’d seen leaving his shop hours ago looking quite cozy as they had walked side by side down the pavement.