Pairings: Draco/Astoria, Lucius/Narcissa, assorted Greengrasses
Summary: Through hardship to the stars. The months and years post-Aftermath.
“I think it’s an improvement. The downstairs parlour was so small and dark, joining it with the library will give us some room to breathe.”
This discussion had been going round in circles for an hour, and Draco was ready for his father to Drop It Already. He’d long resigned himself to the fact that his parents didn’t make pleasant conversation, but usually the sparring was more amusing. He gave his father a baleful look. There were reasons why he didn’t bring Astoria to the Manor often; Lucius was an acquired taste, best enjoyed in small doses, like caviar, which people pretended to like but didn’t really. Draco knew this, and yet he tried again and again to facilitate polite meetings only for his parents to act like...well, his parents. He glanced over at Narcissa for support, but his mother ignored him with the ease of long practice.
“It doesn’t matter what you think, the market thinks differently. The house was masterfully laid out, it was built by one of the best architects of the time. Tearing down the walls willy-nilly will decrease property value,” Lucius griped now.
“What does it matter, though?” Astoria, for one, was unperturbed by all the arguing as always. She had taken a seat on the chaise longue that was usually occupied by Narcissa and was eating the decorative chocolates from a decorative bowl.
“What does it matter?” Lucius echoed, incensed. People used to quiver before him when he took that sort of tone. Astoria took another chocolate.
“The house has been in the family for generations. You wouldn’t want to sell it anyway. It’s priceless.” Her smile was like a mirror shield, reflecting the heat of his glare back at him. “Isn’t it?”
“Nothing is priceless. That’s foolish sentiment. Of course I would sell it, I’d even sell this house for the right price.”
“How would that work? I thought you were bound to this house in accord with a Wizengamot order?” she asked as calmly as if she were inquiring what he’d had for lunch.
Draco heard his mother draw in a sharp breath. Lucius’s imprisonment was the elephant in the room that was usually ignored; unfortunately, Astoria liked such elephants, and especially the ones that made a big, stinking mess.
“He’d come with the house like the appliances. I’m sure that would dramatically increase the value,” Draco quipped. In some ways, it was amusing that his father didn’t have a wand; one could joke without having to fear for one’s life.
“Watch your mouth,” Lucius said through his teeth.
“Oh, please. I’m only joking.” Draco knew he was pushing it, but he never could stop himself once he got going. “We all know the only way you’re leaving this house behind is feet first in a box.”
Astoria kicked him under the coffee table, but Draco liked having the attention off of her, even if it meant that his father was now glaring holes through him.
“Perhaps you’re not sufficiently occupied if you have time to fantasise about my demise,” Lucius said in a voice that heralded impending doom. “I can find you some things to do, Draco, shall I? Things like revising the household accounts back through the Middle Ages?”
“No, thanks. I’m busy renovating my house,” Draco smirked.
The portrait of Draco’s grandfather above the fireplace began to cackle. It laughed itself into a coughing fit, which still didn’t end the hilarity. “Justice,” Abraxas’s likeness wheezed. “Sweet, sweet justice! How does it feel, my boy, eh?”
Lucius chucked a glass of water at the portrait, which made Abraxas limp off in a haste, but did not stop him sniggering. They heard him pass through several portraits in the hallway, where the gallery of Malfoy ancestors began to chatter upon his arrival.
Narcissa pointed her wand to shut the sitting room door. She had been forced on to a hard guest chair by Astoria inadvertently occupying her favourite spot. The high back made her sit even more rigidly upright than usual. She glared around at them all now like the high inquisitor at the hapless witch on the pyre.
“Cheeky! Other children would be grateful to be given a house at all, Draco, not mouth off about it.” Ostensibly, this was addressed to her son, but she was looking at Astoria.
“Technically, dad couldn’t even give me the house at all. It belongs to the estate, which means I had a right to it to begin with.” It was true, but it was also getting them nowhere. Draco wondered why he always had to be the reasonable adult around here.
“It also means it still belongs to the estate and you can’t just do anything you want with it,” Lucius said. He took up the construction sketches that Draco had brought and retreated behind them to sulk. “Technically, the beneficiaries of the estate need to agree on any major changes made to property and assets--”
“Fine! We’ll start doing that right now. You can send me all the papers you want signed. I’ll get them back to you sometime this century,” Draco said brazenly.
A sudden breeze swept through the room and made the chandelier above them sway back and forth, clinking quietly. Lucius’s bursts of magic were erratic and uncontrollable, but they did lend his demands a sense of urgency. Draco almost envied him the dramatic flair. In more conciliatory tones, he said, “Look, it’s not like we’ve been fussing with it ourselves. It’s been remodelled by professionals and it looks great. I wish you could see it. The downstairs area is a real living space now. There’s finally some room to spread out.”
Lucius emerged from behind the parchment huffing like an angry rhinoceros. “Like you haven’t always spread out into every corner of every place you’ve occupied. How much space do two people need?”
Frustrated, Draco made faces at his father. The universe willing, the town house would become home to a new generation of Malfoys someday, but he didn’t want to say that out loud for fear of jinxing it, and also for fear of his mother, whose scorn was worse than any superstition. “You never know,” he said in an undertone, willing Lucius to understand.
Lucius looked back at him, his eyebrows slowly rising to crawl up his forehead like white caterpillars. Then he rolled up the plans and set them aside. “Well then. If the house ever needs to be sold, you’ll be responsible for returning it to its original state. Narcissa, might we have some refreshments?”
Narcissa looked at him askance, but snapped her fingers for the house elf. She and Lucius busied themselves juggling glasses of gin and vermouth and tiny skewers of olives for the next few minutes, which brought a blessed reprieve from the so-called niceties.
“I’d like to drop by to see those so-called improvements for myself sometime,” she said eventually. “To be honest, I would have expected an invitation as soon as the renovations were finished. It’s only polite.”
“Of course,” Astoria said. “But we aren’t quite finished. We still need to put up some of our personal things. It’ll be properly cosy then.”
“Cosy.” Narcissa sighed. “The house used to be a nice place before Draco’s personal things.”
If Astoria felt the sting, she didn’t show it. “You’ll find it’s still a nice place, I think. It has character. I understand why you’re so attached to it.”
“It’s true, I have fond memories of the place.” Narcissa delicately sniffed at a perfumed handkerchief in a display of posh frailty which was meant to convey her suffering to them all. From the corner of his eye, Draco saw his father begin to smirk.
“Did you ever live there?” Astoria asked.
“No. Lucius lived there when we first began to see each other, so I spent some time occasionally. But I didn’t force myself into his space prematurely to change things around and inconvenience absolutely everybody.”
Astoria was generous to a fault, always happy to assume the best about everyone and everything, but now she frowned, and Draco felt his entire body heat with rage like a fuse had been lit and he was about to explode. “You’re a saint,” he snapped at his mother, only to be ignored.
“I know my parents didn’t live together before they got married, either,” Astoria said now. “But I think it’s only smart. You do need to know what you’re getting yourself into, living with someone.”
Narcissa was wearing a smile that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a crocodile getting ready for the kill. “I thought you were mostly getting into the Malfoy coffers.”
The blow itself glanced off Astoria because she had no weak spot there, but not even she could ignore that she was being attacked. Still, she glanced over at Draco and somehow found it in herself to smile. “If you feel that’s the most interesting thing about Draco, you’re wrong. And I feel sorry for you.” With that parting shot, she rose and straightened her dress as if she was putting on battle armour. “But I suppose you’d have to know him.”
Draco gasped out a surprised laugh. She might as well have punched his mother in the face, and Narcissa seemed to feel this keenly, for she turned a lovely shade of pink.
“I’m off; I have the night shift,” Astoria said. “Thank you, the chocolates were nice.”
Draco sprung up from the sofa. “Wait, I’ll come with you--”
“No, it’s all right, you stay. I’m running late, anyway.” She kissed him and marched off, the door closing behind her with an ominous click.
Draco rounded on his mother, spinning so close to her with the force of his anger that Narcissa moved back in her chair. “What the bloody hell is wrong with you?”
“With me? The cheek! You both have been very rude and disrespectful.”
“Astoria hasn’t done anything to you.”
Lucius actually laughed. “She exists, Draco, that’s enough. That poor girl never had a chance. This day had to come, but you’re being even more ridiculous than I anticipated, Ciss.”
“If the girl can’t take some uncomfortable questions, she has no business coming here. She’ll have to face much worse if she’s serious about your relationship,” Narcissa said.
“Oh, so this is all a test? You’re somehow insulting her for her benefit? And mine?” Draco decided he needed a drink. He’d dare anyone to put up with his parents without the aid of liquor. He poured himself half a water glass of gin, which tasted like dragon piss but greased his throat for more yelling.
“Everything I do is for you!” Narcissa didn’t even blink.
He laughed. “How generous! With family like this, who needs enemies?”
An awkward pause ensued as they all contemplated just how true that was. Then Lucius said, to Draco’s unending astonishment, “Well, the girl acquitted herself, don’t you agree, Cissy? I’d feared she’d be a kind-hearted little fool like her mother, good for a pet, not as a family member. But it’s not as bad as all that. She can hold her own. Even against you.” He watched his wife’s face growing darker by the second and chuckled. “I have to say, I enjoy that.”
Draco didn’t know whether to feel elated or offended on Astoria’s behalf. “It doesn’t matter whether you like her or not. I do, and I won’t sit here and watch you pick on her.”
“Don’t be silly, Draco. You mustn’t take it personally, your mother picks on everyone.”
“I do no such thing! And you’re an overflowing fountain of charm, yourself!” Narcissa snapped back. “None of you ever appreciate what I put up with!”
If Lucius had had a moustache, he probably would have been twirling it just then. “Shall I have the elves fetch some smelling salts? Goodness, they did say women became like their mothers as they aged, but I was hoping we weren’t going to reach that stage for a few decades yet.”
Narcissa’s face flushed so red that Draco was actually concerned her head might explode. “How dare you compare me to her! She made all our lives miserable. All I’ve ever done has been in the interest of this family.”
“And in the interest of the continuation of the family, I’d appreciate it if you shut up and left Astoria in peace, Mother.” Draco let that hang there, trying not to squirm as his parents turned the full force of their combined attention on him.
Narcissa shook her head. “Don’t be silly. You’re too young to be thinking in the long term. And I’m too young to be a grandmother.”
“It’s not like it’s going to happen tomorrow, or anytime soon, but--”
“It’d better not!”
“Why? When you were my age--”
“That was a different time! And we’d been friends since we were children, and still I have to sit here now and be laughed at.” She cast a withering look at her husband, who smirked, unrepentant.
“You poor little helpless thing.”
Narcissa drew her wand. “Do you have a death wish, Malfoy?”
“I’m just so terribly bored, Cissy.” He toasted her with his cocktail glass. “This is as good a diversion as I could have hoped for.”
“I’m glad my life amuses you,” Draco said dryly. “It’s none of your business how we live or what we do. We only share it with you as a courtesy.”
His mother pinned him with her glare. “It’s a courtesy to hear that girl going on about the gory details of healers’ work at the dinner table? Well, thank you very much!”
Draco cringed. “Well, that’s how she is, and you can either take her as is or I will remove us both from your sight if that’s what you’d prefer.”
Narcissa frowned as if he’d just pushed her face first into dragon dung. “Even if you didn’t miss us, you’d miss Ally. You’d never do that to her.”
He fought to keep impassive; his mother had him there. They stared at each other, neither of them willing to blink and concede first. “Ally’s my sister. But Astoria is going to be my wife.” At least he hoped that she wouldn’t prove him a fool for thinking that. Suspenseful silence descended over the room at that announcement. “Ally can find me when she’s grown.”
Lucius looked back and forth between his wife and son, rubbing his hands together. “Ah, a good old-fashioned Black drama. Go on then, Cissy, cast him out over his choice of lover. That’s how it always ends, isn’t it?”
Draco glanced at his father. He hadn’t thought he’d receive support from this unlikeliest of places, but Lucius had been a little nutty lately, which was probably the war trauma, or else just meant to annoy Narcissa. In any case, Draco felt grateful.
Narcissa’s eyes narrowed. “Draco, if you think you can sit there, in my house, and give me ultimatums--”
She really would play this to the end. Shrugging, Draco rose. “Fine. I don’t need to sit here.”
He was fairly certain she’d fold, but he moved slowly just in case. When he made it as far as turning the doorknob, doubt began to creep in; he hadn’t actually thought this whole thing through beforehand, but he wouldn’t give in on sheer principle, and besides, he’d meant what he said. He didn’t want to leave the Manor in strife, he really didn’t want to abandon Ally, but he would if he had to. It wasn’t a feint, and realising that made him go on confidently.
“Oh, do sit down!” Narcissa burst out. “I’ve always given you what you want, haven’t I. Don’t you think it’s time you repaid me with a little trust?”
Draco turned back to his mother, smirking. “If you promise you’ll be nice to Astoria, I’ll believe you, Mother.”
“Fine!” she snapped. “I only want the best for you, darling. The very best.”
Snorting out a laugh of relief, Draco went to sit with her. She’d moved to her ridiculously delicate chaise lounge and was dabbing at her eyes, although they were dry. He put an arm around her back and felt Narcissa start with surprise. When he was a small boy, he’d cuddled up to her as she read him bedtime stories, pressed his face into her neck to smell her perfume, and thought that there was no one more beautiful, no one more perfect in the whole world. The illusion had shattered a long time ago, but he remembered what it was like to feel so safe, so loved. Of all the grand things that had fallen into ruin, this one alone had been rebuilt because it was good and true and it stood on solid ground. “Mum. Please.”
Sighing deeply, Narcissa embraced him. “I love you,” she whispered only for him to hear. “More than anyone else ever will!”
Draco smiled. “It’s not a competition, Mum.”
“Yes, it bloody well is!” She straightened up, sniffling, and reached out to fuss with his necktie.
“I’m glad you’re being reasonable,” Lucius piped up.
“And what’s your sudden interest?” she asked peevishly.
“I just don’t think it’s prudent to meddle when a good opportunity presents itself. Let’s be realistic, there aren’t many pureblood women left, never mind any of the right age! Or would you prefer Draco to settle for someone...lesser?”
She shuddered. “No. Of course not.”
“There’s nothing wrong with the Greengrass girl. She’s smart, which is more than can be said for most people. She’ll do.”
“High praise!” Draco scoffed. His parents ignored him.
“Merlin, at least the girl has guts! Would you have preferred that daft cow Pansy Parkinson, who always looked at you like she wanted to strangle you with your own pearl necklace and then rob your mangled corpse?”
“No.” Narcissa rolled her eyes. “I don’t even mind the little Greengrass! I just wish she hadn’t come in and upset everything when things had just settled down so nicely.”
Her husband shrugged. “Draco seems happy. Supposedly, that was always what you wanted.”
“It is what I want.”
“Then we are in accord. But, Draco, I still think remodelling the house was a mistake.”
“And I’m off; I need to watch some paint dry.” Draco grabbed his construction sketches, crammed a handful of olives into his mouth, and made to escape the madhouse. “Good night!”
He stepped out into the hall, debating whether he should go and prod Ally awake just to annoy his mother a little, but started when he saw Astoria standing there. “Oh. I thought you’d left.”
“I came back. I forgot my hat.”
“How long have you been here?”
“Long enough.” For some inexplicable reason, she was wearing a huge smile that showed her dimples and made Draco’s stomach feel funny.
Stricken, he said, “Look, it doesn’t matter what they say--”
“No, it doesn’t. It only matters what you said. That’s all I care about.” She threw herself at him and pressed a kiss to his lips. “I love you. Now I need to run, I’m going to be late.”
Draco accompanied her to the Floo, holding on to her hand to help her into the grate. She turned back to him and smiled. “I think your father likes me.”
Wonders never ceased. “You know, I think he does.”
She winked. “I’ll get your mother too, eventually. Don’t worry about it, love.”
“You don’t worry.”
She squeezed his hand. “I won’t. I’m fine. I have you, don’t I.”
“Yes,” Draco said. “You do.”
He could only hope that would be good enough.