AN: Thank you for the support! It is deeply appreciated!
There were few things more pleasurable in life than reading the latest edition of Potions Monthly by a crackling fire with a cup of steaming black tea. Granted, most of this month's articles were lackluster at best, but there were two which could be of some use later.
Rose turned the page before taking a sip of tea. Then she huffed. There was no conceivable reason one would insert gillyweed into an anticoagulant, but some portioners were determined to repeat their predecessors' mistakes.
She folded the top of the page and set the journal on the table. What could be the source of those noises? Most students at this hour were sneaking about as quietly as possible. Granted, many first years had not mastered the art of stealth, but even the densest Gryffindor had some survival instincts.
Before Rose could contemplate charging upstairs and determining the sounds' origin, the fireplace erupted. She shrugged and made her way towards the flames.
"Rose? Are you there?"
Rose stuck her head over the hearth. "No Victor, I'm not."
"Ha ha," Victor muttered.
Rose grinned. "What is on your mind?" .
"Oh nothing," Victor answered. "I simply wanted to say hi."
Rose tapped her foot.
"Can I not just call to say hi to my sister without some ulterior motive?" Victor asked.
"I suppose I have no real objection to speaking with you," Rose replied. "Provided I am not simply a means of distracting yourself from a certain witch."
Even through the flames, his blush was visible. "I…I attempted to call her, but it was getting late."
"I presume you agonized over the decision to call her for hours."
"For someone who allegedly possesses great Gryffindor courage, you are pathetically inept at speaking to a Slytherin," Rose continued.
"We've been through this, Rose…" Victor grumbled.
"Apparently not enough times to get it through your thick dunderheaded skull," Rose shook her head. "For Merlin's sake, Carina Malfoy is a girl, not a goddess. All you need to do is ask her if she would like a butterbeer or a sandwich. If you can accomplish that task I guarantee you that you will be a happier man."
"Carina wouldn't want a butterbeer or a sandwich. She would want a bottle of rosé and the finest escargot Paris could provide," Victor sighed.
"Are you certain of that?"
"She's a Malfoy. She wouldn't settle for less than the finest dining."
"The last time I checked, Draco was a Malfoy. He is not exactly opposed to a bowl of chicken soup. On a few occasions I've even seen him indulge in a hamburger."
"Even if she does like to indulge in French food, you are not lacking in funds," Rose continued. "You can afford to indulge her for one evening."
"I know," Victor replied. "Still, I don't want to look like I'm trying too hard."
"Then ask her if she'd like a butterbeer with you. There is nothing too difficult about that."
"But a butterbeer and sandwich are too informal."
Rose burst out laughing. "I swear you make everything ten times more difficult than need be."
Victor gave her a half grin.
"Other than being hopelessly attracted to Carina, how else have you been faring?" She asked.
"Overall I am well," He replied. "My case load has not been too strenuous, and the clients I represent are more than cooperative. Things have been going quite smoothly as far as my law career goes."
"That is very good to hear," Rose replied.
"Indeed," Victor answered. "Since I've been at court recently, I've had contact with a few Ministry officials."
Rose's stomach sank. "So you have."
"The word around the Ministry is that Percy Weasley isn't happy with the current direction of Hogwarts," Victor began.
"I take it there is a grain of truth to these rumors," Victor replied.
"Unfortunately," Rose answered.
"I apologize," Victor replied. "The last thing I'd ever want is to be on Percy Wealsey's less than pleasant side."
Rose snorted. "I was not aware that he has a pleasant side."
"I have far more important things in my life to worry about than a blowhard like Percy Wealsey," Rose continued.
"Yes, you do," Victor replied. "Like his bratty teenaged daughters."
Rose groaned. "I have Molly in class tomorrow."
"That is rather unfortunate."
"Indeed it is."
Victor's face moved from the right, and then to the left. In a low voice he continued, "Would it improve your mood if I told you that there are rumors of Draco running against Percy in the election?"
"I would not pin my hopes upon them. It is very unlikely Draco will run for any type of public office."
"Carina says he is seriously considering a run."
"You spoke more than two words to Carina?"
"I saw her during my lunch break and struck up a conversation with her."
"Yet you did not ask her on a date."
"No, I suppose I did not."
Rose covered her mouth in a feeble attempt to hide her laughter.
"All right, you've had your fun," Victor scowled. "Why don't you think Draco will run for office?"
Rose grew serious. "Let's look at the situation form Draco's perspective."
"What motive does he have to run?" Rose asked. "Draco already has wealth, prestige, and a certain degree of political power. He has a thriving business which keeps him occupied, so becoming the Minister of Magic would be nothing more than a headache for him."
"Carina says he wants to implement some new technology in Wizarding Britain."
"How long did you speak with her exactly?"
"Roughly twenty minutes."
"Do you mean to tell me that you can talk to this witch about a potential political campaign, but the second it comes to casual dining you lose your nerve?"
Victor looked away from the fireplace.
"I swear on Merlin's beard you are one of the most vexing people I have ever met."
"Perhaps," Victor sighed.
"Indeed" Rose replied.
"The original point I was trying to make is that Percy Weasley may not become minister," Victor replied. "That should help dispel any unease you may have."
"At this moment, I am very much at ease," Rose answered.
"I am very happy to hear it," Victor replied.
Rose jumped up. Victor leaned closer to the flames. "What's going on?"
"I do not know," Rose admitted. "I've been hearing sounds from upstairs all night."
"Have the ghosts gone wild again?" Vitor asked.
"No," Rose answered. "These sounds are different."
"Well, if you are busy I should let you return to your work," Victor replied.
"I suppose I should allow you to return to finding excuses not to ask Carina to go out on a date as well," Rose replied.
Victor's face reddened again.
"Do not let yourself be too bothered by your lack of romantic finesse," Rose continued. "Even Dad, brave as he was, had great difficulty confessing his sentiments to Mum, at least initially."
"I suppose he did," Victor replied.
Rose gave him a soft smile. "I love you, Victor. It is always great to speak with you."
Victor grinned. "I love you too, Sis. You are always a pleasant person to call."
The flames died.
Severus clasped shut his suitcase before setting it upright. It was a half hour before he was scheduled to be in Brazil, but at this point in the marriage Hermione should be accustomed to him being early. Her lecture had concluded, and she should have returned to the hotel room. He only hoped she would find his early appearance to be a welcome surprise.
Outside, the clouds parted.
Severus' lips twitched upwards. In his youth he'd never considered himself one who enjoyed the sunlight. Most days were spent in the dark of the dungeons, and his most pleasant nights were spent in dreamless slumber. Sunny places like Brazil were for others who enjoyed the sun and warmth, not for ones like him.
Then he married Hermione.
A beam of moonlight crept into the room.
In the span of a quarter century so much had changed. For the first time sunlight and beaches were appealing. Granted, she could make dental work sound appealing, but...
The moon shone brighter.
Severus' heart raced. His palms began to sweat. He scanned the room and shuddered.
Where am I?