Friends in Low Places
Draco was almost to Willow's rooms. She had sent a slayer to fetch him. He had not seen her much lately. She had not even been around her office. He wondered what was up with that, but figured if it was a serious problem that Buffy would have just said so by now.
He frowned when he saw Blaise. "What are you doing here? Look, I can't socialize just now. Willow needs me for something."
Blaise's eyebrow went up. "What makes you think I'm here solely for you? You're not the only person in this building that I'm acquainted with, you know. Self-centered much?"
"Cauldron calling the kettle black, much?"
Willow's door cracked open slightly. "Stop arguing and get in here."
Draco glared at Blaise before entering the room. He did not like what he saw. The curtains were all pulled closed and it smelled stale, like the windows needed to be opened. Willow looked thin and sallow.
It was a bit hard to see in the room because it was so dark, but Blaise could tell Willow wasn't doing well. "I've been wondering where you wandered off to. Been in hiding?"
"Yeah," Willow replied. "Having some issues."
Draco sat down next to her with what he was sure was a look of horror on his face. "When was the last time you left these rooms?"
Willow ignored that. "I need a favor from both of you. See, I took magic out of a weapon, and I think part of the weapon left itself with me. If that makes any sense. I'm too in tune to the slayers, too in tune to people and nature in general, and I can't control it. I want to try to put some of what I have back into the scythe I took it from. I keep hearing the man to ask would have been Severus Snape, but as he's dead, his old students might know stuff. I keep hearing, in particular, both your names. I understand if you don't-"
"Shut up," Draco snapped. "I'm on it."
He was already planning the outing he would need to make in his head.
Blaise nodded. "I'll be more than happy to help. I can research it and there are plenty of people I can ask who would be able to shed some light on the subject."
"Definitely," Draco replied. "Is this why you're hiding?"
"I'm not hiding."
"Willow, I've hidden before myself," Draco said, giving her a skeptical look. "This is pretty much what it looks like."
"When was the last time you saw the sun? Or the hallway for that matter?" Blaise asked skeptically.
"Well, I went down to the training room when Pevensie and Kennedy were fighting."
"Last Monday," Draco snapped, then he pointed. "Go shower."
"Because we are leaving this mansion to go outdoors. I don't think you want to do so with greasy hair."
Blaise snickered. "If you don't do it, he'll just whine until you do. That's infinitely more annoying than a shower. I'd do as he says."
"No, if she doesn't do it, I'll haul her in there myself and make her shower."
Willow blinked. He probably would too. She got off of the couch and made her way gingerly into the bathroom.
Draco sighed. He looked at Blaise. "They caught the bloke making the marks burn. Well, they didn't, but he was caught."
That was a piece of good news. "That's excellent then. Who was it?"
Draco grinned. "Tori. Daisy was horrified. She said she was flirting with Giles and wanting to watch him torture the man. I tried to explain that's just Astoria, but..."
Blaise snorted. "They did torture the bloke, yeah? Found out what happened. Why he was making the marks burn?"
Draco sighed. "They did... until he somehow got a spell to click in place that made certain his pain was shared by Willow. Buffy had just dislocated one of his shoulders. Everybody heard Willow screaming. That was a bad night."
He winced in sympathy. "That's some powerful dark magic he's playing around with."
Blaise looked over at the room Willow disappeared into. "What are you going to do about this problem?" Ask Snape what to do about it.
"I'm not sure yet. Probably hit the library at Malfoy Manor."
"Well, there's interesting theory behind it. Should make for a few interesting conversations in Knockturn." Blaise started to look around the room, then finally got irritated at the lack of light and sent a spell towards the curtains to open them up. The room instantly looked more cheerful. "It was like a throwback to the Slytherin dungeons."
Draco chuckled. "How are things with you then? And don't think for a minute I missed all the talk at the family gathering. My Italian is getting better."
Blaise made a face and decided not to tell Draco about Hannah, worried about the gloating that would ensue. "And just what did you think you heard at the dinner?"
"How your girlfriend looked really natural holding a baby. How she was pretty and polite and how Nonna liked her." Draco made a face at him.
"What? So nonna likes her! And she was pretty and
polite. They're just observant."
"They've as good as got you married to her. You never told me Nonna visited at Hannah's and cooked with her. And... AND you took her riding? Blaise, seriously? Are you really that thick?"
That made Blaise paused. "I didn't tell you? I could have sworn I did. About how Hannah loved meeting father's dogs and she was scared of Kalli... and that fact that she nearly hexed nonna because she didn't know who she was at first. I didn't tell you any of that?"
Draco glared at him. It was a glare that told Blaise everything he needed to know.
Willow walked out in clean clothes with damp hair. Draco used his wand to dry it.
She looked between the both of them. "Why is it tense in here? What happened?"
"Apparently I forgot to inform Draco of something he already knew and he's pissed at me."
"Well," Draco replied nastily. "I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you that Buffy is having a date with Nott. Nott! I tried to talk her out of it."
"Draco," Willow admonished.
Blaise made a face. "What the hell did you do to her that she goes running to Nott for a date?"
"Oh so you'd go around kissing Pansy then? Because that's exactly what it was like - kissing Pansy. I like her and all. Just not like that."
"Well I didn't see Pansy running off to shag Nott after you so you must have done something else."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "She visited him here not too long ago. And Nott did have a habit of making friends with your leavings, you know."
Blaise snorted. "I dated so many girls it would have been hard for him not to."
Willow sat back down on the couch.
"What are you doing?" Draco snapped.
"Well, it seemed like you guys are having a discussion about dates. I didn't want to interrupt."
He rolled his eyes. "Get up. Princess and I can get to the real reason he's pissed at me as we walk. Let's go."
Draco pulled a very reluctant Willow to her feet.
"I really don't want to go out where there's a lot of people, guys. I don't feel so well about that."
"So we won't go where there's people," Blaise said tucking her hand into his arm while Draco did the same with the other. "You're not getting out of this."
Willow tried to drag her feet, but Draco and Blaise still managed to get her out of the room. She panicked a little bit, her breathing become heavy.
"Calm down," Draco said. "You're the filling in a Malfoy Zabini sandwich right now. Nothing can get to you easily."
"That sounded dirty," Willow replied. "Not unappealing, but dirty."
"It's Draco, so of course it's dirty." Blaise grinned at Draco. "You hear that? She finds us appealing. Told you I could get her back to men."
"You're taken," Draco snapped. "I, on the other hand, am much more dashing and available."
"Are you?" Willow asked, giving him a knowing look.
Blaise snorted. "No he's not. And since the only other Slytherin men our age are dead, imprisoned, or bastards, you're shit out of luck, my darling. I suppose you could always try the female version of us. Think Pans would go for a female?"
Draco blinked. "I don't know, but it'd be too scary. And what do you mean I'm not available? I'm not seeing anyone."
"Of course you're aren't," Blaise said lightly. "Now, where are we taking this merry band?"
Draco stopped walking. "What in the hell are you talking about?"
Willow looked at Blaise in alarm. She didn't want Astoria being all pissy. She hoped Blaise didn't say anything about Draco's oblivious crush.
"I'm talking about where we are walking," he replied slowly. He saw the look Willow gave him, and had no idea why she was so worried about Draco knowing about his own crush. "Is there something wrong with your head?"
Draco scowled, but started walking again. "I say we go to your house and have the elves make dinner. I miss Didly's cooking."
Blaise snorted. "No, you miss Didly giving you the chocolate desert before dinner, you wanker."
"Well, that too."
"Who's Didly?" Willow asked.
"Blaise's house elf, amazing cook. Likes to hit people with wooden spoons." Draco grinned.
"I would like to see more than the entryway of your house, Blaise."
He sighed. Didly would love to entertain for people, and maybe that would make the damn elf stop pouting when Blaise walked by. "Fine. Shall we floo over?"
"No," Draco snapped. "Willow's frail. You can floo if you like. We're apparating."
Willow glared. "I'm not that frail."
"Hell if I'm not getting dirty if I don't have to," Blaise said with a sneer. "I'll apparate and meet you there."
Draco nodded as he led Willow out of the wards and popped away with her on his arm for a side-along. She staggered a bit when they appeared. Draco walked towards the manor house. The sun was bright, and it hurt her eyes.
Blaise apparated directly to his rooms and started to change out of his suit into something more comfortable. As he left the rooms, he summoned his house elf.
"Didly, Draco and Willow will be here for the rest of the afternoon and evening, and they'll be joining me for dinner. We'll take it outside and will be there for the duration of their visit."
"Does Master Draco want his chocolate pudding now?"
Blaise rolled his eyes. "No, he can eat desert with the rest of us."
He headed down the stairs to meet Draco and Willow in the foyer. "Quite a bit different than the last time you saw it, right?"
Willow was looking down at the house elf. She didn't get to do this last time - and she had wanted to. "Oh you're so cute."
Draco watched in shock and she squatted down and proceeded to hug and pet Didly. Didly looked properly horrified.
"Well, you said you were redecorating," Draco replied woodenly.
Blaise snickered at Didly's look. "Oh that's priceless." He turned back to Draco. "Almost everything is different, except Mother's wing. I couldn't bring myself to redo it. Didly here hated me for getting rid of the kitchen, despite giving him a better one."
Draco snorted. "He'll get over it."
Willow squeaked when Draco pulled her off of Didly. "But-"
"He's not a hugger, love."
Blaise took them on a tour to give Didly time to start dinner a bit earlier than normal and also to get Willow's mind off of her predicament and to get Draco's mind off of the slip-up about him being taken. He took them everywhere but his mother's wing.
"Do you want to see your rooms, Draco?"
"How can you even ask me that question?"
Willow giggled. She was feeling better just watching the two of them banter.
"Simple. I open my mouth and sounds come out. It's revolutionary. Now do you want to answer it?"
"Yes, I want to see it, and better well not have changed the bed. That was a very good bed. Very comfortable."
"I didn't get rid of the damn bed. You love that thing more than you love me."
Draco threw himself on the bed with a sigh.
"Have you even slept on it, though? It's amazing."
Willow looked around. The room was done in dark colors with not a lot of decor. It definitely suited Draco's personality.
Blaise shook his head. "Why don't you take it to the Council then? If you love sleeping on the bloody thing so much."
"My bed at the Council is comfortable too. I think you should away have a comfortable bed. It makes things much nicer."
"Well while you wallow in your comfortable bed, we're going to grab a snack while dinner's being made and go out on the terrace."
Willow smiled. That sounded nice.
"What sort of snack?" Draco asked. "A chocolate one?"
He shook his head. "Didly already asked if you wanted chocolate pudding, and I assured him you would like to wait until after dinner with the rest of us."
"You wanker. There's never a bad time for pudding. It has no substance. I'd still have room for dinner."
Blaise shook his head and led Willow out of the room. "Draco and his chocolate. I don't why Didly always insisted on giving Draco his first. Even as kids he'd get a special treat before dinner."
"I think it's nice that Didly likes Draco. He needs more friends, you know."
"Standing right here," Draco snapped.
"Didly's not a friend. He's a nuisance with a wooden spoon who won't let me sleep late."
"He beats you with a spoon to get you out of bed?" Willow asked.
He made a face. "Beats is a strong word, and if I want to sleep late, his favorite ways to wake me up are to dump cold water all over me or jump on me until I roll off the bed."
Willow started laughing. "I think Buffy needs that alarm clock."
"Yes," Draco replied. "If we wanted to kill Didly, that would be ideal."
"He may be irritating, but he can cook and he keeps the other house elves in line. I'd like to keep him, thanks." They arrived on the back terrace. "Hannah thinks the gardens are too ordinary. I think I'm going to have to redo them or else she'll pout at me."
Willow sat down on one of the lounge chairs and stretched out. "Why don't you ask Hannah to redo them?"
Draco raised an eyebrow.
"Because," Blaise said as he flopped down into one of the lounges. "She's busy enough as it is. She's only got a limited amount of time before the bastards at the Ministry fire her and she needs to get as much done at the Ministry before then that she can."
Willow shook her head.
"She likes plants and stuff," Draco said. "She might actually find it relaxing, but it's your garden, mate. Don't listen to the two of us."
"I know she'd like to do it, and I honestly don't give a rat's arse, but since she'll be over so much I don't see why she shouldn't invest in it. Merlin knows what aunt Adrienne would see if she saw it. She'd declare it a disaster and insist I start over." Blaise grumbled. "That woman and her plants."
"Be over a lot, will she?" Draco asked, his brow inching higher. "And why would that be?"Oh bugger
, Blaise thought. "Now that I've got the place remodeled I won't have to crash at the Council when I'm bored."
Draco's eyes narrowed. "You're lying. I can smell a lie like a fart in a broom cupboard. She's your girlfriend now, isn't she?"
Willow started giggling about the fart comment.
"Oh that is disgusting," Blaise exclaimed. "Tell me you don't talk like that in front of women. No wonder Buffy ran from you."
"Don't change the subject," Draco snapped. "Is she your girlfriend or isn't she?"
"Why the fuck do you care?" he asked lazily, closing his eyes and laying back. He had no problem telling Draco now that the secret was all but out, but he liked to see his friend squirm.
"Because if she's an extension of you now that means I have to look out for her. Officially."
Willow grinned. "I don't see what the big deal is."
He was happy Draco was going to look out for her when Blaise couldn't be there himself. He looked over to Willow and returned the grin. "Oh there isn't a big deal. I just like to see how much I can get Draco twitch before I finally cave."
"And you wonder why I'm such an arse to you at times. I'm glad you finally pulled your head out of your arse, though. She's the anti-Ella. I like her for that reason alone."
Blaise rolled his eyes. "I don't understand why you two didn't get along. You really were a lot alike."
"I didn't like her because she didn't like you for you. She liked what the Zabini name brought and how nice you looked on her arm. You were an accessory for her. That's why I didn't like her."
He held a palm to his chest. "Be still my beating heart. Hannah might have to fight you off."
"I'm serious. If I thought I could have gotten away with it, I'd have disposed of her."
Willow's eyes went wide.
Blaise glared at him. "There wasn't a way and you know it. She was too well connected, and any liking mother had toward you would be gone. Don't dwell on it now. She's on a completely different continent."
"With a new haircut," Draco said, looking at Willow.
"I lost my temper," Willow said, blushing. "She made me cranky."
Draco started laughing.