Pairings: Draco/Astoria, Lucius/Narcissa, assorted Greengrasses
Summary: Through hardship to the stars. The months and years post-Aftermath.
Alcyone had been making noises to attract attention for the better part of half an hour, which Lucius had been ignoring partly out of convenience, partly to see how long Ally’s patience would last. He glanced at his pocket watch. At three years old, she was already showing more self-restraint than Draco ever had, not that that was saying much. Still, she hadn’t done badly at all for a small child, quietly playing at her father’s feet and keeping herself occupied. Now, though, it appeared her patience was spent. Small fingers poked at his newspaper, and then he felt the child clamber up on to his knees. A moment later, her perfect little face appeared above the business pages like an angel parting the clouds to peek down from the heavens. “Daddy!” Ally smiled as if he was the best thing she had ever seen.
Lucius sighed. He had been on the receiving end of that smile for over thirty years, and he’d admired it, respected it, and never harboured any delusion that it was anything but the sweetest form of manipulation known to womankind. He’d been immune to that bloody smile unless he didn’t care to be, and then Ally had come along. She was her mother in miniature except that Ally was small and helpless and innocent, and suddenly giving into that smile wasn’t admitting defeat, it was an act of grace such as he had never known.
Still, Lucius didn’t usually indulge in soft feelings. They were irrational and, more often than not, a hindrance to one’s plans, but then again, he didn’t have much else to do these days than dote on his daughter. He folded up the paper and set it aside. “You know, Ally, I swore to myself I would never answer to a lord and master again.”
Ally looked at him, her brow wrinkling in confusion. She held up a toy dragon and a very battered doll, which looked like it had been half devoured by the dragon already. “Daddy? Play with me?”
“I don’t play, you know that,” Lucius said, but he lifted her up to sit in the crook of his arm and stood. “I have work to do. Why don’t you help me?”
“Yes! Work!” Ally agreed enthusiastically, and he had to laugh.
“You’re a good girl, bébé,” he said in French. Praise came more easily to him in his second language, as if it was a secret code between him and the child that no one else could understand. “You can be my assistant.”
He took Ally to the study and sat down at his desk with her on his knees. The most recent folder from Gringotts contained a fat stack of bank statements. “Now look here. Your mother has been shopping and we get to pay her bills. Isn’t that nice of her?”
“Mama is nice,” Ally agreed. Her French already sounded better than Draco’s, too. Lucius felt a twinge of regret at that, but it was what it was. He couldn’t turn back time, but here was a chance to try again. “She buyed me a dress and then she buyed her a dress.”
“Is that right.” Amused, he checked the items off a bill from Twilfitt and Tattings Tailor Shop. It wasn’t long now and he’d be able to send Ally out into the world for reports on all sorts of happenings. No one would ever see her coming until she was long gone, having taken whatever she wanted along the way. He bounced the girl on his knee, and Ally giggled. “What else did your mother buy?”
“Ear-wings!” Ally said promptly, switching back to English for the word she didn’t know.
He translated it for her to learn. “What kind of earrings?”
“Big ones!” Ally held a finger to her lips. “It’s a secret!”
“Oh, is it.” There weren’t any bills for earrings, but a receipt for a large cash sum from the vault. Lucius put a question mark behind that. “Well, I suppose we’d better pay up.” He brought out the scales and weights and set them on the table in front of Ally, adjusting the balance to weigh out the right amount.
“Gold!” Ally grinned when the purse came out, already familiar with this game. A true Malfoy, Lucius thought as he watched her reach into the large leather pouch with both hands and come up with fistfuls of gold coins. She threw them on the scales with a clatter, then dug for more.
“When you are older, I will buy you a gold necklace,” he told her. “The finest that can be had. Goblin made.”
Ally tilted her head and glanced back at him from under thick lashes. “Earrings, too!”
She remembered the right word this time, smart girl. Chuckling, he brushed a silver-blonde lock behind her ear. Alcyone was her mother’s daughter, but there would never be any mistaking who’d fathered her either, and the thought suddenly filled him with pride. Here were the beginnings of a mighty witch, and it was for him to shape and mould her and unleash her unto the world. “Earrings too, Ally,” he promised. “You greedy little thing.”
“It’s rude to speak a language not everyone understands, you know.” Narcissa suddenly stood in the door, watching them with a smile.
“We were alone until now, and Ally understands me perfectly,” he said. “Don’t you, bébé?”
Ally smiled. “I help daddy. Daddy buys me a necklace!”
“That sounds like a bargain.” Narcissa came over to perch on the arm of their chair, and together they watched the child pile gold on to the scales. “I will show her this memory in a Pensieve so she can hold you to it.”
“That won’t be necessary. Ally will have anything her heart desires.” Smirking, he looked to his wife, a mission taking shape in his mind. “You spoiled Draco, I will spoil this one. She will like me best.”
“You can dream,” she said sweetly. “It’s Draco she likes best, anyway.”
“Don’t be so sure. Ally told me all about your escapades.”
Narcissa maintained an expression of innocence that was too perfect to be real. “Escapades? Hardly. I bought us matching winter dresses.”
“And what about this?” he asked with relish, tapping the mysterious sum on the bank statement with his finger. “Earrings? Really?”
His wife had the grace to look sheepish. “Little traitor! They’re not for me. They’re a gift.”
“For whom? Don’t tell me you’ve begun to feel generously towards Draco’s girlfriend.”
“They’re for Andromeda. For her birthday.”
He rolled his eyes. “So we’ve started subsidising your family? I thought I’d escaped that obligation when they all conveniently died.”
“Shh,” she made with a glance at the child. “Andromeda won’t accept anything from me, so you don’t have to worry. Her birthday is the only opportunity I have to help her, and she needs it desperately even though she won’t admit it.”
He pictured his sister-in-law in her tattered robes, her snot-nosed grandson clinging to her skirts, wearing a pair of thousand-Galleon earrings. Not even Narcissa was that cruel. “The last thing Mrs Tonks needs is jewellery.”
“I know that. I bought her two ugly clumps of gold that she can easily pawn. Perhaps she’ll invest in a nice dress so I won’t have to be seen with her in a rag.”
“I am amazed that you want to be seen with her at all.”
“Andromeda’s standing is better than mine these days,” she said ruefully. “It’s only smart to maintain that relationship.”
“If you say so.” He laid an arm around his wife, smirking. “Are we getting soft in our old age?”
“This isn’t ‘old age’,” Narcissa said immediately. “My baby is only just out of diapers.”
“She’s not a baby anymore.”
As if on cue, Ally had finished balancing the scales. She now presented her handiwork to them with a grand gesture. “Look, Mama!”
“Very good,” Lucius said. “Now let’s see, how many Galleons do we have? Count them back.”
Ally took the coins off the scales one by one and counted to ten in French.
“Oh, Lucius, she barely speaks English. She will get confused,” Narcissa said.
“Speak for yourself.” He set the first stack of ten coins aside. “Again, Ally, so your mother can understand.” Obligingly, Ally counted out ten more Galleons in English. “Smart girl. That’s enough for today, I think. Shall we take our brooms for a flight?”
Alcyone squealed, suddenly resembling Draco after all. “Yes, daddy! Fly with me!”
She scampered off to the patio door, scratching at it like an excited puppy. “I wish you wouldn’t,” Narcissa sighed. “At least put on your coats.”
Bundled up against the cold, they set out for a flight across the gardens. Ally’s broom still retained the charms to limit altitude and speed at Narcissa’s command, but she pushed the boundaries of what she could do with it daily. Chuckling, Lucius watched her flatten herself on the broomstick, willing it to go as fast as it possibly could. Both his children were good fliers; it was a bit of a sad legacy, but at least Draco’s enthusiasm for broomsticks was getting him interested in business matters, and there was no telling what might become of Alcyone. All wasn’t lost yet, Lucius thought, breathing deeply of the cold air. It was good to get out of the house for a while.
Dusk was falling. He looked towards the horizon, but in the dim twilight of the winter fog, the Malfoy lands stretched out into the distance with no end in sight. Ally zipped past him, squealing, and he followed with no particular objection, which was a rare thing in itself. Just for tonight, it wasn’t so difficult to pretend he was free.