Pairings: Draco/Astoria, Lucius/Narcissa, assorted Greengrasses
Summary: Through hardship to the stars. The months and years post-Aftermath.
How anyone had ever made time for a grand tour of Europe in the olden days, Draco had no idea. Business, family, and Astoria’s astonishing work ethic kept them quite bound up for longer than he liked, but finally they managed to pry themselves loose for a trip to Paris.
They made it as far as Margate.
Oh, they’d left London for the coast with every intention of taking a portkey to France the next day, but then they’d found a beach cottage and just didn’t leave. Margate wasn’t quite a capital of French grandeur, Draco thought, but in the end, all he’d wanted was some quiet time with Astoria, and for that purpose it was perfect. Their bedroom window looked out over the sea; the crash and rolling of the waves became a constant, soothing melody that woke them late in the morning and rocked them to sleep at night. They took tea and pastries in bed, long walks on the beach, had leisurely afternoon romps and terrible bottles of wine at the one wizard-owned restaurant in town. Draco got to complain about this at length, which only added to his enjoyment of the holiday.
“It’s so bad I’m beginning to like it,” Astoria said on the third visit to the restaurant as they toasted each other with their wine glasses.
“Is that your life’s motto?”
She laughed. “Oh, don’t.”
“It’s lucky for me, anyway,” Draco said, and drained the glass before he dragged her back to their house to find out what sort of bad she’d started to enjoy.
At the end of the week, he realised he’d begun to relax. They sat in the dunes, soaking up weak rays of sun that peeked through the clouds. There was a bit of a cold breeze, but hidden away in their nook, they were comfortable enough. Astoria sat between his legs, braiding long blades of grass, her head resting against his chest heavy and warm, and Draco felt himself go still and realised there was nowhere else he wanted to be at that moment, nothing he’d rather do. It was an unfamiliar feeling, his restlessness subsiding at last as if he’d finally arrived.
He closed his eyes and ran his hands all over the warm body in front of him, enjoying every soft girly bit he could squeeze, the shape of her that he could have sketched from memory. Astoria squirmed a little as he sneaked his hands under her jumper and tickled her ribs.
“Hey. Are you naked under this?”
He could hear the smile in her voice. “I reckoned there was no point in dressing up, we’ll just take all our clothes off again soon.”
“True.” He touched her without real purpose, just because she was there and he could and she felt so damned nice. “We’re not going to make it any farther than this, are we?”
“We can leave if you’d like. But it’s nice here, isn’t it. And we only have a few more days, not long enough to see all of Paris.”
Draco snorted out a laugh. He lay back in the sand and sprawled. “I give up.”
A shadow fell over his face, and he opened his eyes to see Astoria leaning over him. Being outside so much had brought out a spattering of freckles across her nose, just a few, enough for him to have an excuse to stare and count. “It’s not my fault. Whenever I start packing our bags, you distract me.”
“It is your fault then. Pack the bags less attractively.”
She laughed. “Oh well. We’ll make it to Paris some other time.”
Draco thought of moonlit walks by the Seine, of champagne and roses and the ring in his pocket which he’d been carrying around for months. Finally presenting her with it had been the whole purpose of the trip, but then again, they had fond memories of chilly English beaches. He smirked to himself at the thought. Perhaps he should find them a nice, secluded spot on the waterfront tonight, persuade Astoria to take all her clothes off there, and then, while they were enjoying the afterglow, he could--
“Is that Harry Potter?”
His fantasy dissipated like smoke. He shot upright like a switchblade knife to look. A young family was coming down the beach, a woman with shocking red hair who looked familiar enough and a man who Draco would’ve known anywhere, anytime, even squinting against the sunlight. Potter was carrying a small child on his shoulders, who laughed as Potter bounced up and down, a spring in his step.
“Oh gods, they’ve spawned,” Draco burst out. “Quick, pretend like you’re snogging me.”
“What do you mean, ‘pretend’? I was just about to snog you anyway.” Astoria rolled her eyes at him, but obligingly leaned over, her hair hanging down to shield them both, and hid him away in her embrace until the Potters had walked past and disappeared down the beach.
“Of all the places they could take a vacation!” Draco complained. “Next time, I’m renting a house with a private beach.”
“But then you couldn’t make fun of the little old ladies taking their morning exercise.” Astoria nudged him gently. “You’ll have to let it go sometime, you know. It’s not healthy to hold grudges.”
He glared in the direction the Potters had disappeared in. He was learning to let go; a few years ago, it would’ve been unfathomable to let Potter pass without getting a good insult in. Feeling extremely mature and sensible, he said, “I don’t care about them. It’s just vulgar, is all. The world doesn’t need more Weasley offspring.”
“They looked happy. It’s nice. Potter deserves it after everything, don’t you think?”
Draco grumbled. If they went down the path of ethics that had people deserving of happiness, he wasn’t sure where he’d personally end up. “He always just...got whatever he wanted. Even the war, bloody hell. He wanted to defeat the Dark Lord, and so he did. I don’t get it. How things always seem to go his way.”
“Perhaps he made them,” Astoria said, giving him a sidelong glance. “Some people would call that ambition.”
“Or just dumb luck.”
“There’s no need to be jealous,” Astoria said with gentle reproach. “Don’t you think he’d trade with you in an instant? You have both your parents, your little sister, you’re handsome and successful--”
“And he’s got the whole world swooning over him,” Draco complained, although a secret thrill shivered through him at the praise. “All the fame, glory and accolades anyone could ever want.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Is that what you really want?”
No, Draco thought. All he saw when he looked ahead was her. “Everyone wants that.”
“No. Not particularly.” She climbed over him to find her bag and produced two mugs, tea bags and a greasy paper bag. “Perhaps we should talk about that. What it is that we want. I’ve been thinking.”
“That doesn’t sound ominous at all,” he said, startled.
“That’s not how I meant it. But here’s a thought.” Smiling, Astoria poured water from her wandtip into each mug, then handed him one. “I think we should start trying to have a baby. Do you want the last profiterole?”
Draco choked on his tea and began to wheeze. Scalding hot water sloshed over his fingers; he dropped the mug in the sand. “Baby?” he coughed.
“Yes. If we’re going to have one, it’s either now or after I’ve finished training in my specialty, but that’d be quite long to wait, I think. So as for me, I’d like to start trying somewhere between now and the winter.” Astoria pointed her wand at him and the need to cough subsided, but the confusion remained.
“I... What?” Draco croaked, uncomprehending.
“My work. We’ll need to puzzle out the right timing.” She nodded at him as if all of this made perfect sense. “If I got pregnant sometime late this year, the baby’s birth would coincide with the end of my traineeship. I could take some time off and then return to start training in Curse Damage. That’ll take another four years, and then I couldn’t immediately go on maternity leave, it’d kill my career at that stage. So if we put it off now, it’ll be about seven or eight years before we can even think about it again. We’d be in our thirties. We can wait, mind. I just thought we should talk about it.”
“I... You...!” Draco gasped for air. “We can’t just have children,” he said, clutching at his throat like an old lady at her pearls. “I mean, not out of wedlock!”
Astoria smiled. “I suppose you are very traditional. But it doesn’t really matter either way, does it. Children are a greater bond than any marriage contract.”
“You haven’t seen a Malfoy marriage contract.” Draco marvelled at her trust; he didn’t quite know if he found it silly or amazing. “But it’s nothing to do with being...conventional. There are safeguards in place to protect the estate. The entail is tied to legitimate children, it’d be a nightmare to change it.”
That was only the most superficial reason, though. He wanted to claim the children she would give birth to, have them carry on his name and the long legacy that came with it. He wanted to establish a family of his own, and most of all, he wanted to point at Astoria across a crowded room and be able to say, That is my wife. He wanted to claim her, but she wouldn’t have that, she was far too independent. Draco had struggled with that realisation for a while and gotten nowhere. She was his in all the ways that mattered, but he wanted more; a promise of forever, and all the world to know about it.
“I don’t care about the money, you know that.”
Draco wondered if she’d care about the rest, if he could find the words to tell her. “The baby might.” There was a funny feeling in his stomach when he said the words. “You know, once he’s grown.”
“Well. There’s an obvious solution for that problem, isn’t there,” Astoria said, and then she took the last profiterole and began to lick at the cream.
Draco stared at her, his face burning with the impact of the figurative Quaffle she had just tossed at him. She’d nonchalantly manoeuvred them into the very position Draco had been trying to get to for months, and she made it look so easy. For some stupid reason, he felt disappointed. He’d sometimes worked himself up into hyperventilating fits, lying awake at night and imagining how he’d propose to her, but he’d sort of been looking forward to it, the terror, the excitement. This situation was as bizarre as it was anticlimactic. “Is this how it’s going to go?”
A reasonable discussion between reasonable adults with a mutual decision at the end; it was all very sensible and mature. It sort of felt like he was about to propose to Astoria’s father.
She smiled at him as if he was being particularly silly, which shouldn’t even have been possible seeing as she was the one with cream smeared all over her cheek, but there it was. “I don’t know. It can be? What did you envision?”
He didn’t even try to deny that he’d envisioned something. “I just, I thought it’d be a special moment.”
“But it is a special moment.” She reached out and took his hand. “We’re here together. That’s all that matters. So ask me to marry you already and I’ll say yes.”
“No,” he griped. “You spoiled it. It’s not a surprise now.”
Astoria’s dimples were showing. “You seemed pretty surprised.”
He folded in on himself, fighting the urge to pout. “That’s not how it’s supposed to go.”
“But I didn’t want to wait any longer. Since when do we do things the way they’re supposed to go?”
He shrugged. “Don’t you want a ring, to start?”
“It’d just be impractical at work.”
Somewhere in Paris, Draco thought, there was a soft thud as Pansy Parkinson fell over, expiring from shock. “But how would anyone know you’re engaged?”
She laughed. “I’ll tell them!”
“But...” The whole thing was strangely upsetting. Girls were supposed to be the ones who clamoured for commitment. “I’d want everyone to see.”
Astoria took apart the profiterole with surgical precision to get at more cream. “See what?”
He flushed pink. “Never mind!”
“You’re being silly, love. Everyone knows we’re together.” She didn’t even look up from the mess of her pastry, which was clearly a more important thing to attend to than his sanity. “But I could wear a ring on special occasions?”
“Well, thank you very much!” He would get what he’d wanted all along; it shouldn’t matter how, but it did. “I was hoping that you’d be...” He gestured vaguely. Faint with gratitude. Overcome with love. Enchanted. Bewitched. Rapturous. “Excited.”
“I am excited.”
“I don’t know. You seem excited mostly for the profiterole.”
She finally put the pastry down and graced him with her full attention. “Oh. You’re upset. I’m sorry. I thought if we just talked about it, the whole thing wouldn’t seem like such an obstacle. Just something we decide together.”
“‘Just’ something we decide. Like what to have for lunch?” He wondered idly how Potter, the great tool, had gotten through this terrible conversation. Then again, the Weasley girl was a different calibre of woman than Astoria; she probably couldn’t believe her luck that anyone wanted to marry her at all. “Couldn’t you swoon for once in your life? I’d settle for pretending to swoon, even.”
Astoria bit her lip against a smile, and she’d better, Draco thought, because this wasn’t funny in any way. “I don’t really know how to swoon,” she said, but then she softened that terrible blow by climbing into his lap. She straddled his thighs, wrapping him up in her affection, and he felt his mood pick up along with other things. “But you’re right, perhaps I verbalise too much. Perhaps this calls for a more...visceral reaction.”
She tasted like sweet cream when she kissed him. Her mouth was shaped like a smile against his, and when they touched like this, he just couldn’t stay peevish, never had been able to. Astoria pressed close, her knees tightening against his hips and her arms warm and strong around his back. He loved it when she clutched at him like this, as if she could never get enough, and he wanted to do the same thing to her, but he was always afraid of doing too much, holding on too tightly, not giving her enough room to breathe and scaring her off. Perhaps that was doing her an injustice; she was a rare, precious bird, but she wasn’t flighty or skittish, and she would stay if he only trusted her enough. He just had to bring himself to do that.
Astoria broke away, gasping, and there was fire in her eyes. “Do you really need me to simper and flatter you and take you for a fool? Can’t you tell how much I love you? Can’t you feel me falling apart whenever you’re inside me?”
Draco shivered. He wasn’t often rendered speechless, but now he could only nod.
“Everyone needs me to keep it together, and so I do,” she went on. “My patients, even my parents. I’m used to...well, balancing things. I don’t like falling all over myself, but that doesn’t mean I’m not crazy for you. When are you going to start believing it? Because I’m starting to think you’re either daft or I’m doing something very wrong. So which is it?”
“I’m not daft!” He thought it was important to establish intelligence at least if he couldn’t claim sanity or equilibrium. “But I can never really believe that this has happened to me.”
“Just, for someone to want the same things I want. And for that someone to be you,” he said, frowning. He’d demanded his due of the universe since the moment he could form coherent thought, had pushed his desires through against what felt like the resistance of the whole world sometimes, and sometimes, he had spectacularly failed, running up against a wall trying to force it to crumble and instead being knocked down. But nothing had ever felt easy, and yet this here did: being with her, their hands entwined in the warmth of her lap and her smile caressing him, only him. He stared at her, fascinated as ever by that smile, the dimples in her cheeks that seemed shaped just so for his hands to fit around. “I still keep waiting for it to end.”
Astoria shook her head at him. “But why? Why would it?”
“Because all good things end,” he said moodily. “And one day you’re going to wake up and decide it was all a mistake--”
She raised a slender eyebrow. “Oh, so you think I’m daft?”
“Yeah, sure, that’s what I think.” Perhaps he shouldn’t be surprised; he’d made this choice for himself a long time ago, after all, but he could barely believe that she’d made the same for herself.
“Do you think I’m faithless, then?”
“No. Of course not.”
“Then what is it?”
He shrugged, looking away from her at the deserted beach, the endless expanse of the sea stretching towards the horizon. “Life’s all right when it’s just the two of us, alone together. But soon enough, we’ll have to go back home. And if we get married, if you take my name and have my children... Well, you might not like the way people look at you.”
“What people?” she asked. “Certainly no one who knows us. And I’m not going to worry about the opinions of random strangers. Why should I? Why do you?”
“I don’t care. Not for me. But if it’s you, and, and if there were children, I--” He broke off, biting back a curse. “We’d have to send them to school with the blessed offspring of Potter and his ilk. They’ll grow up in that shadow, always feeling less than--”
“No. That’s you, love.” She cupped his face with gentle hands and turned him back towards her.
Draco forced himself to look into her eyes. “But still. They’ll hear it all eventually, what people whisper about the Malfoy family. You’ll have to hear it, too.”
“I think I already know everything I need to,” she said with quiet conviction. “I know who you are, and I love you. And so will your children.”
A sunbeam burst through the clouds, casting a halo around her head, and he squinted up at her against the light, suddenly needing to see her very clearly. “Just tell me you’re sure.”
“Of course I’m sure. I didn’t just wake up this morning and felt a passing fancy, you know. I’ve been thinking about it for a while.”
Draco stared at her. “Then what’s taken us so long?”
She laughed. “I don’t know. I was waiting for you.”
“I was waiting for you!” he said, appalled.
“Good thing we talked about it then, hm?” She leaned in again, and Draco allowed her to kiss him quite thoroughly, which did wonders for his mood. Slowly, the whole thing began to look up; somehow they had decided to get married and have a family, and it had required absolutely no effort on his part.
That didn’t seem quite right, though, so he broke away and gasped in a deep breath. It was now or never if he wanted his moment, and Draco was rather fond of moments; what was life without a bit of dramatic grandeur? Besides, they would need a nice story to tell their families later, so he produced the ring and held it up between them. “Well? Will you marry me?”
Astoria’s smile was blinding. “Yes, love. Yes.”
For how little she cared about big, flashy tokens, she fluttered happily when he slipped the ring on to her finger, and Draco felt smug. He wanted to impress on every handsome, charming junior healer at St Mungo’s that she was taken, but more so, he’d wanted to impress her for once in spite of herself, and the face she made as she admired the ring soothed any hurt feelings he might still have had for the way she had derailed his proposal.
“There. But only for special occasions, remember,” he said, straight faced. “So you can give it back now, I’ll put it in the box--”
“No. I changed my mind. It’s mine and you’re not getting it back.” She stroked her finger over the large round sapphire, which matched the one he’d given her years ago on a necklace, a promise for the future now as it had been then. “How long have you had this?”
“A while.” He’d be embarrassed to elaborate on that. “I was waiting for the right moment. But you had to go and spoil my plans.”
She clasped a hand before her mouth. “Oh no! There were plans? What were they? Can we start over?”
“No. You didn’t want romance, so all you’re getting now is this.” He waved a hand at their surroundings. The sky had become more overcast; dark clouds were gathering above them, but for once, Draco refused to be superstitious. Rain would just give them a good excuse to go inside and back to bed. He smirked. “A cold beach and sand in your pants. And me.”
“I remember another moment just like that,” she smiled, and rolled her hips into his as if she needed to remind him, as if he’d ever forget. “That’s our life. And I think it’s brilliant.”
“You’re stupidly easy to please,” he scoffed.
“No. You’re just very good at it.” She squirmed around, pushing at him until they were both lying back in the sand and her head was pillowed on his chest. The ring caught the last, fading rays of light, almost pulsating with its dark blue glow as she turned her hand this way and that, admiring the sparkle. “All right. We’ve waited long enough. Let’s just do it.”
“What? Elope? Our mothers would kill us.” He chuckled into her hair. Wrapping his arms around her again, he held her close, trapping their warmth between them. “Or your mother would cry. My mother would kill us.”
Astoria shrugged. “We don’t need to elope. We can just have the ceremony at your parents’ house so your father can be there. A nice dinner afterwards. And perhaps we could order cupcakes from Madam Puddifoot’s, you know, the big ones like we used to buy on Hogsmeade weekends? You can wear those grey robes you have, I like them on you. And I--”
Surprised, Draco tugged at a strand of hair so she raised her head to look at him. “You have thought about this.”
“Yes, of course I have,” she said softly. “We could take vows right here and they’d be just as meaningful to me, but if you’d like me to shout them off the rooftops, I will.”
“No. I don’t need a big production,” he said, and for the first time in his life, it was true.
She laughed. “Still, it’ll be nice to have a celebration. Share some happiness. I think there’s enough to spread around.”
“I don’t share,” Draco said, but he had to smile. “But I might make an exception this time.”
“That’s good of you.”
“Yes, I’m far too generous with our stupid relatives.” Feeling tentatively pleased with the situation, he said, “Were you serious, though? About having a baby now? Or was that just an icebreaker?”
She shivered when his hands sneaked underneath her jumper again. “You know I wouldn’t joke about such a thing.”
“Yes, but did you mean right now?” He grabbed her around the waist and rolled them over so she was underneath him in the sand.
Astoria giggled. “I... Well, the protective charmwork I cast last week will have to wear off first. And you should take some time to think about it, love. I’m sorry, I did spring this on you--”
“I’ve thought about it.” As impulsive decision making went, this one somehow felt right. “I want to if you want to.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck and drew him down to kiss him, her forehead pressing against his. “I love you. I love you. You know that, don’t you?”
“Can’t hurt to hear it,” Draco said, and on that thought, “Same, you know?”
She kept saying that word to him, and even still, a thrill of excitement shivered through him every time. “Good,” he said, and grabbed her hands to haul her up and back to the house. “Off we go.”