Pairings: Draco/Astoria, Lucius/Narcissa, assorted Greengrasses
Summary: Through hardship to the stars. The months and years post-Aftermath.
Theodore Nott had considerately waited until the toasts had been made, the champagne had been drunk, and everyone was mellow with a bellyful of seven courses of wedding feast, but then he pounced.
“Really, Nott?” Draco asked as the other man pushed aside the cocktail glasses to set a fat stack of papers on the table. “You’re going to do this at a wedding?”
“Sorry, mate, this can’t wait. The investment is time sensitive.” Nott had the unholy glint of greed in his eye which one developed, like an ocular illness, when stuck too long in the vaults below Gringotts. Draco thought the man had taken to his assignments a little too eagerly; they’d created a monster. Nott reached into his briefcase – who brought a briefcase to a wedding? – and carefully produced a device which made Narcissa start and move back her chair.
“What is that, Theodore? Is it Muggle?”
“They call it a calculator.” Nott handed the device to Lucius, who frowned at the thing. “What we do with Arithmancy, they calculate with those.”
Narcissa looked like she was going to skewer him with the tiny olive pick from her cocktail. “You brought a Muggle...thing into my house? And to a celebration? If that isn’t bad luck, I don’t know what is.”
Lucius ignored her. “Does it work?” he asked Nott.
“They get results,” Nott shrugged. “Don’t ask me how it works. I haven’t the foggiest.”
Lucius pressed some of the buttons, but nothing happened. He shook the calculator. “What am I supposed to do with it?”
“I wish you wouldn’t,” Narcissa said, frowning, only to be ignored again.
“You enter your numbers by way of the buttons.”
“There’s probably too much interference,” said Mrs Tonks, who had some experience with Muggle things.
“Right.” Nott took the calculator back and laid it on the table, then backed off as if it was a dangerous animal. “If everyone could put away their wands. And sit very still.”
Conversation ceased as the assembled crowd of Greengrasses and Malfoys was forced to pay attention to the Muggle device. Everyone obligingly set aside their wands. “This is neat,” Astoria said, excited as ever by the thought of discovering something new. She leaned over Draco on the sofa they were sharing to get a closer look, which brought him in contact with her body for the first time since the kiss at the altar.
Draco thought he was overdue. After the ceremonial kiss, they’d been obliged to receive the hugs and well-wishes of the family, and Astoria had had to calm her mother, who blubbered happily, and field sharp remarks from Daphne, who had been staring jealously at the sapphire and diamond tiara Draco had brought from the vault for his bride. Andromeda Tonks had scoffed at them all as Narcissa had embraced Draco and then clung. Lucius and Nott had made some crude jokes about holy matrimony that made Eustace Greengrass frown. Alcyone, Teddy Lupin, and Daphne’s sons Wilbur and Winston had crawled around underfoot, squealing as they chased each other, and in all, there had been far too much commotion keeping the newlyweds apart.
Now, Draco put his arm around his new wife, enjoying the warmth emanating from her body and seeping deep into his bones. She was still wearing her pale blue wedding robes, which stood in contrast to her bright flush of excitement. Pretty, Draco thought, staring unabashedly at her as everyone else looked at the stupid Muggle calculator.
“What a fuss over something very silly. Who needs Muggle contraptions?” Narcissa had assumed a safe distance across the room. On a sideboard, she prepared a sage stick in a ceremonial bowl and lit it up. “Let’s at least cleanse it. And you, too, you touched it,” she nodded at her husband.
“You’re being ridiculous.” Mrs Tonks looked cheered though, as ever glad for an excuse to poke her sister.
Huffing, Narcissa waved the stick counter-clockwise over the calculator, then over Lucius’s hands. The scent of burning sage filled the air, making them all cough. Lucius rolled his eyes. “Might we get on with it?”
Nott reached out a long arm across the coffee table, keeping as much distance from the calculator as possible as he punched the buttons. The thing flickered, but appeared to cooperate. “I prepared an equation especially.” He fished in his pile of papers and entered some numbers, then handed the paper to Lucius.
“This seems to be in order,” Lucius said grudgingly, skimming the numbers on the page. “What does that thing say?”
Nott nudged the calculator across the table. It had arrived at the same conclusion as Nott’s Arithmancy. “They make it easy for themselves, the Muggles.”
“Interesting,” said Eustace Greengrass in agreement with his daughter. “I’d heard of these instruments, we do sometimes come across Muggle oddities in the Magical Trading Office. But I didn’t know they were so effective.”
Lucius shrugged. “All this is to demonstrate...what, exactly, Nott?”
Nott took a deep breath. “There is a company making devices like this – well, not exactly like this. Bigger, more complex. They call them com-pu-ters. There is a big future in computers and all those things, all the Muggles go bonkers for them. I’ve been watching the market and everything points to the same thing. Stocks are only going to go up, and not just a little bit. Sky high.” He handed Lucius a folder that had an image of a half-eaten apple on the front.
Lucius frowned at the papers it contained. “Why did they name it after a fruit?”
“Couldn’t tell you,” Nott said.
“Muggles,” Narcissa added with a derisive huff. She waved her sage stick again and turned slightly green.
“So am I understanding you correctly, Theodore?” Lucius said after a minute of deep thought. “You want to go into Muggle stock brokering?”
Daphne cringed. “No! I’m sure Theo didn’t mean--”
“You wanted me to learn about Muggle business, Sir. I have.” Nott’s face had grown a splotchy red colour, but he held his ground, the fool. Draco watched the whole thing with mild amusement, glad that it wasn’t him for once who was standing there sweating. “This is where the real profits are.”
“It’s a risky investment.” Lucius fixed his cold stare on Nott. “I’d hold you personally responsible. If this failed, your offspring would be indentured servants to the Malfoy family for the rest of...forever.”
“Oh, come now,” Eleanor Greengrass said, but her laughter faded away uncertainly.
Draco smirked to himself and felt Astoria’s elbow poking at his ribs. He caught the pointy bone in his palm, stroking gently back and forth, but didn’t stop smirking.
“I built that portfolio,” Nott said now, trying not to squirm. “It’s only fair I get to manage it.”
“It’d be fair?” Lucius asked archly. “And what would you like in compensation for those services?”
“One point five percent of assets managed,” Nott said, clenching his fists at his sides. “Yearly, with a contract over three years.”
Lucius gave a short, hard bark of a laugh. “My, my, Theodore. I’m sure those worker bees at the Muggle bank will get busy if I tell them to. Why should I give so much responsibility to a green boy?”
“Because I brought this to you!” Nott said, outraged. “And it’s wizards’ money, and a wizard should handle it.”
Draco got the distinct feeling that Nott had been practising this speech in front of a mirror. Across the room, he could see Daphne mouthing along with what her husband was saying. Draco glanced at his father, who shrugged at him.
“What do you think, Draco?”
Ultimately, Theo was his mate, if he could be called that, and Draco had to decide whether to trust him. Draco knew his father had to think the investment feasible or he would have flattened Theo with scorn before now; that he was handing it over to Draco meant they had Lucius’s blessing to play around a bit, but it was still a lot of responsibility. They were all looking at him now, Nott with his face burning, Daphne wringing her hands, Narcissa shaking her head, Eleanor Greengrass all excitement while her husband rolled his eyes. Astoria alone wasn’t beseeching him with her gaze; she was inspecting her manicure, and smiling to herself as if she knew some secret joke.
“Let’s give him one year,” Draco said, “at one percent. It’ll be funny to see him crash.”
A collective sigh went through the assembled group, whether of relief or dismay wasn’t quite clear. Theo was bright red and sweating, but he nodded at Draco. “I won’t, you know. Crash.”
“You’d better not, that’s my inheritance you’re gambling with,” Draco said, but he nodded back. “Now put those papers away before I hex you.”
“Do you believe he can handle it?” Lucius asked later, after the Greengrasses, Notts and Tonkses had thankfully departed.
“I haven’t decided,” Draco said. “If he can’t, we can exact retribution.”
Astoria looked at him with amusement. “I’m sure he’s happy you’re placing your trust in him. And he and Daphne will need the money when the new baby arrives.”
Draco didn’t see how it was his problem that the Notts procreated like rabbits. “I don’t trust him. I just think it’ll be funny to see him come crawling.”
“Sure, love,” Astoria said, and then she pressed a kiss to his cheek. “On behalf of my sister, thank you anyway.”
Draco quite enjoyed the warm glow of her admiration; it was the whole reason why he indulged the Notts at all.
“Dear gods, we’ve started running a charity,” Narcissa said disdainfully. “To think what all that money could buy instead of being sunk into Muggle endeavours--”
“One nice necklace and a pair of matching earrings?” Lucius snorted. “He’s not dealing in Galleons, but Muggle currency, and the exchange rate is very favourable. Even so, it’s a nice chunk of money. But Nott isn’t wrong. I’ve made some inquiries. His reports match up with my information. We could manage this investment ourselves, but it’d take time, and Draco is busy. I can’t go to London. Or would you like me to have the Muggle bankers come here?”
Narcissa shuddered. “No. Not for a million...whatsits.”
“Pounds Sterling.” Lucius stabbed a finger in Draco’s direction. “You’ll oversee this thing. Between faffing around with your brooms, you can spare a bit of attention for this. I’ll hold you responsible for whatever Nott does. If he goes astray, rein him in.”
Draco felt tempted to stick out his tongue at his father. “I don’t faff around, I’m opening a Firebolt branch in the Americas. Those Americans have no idea how to build a decent broomstick, they’re crazy for European imports. It’s a gold mine.”
“Your great-grandchildren might see real profits from this venture, but I doubt I’ll live long enough,” Lucius said dryly.
“Look at it this way, it’s something to keep you going,” Draco shot back.
“True. I can tell I am needed.”
“Can we stop now?” Narcissa said peevishly. “What kind of a wedding day is this? No reception, no dancing, no presents, but plenty of talk of business! Terrible!”
“I thought the ceremony was lovely,” Astoria said. “And so was the party. Thank you for putting it together.”
“Party! Someday, I’ll show you what a party is.” Narcissa gave her a look that suggested she thought Astoria a little daft. “I’d just hate for you to have regrets later.”
“We’re married,” Astoria said, and smiled at Draco. “That’s all I wanted. Now, you won’t mind if I take this off, will you; it pinches.” She carefully untangled the tiara and placed it on the table, then reached up to undo her braids, letting out a blissful sigh when her hair fell down to hang around her shoulders.
“It pinches,” Narcissa scoffed. “Of course it does. Beauty is suffering.”
“Well, it’ll look great in the photographs, I’m sure,” Astoria shrugged. “But it’s a good thing tiaras aren’t everyday wear.”
Narcissa threw up her hands. “I give up. I can’t help you. I can only hope you’re both happy.”
“I’m so glad we agree,” Draco said, pulling his new wife to her feet with a flourish. “And we’ll be happier when we’re finally alone. Good night, Mother. Father.”
Astoria coloured, but as they walked out into the crisp autumn night, she slung her arm around Draco’s back and laughed. “You could’ve been more subtle, you know. But it’ll be nice to be alone now, just the two of us.”
He winked. “Well, actually...”
“Hm.” Smiling, Astoria brushed a hand down her front. “Do you think anyone can tell yet?”
“No.” There would have been endless stupid comments otherwise. “It’s our little secret.”
She shivered slightly and pressed closer to his side. “You know, I like that. Is that selfish? To keep good news to ourselves?”
Draco tucked her under his arm, wrapping his cloak around them both to ward off the evening chill. “They got to share our day. They’ll get to share our baby. But not yet.”
They took a leisurely stroll to the apparition point where the containment wards that protected the Manor ended. The walk led them through the woods and past the meadow where the ancient altar stood. It had been the site of countless family rituals, of marriage vows being taken and children dedicated to the magic craft, and today Draco had felt the lingering spirit of those countless generations of sorcerers who’d knelt there before him, worshipping their gods and each other and the magic that bound them and all the earth in its power.
Astoria stepped forward and stroked her hand over the smooth stone, her face turned up into the light of the full moon above, and Draco felt his stomach clench with the sudden notion that the vows that had been spoken here once would bind them forever. This was it, then: the rest of his life beginning right now.
It hadn’t been long enough to forget a time when he’d been terrified of his uncertain future. Perhaps they never would be able to forget it, the bleakness and despair, but coming out of the fog now, the path ahead of them appeared unbelievably smooth and dappled with sunlight. It stretched towards a promising destination, and Draco realised with something like shock that he’d begun to look forward to it at some point. Optimism was a funny feeling, like a strange illness.
“This is all very odd.” It wasn’t the most gracious sentiment, but luckily, his wife had a talent for finding beauty in imperfection.
“What, saying it out loud? ‘Our baby’. You’re right; it’s all so fresh still.” Smiling, she held out a hand to draw him towards the altar with her. “I thought it was nice, having him here with us today. Our son. We’re not just making a marriage, we’re making a family.”
“So I’m told.” Draco still wasn’t quite over the revelation, a week prior, that had come with Astoria fainting over and into her bowl of breakfast porridge. She’d scared him and the healer population at St Mungo’s half to death until her colleagues had determined there was absolutely nothing wrong with her except, well. Smirking, he pushed a hand through her hair, which fluttered gently in the nightly breeze. She’d looked beautiful today in her finery, but he thought he liked her best like this, free and unencumbered by silly trappings, just herself. “You and your clever ideas.”
Astoria caught his hand and pressed her cheek into it. “Are you happy?”
Perhaps ‘happy’ was what this odd state of excitement should be called, but he had no measure to know for sure and the word hardly seemed sufficient. “I’m,” he tried, and shook his head, bemused. “I’m going to be someone’s father.”
She smiled into his palm. “Yes, love. That’s going to be fun. I can’t wait to see it.”
“Lucky baby,” Draco ventured, hoping that if he said it enough, it would start to feel true. “I mean, you’ll be all right as a mum too, I reckon.”
Astoria burst out laughing. “Thanks. I think so. I think we’ll be all right.”
Yes, they would be. Draco could feel it, but he had an image to maintain and gushing didn’t suit his persona of quiet dignity. He lifted Astoria up to sit on the altar, then hopped up beside her and tilted his head back to look at the night sky. It was a clear, cold evening; the stars looked close enough to touch.
He reached out and took Astoria’s hand. “Let’s stay here for a minute,” he said. “I reckon a little stargazing will fulfil my quota of romance. That’s what girls want, isn’t it?”
Astoria leaned into him, her head coming to rest on his shoulder. “Of course. You’re so good to me.”
“Glad you know it.”
She laughed. “We should conjure a telescope, make a study session out of it. See if we can find a name for the baby.”
“You want to give him a star name?” he asked, surprised.
“Well, I can’t pass on an opportunity to ingratiate myself to your mother, can I. And his name can match yours, that’ll be sweet.”
“Sweet!” Draco studied the starscape, wondering if his son’s name was written in light somewhere and he just didn’t know it yet. The two of them would give him life, name him, raise him and shape him, but hopefully, his fate was still a blank slate, for him to fill with meaning. Heartened, Draco said, “He can be a fearsome creature, like me.”
Astoria tilted her head back and kissed his chin. “Yes. Fearsome. That’s the first thing I think when I look at you.”
“Do you want to know what I think when I look at you?” He made to tease her back, but then he actually did look at her, and as she sat there with her dimples and her pink cheeks and her hand already patting her nonexistent belly, he suddenly didn’t want to. Astoria stared back at him, the stars reflected in her eyes and the warmth of her body an invitation to him. The wind still carried a hint of the fragrance of their wedding flowers, which had been scattered in a circle around the altar. The scent filled his head and made him feel languid and mushy; that was the only explanation for the sweetness of the moment actually affecting him.
“I,” he tried, and realised with horror what he’d gotten himself into: the whole thing really was terribly romantic, and there were words coming out of his mouth suddenly that had completely bypassed his brain. “I never really believed... I mean, we’re married and supposedly there’s a person growing inside you, that’s... I’m not going mad, am I, this is all really happening?”
“Yes,” Astoria whispered.
“It’s absurd. Utterly crazy,” he said, warming to the subject. Crazy had always fit him well; perhaps one should just lean into one’s insanity. He brushed a strand of hair out of Astoria’s face, a thrill of excitement shivering through him from where his fingertips touched her right down into his toes. “You’re stupidly pretty and smart. And now I’m going to spend my life standing next to you and thinking, no one has what I have. I win, they all lose out. It’s going to be bloody brilliant.” He felt his face grow hot under her steady gaze and shrugged. “Not that we should spend too much time with other people. I don’t really like other people. You’re the only person in the world who doesn’t make me want to stab myself through the eye with a fork.”
Laughing, she threw her arms around his neck and held on. “I love you too, Draco. Let’s go home.”
“Excellent plan. Could’ve come from me,” he said with relish. “I’ve been thinking all day, there’s only one thing prettier than you in those robes.”
Astoria sighed fondly. “Well? Do tell.”
“You, out of them,” he finished smugly.
She drew back, smiling, and cupped her hands around his face. “You know, in a few years, we’ll be able to tell your jokes in tandem. We’ll be that couple.”
“Are you saying I’m becoming predictable?” he scoffed.
“I think I just know you,” she smiled. “And I like it.”
“Well, you’ll have to like all my jokes. That’s what being married means.”
“Ah, that’s what it means? All right. I think I can do that.” She slipped off the altar and held out her hand to him. “Come, you silly man. Your son is getting cold. Take us home.”