Pairings: Draco/Astoria, Lucius/Narcissa, assorted Greengrasses
Summary: Through hardship to the stars. The months and years post-Aftermath.
“Is it a love potion or did she go straight to Imperius?” Daphne stage-whispered as they stood in the receiving line, waiting to congratulate the new Madame Malfoy née Parkinson and her husband. Aristide already was a footnote in the annals of his own wedding day, beaming into the background behind the bride in her gem-encrusted wedding robes. He appeared utterly thrilled to have no one pay him any attention whatsoever. Pansy, meanwhile, was glowing with the sparkle of a thousand diamonds and no small amount of glee; she held court like any queen, her guests bowing and bobbing curtsies as they filed past.
The old girl had arrived. Draco rubbed his hands together, feeling like the fairy godmother observing a job well done. “Imperius,” he replied, and he and his fellow Slytherins sniggered companionably.
“You’d know, eh?” Nott said, nudging Draco in the back.
“Oh stop, all of you, it’s not nice.” Astoria studied Pansy and her husband together with the puzzled fascination of a scientist observing exotic animals in the wild. “They look happy together.”
Millicent Bulstrode detached herself from sucking face with Goyle just long enough to say, “Definitely Imperius.”
Up ahead, Pansy’s mother craned her too-long neck to see what the hilarity was about and frowned darkly at them all. She’d better be grateful, Draco thought; if not for his efforts, Pansy would never have crossed Aristide’s path. Their mutual desperation had mixed with a genuine spark of attraction, and what Pansy might have lacked in charm, she made up for in determination. They’d gone through all the appropriate stages of courtship, if a little faster than strictly expected, and now here they were, and everyone seemed well pleased with the arrangement.
Well, everyone except Aristide’s half sister Eugenie Lacroix, who’d moved down in the pecking order and was now a black cloud of malcontent in her dark robes, hovering in a corner just outside the glow of fairy lights and cheer. Someone more compassionate might have felt for her, but Draco wasn’t exactly known for his charitable heart; he firmly looked forward to the future of the Malfoy family, which was moving ahead by his design.
“Don’t look so smug,” Astoria said in his ear. “Pansy will be disappointed if you don’t pretend to be a little wistful.”
“She can kiss my feet for the rest of eternity for getting her here. This is what she always wanted.” He slung a long arm around his wife, enjoying the way she fit against his side. Astoria wasn’t the jealous type, and she had no reason to be, but now she was giving him one of those knowing looks that suggested she was still waiting for him to finish solving a riddle she had long figured out. Not this time, though. Grinning, he squeezed her a little. “You’re smart, Tori, but you don’t get all your puzzles right.”
She smiled up at him, her dimples showing, and he realised she’d wanted to hear it even though she might already know. “Go on then, marvel at your own brilliance.”
“Thank you, I will.”
“Oh, don’t encourage him,” Daphne scoffed from behind them. “Honestly, I think it’s weird that there’s two of you now, Mrs Malfoys that is. Don’t you?” There was no pot Daphne didn’t like to stir, truly.
“Three, if you please,” said Draco’s mother, who was ahead of them in the line but nevertheless had her ears everywhere. “It really is becoming a bit of a club, isn’t it.” Her tone conveyed what she thought of this development.
Draco smirked at his mother’s bedazzled back. She’d brought out what looked like the entirety of the Malfoy jewellery collection and was dripping in even more diamonds than the bride.
Astoria laughed. “Oh, let her have her moment.”
“You’re too kind to her,” Draco said.
“Who? Pansy or your mother?”
“I’m not being generous, I’m just too tired to compete with either of them.” He felt her lean into him a little. She was as wide as she was tall, which he privately thought was funny, but also had to be exhausting.
“There isn’t any competition,” Draco said, glaring at his mother.
Narcissa had the good sense to feel his ire and look appropriately chastised. “Astoria, if you’re not feeling well, I’ll make our excuses--”
“No, I’m fine.” She winked at Draco, her expression as sunny and mischievous as ever. “I’m planning to eat my weight in macarons. Don’t you dare deprive me!”
Narcissa cast her a sidelong glance, but then smartly refrained from comment.
They all moved on as the latest sycophant finished gushing about the ceremony and left the happy couple to receive the next set of well-wishers. Narcissa shook Pansy’s hand and then quickly moved on to Aristide, to whom she’d taken a liking if only to annoy his half-sister. Astoria ended up in front of Pansy, who looked her up and down and made a face like she’d sucked on a lemon.
“Pansy, congratulations,” Astoria said. “What a lovely ceremony, so...elaborate.”
Elaborate was one word for making one’s guests sit through medieval French marriage rituals for three hours. Pansy nodded haughtily. “Well, I suppose I should say the same to you. You got married so suddenly, no one got a chance to congratulate you.” She nodded meaningfully at Astoria’s belly. “Depriving us all of a good party! But you didn’t want a fuss, did you. I heard you’re having a boy?”
Astoria just smiled. “Yes. Thank you.”
“Lovely. Here, meet my husband, Aristide.” Pansy all but shoved Astoria onwards, then reached out and threw herself at Draco in such a dramatic fashion that he feared for a moment she had actually fainted. He was prepared to drop her at her new husband’s feet in that case, but then she recovered and kissed the air left and right of his face. “I’m happy to see you, although it shouldn’t have taken an occasion such as this to draw you out! And not inviting any of your friends to your wedding! I’m really very cross with you.”
“Madame Malfoy,” Draco smirked, making her a silly little bow. “The jokes write themselves.”
“Shut up,” Pansy whispered. “This has all worked out for the best, hasn’t it? For everyone.” She glanced at Astoria, who was now conversing with Aristide in halting French. “The little Hufflepuff tied you down right quick. I hope you got what you wanted. I do.”
“I have,” Draco said, smiling in spite of himself. “I wish you happy, Pants. Hideous dress, but I suppose it’s not your fault. Money still can’t buy class.”
She snorted softly, then shooed him along the receiving line. “Go on, you terrible man. Aristide will be thrilled to see you; why he’s so fond of you, I’ll never know.”
“Oh, but ma chère,” Aristide chuckled as he caught the end of the conversation. “I am eternally indebted to cousin Draco for introducing me to my beautiful bride.”
“And don’t you forget it.” They all chuckled, but Draco meant business. He wondered if Aristide knew that yet, but he was certain that Pansy, for one, understood him clearly. “Oh, that reminds me, I have something else to give you, with my father’s compliments.”
The nonchalant delivery was not in keeping with the weight, literal or figurative, of the leather-bound box that Draco produced then. He handed it to Aristide with a mock salute. It was terribly rude to hold up the receiving line like this, but Draco wanted an audience and the people behind him were kindly straining their necks now to see what was happening. Daphne poked him in the back.
“What are you doing, Malfoy? Could you be any more gauche?”
Narcissa, too, was frowning, but Draco knew that had less to do with impropriety and more with the gift itself. Pansy gave him a startled look, as if she expected a toad to leap from the box any second now. She made to interfere, but after a moment’s surprise, Aristide smiled, bowed to Draco, and opened the box, and so the whole assembly was treated to a glimpse at the famous diamond.
Pansy’s eyes crossed momentarily as the light caught in the facets and the stone lit up in brilliant rainbow light. The diamond was the size of an ostrich egg and flawless; even to Malfoys, this was an extraordinary piece, and Draco half expected the bride to faint after all in gratitude. “Oh,” she gasped, and the whole crowd echoed, “Ohhhh!”
“The Pride Of Africa.” Aristide blinked watery blue eyes at the sparkling gem. Around them, there was a collective ‘ahhh’ as he lifted the diamond from its velvet cushion and held it up to the light to admire.
“Indeed it is.” Draco was surprised there wasn’t any smoke uncurling from his mother’s nostrils. The diamond had been plucked out from under the dragoness who’d been guarding it zealously these past thirty years, and she still didn’t see the point now, it appeared.
“A fancy paperweight,” Lucius had said as his wife wrung her hands. “It’s good for nothing else. Not even you can wear this thing on your person, Peach.”
“Watch me,” Narcissa had said, her eyes narrowing in on the enormous stone as if it was an egg stolen from her own nest.
Lucius had just laughed at her. “We’ll trade it for the goodwill of our French cousins, and that’ll be more valuable than its gathering dust in the vault.”
Narcissa wrung her hands now as Aristide replaced the diamond carefully in its box. “Do you know, ma chère, the English family claimed this in the separation of the estates back in the sixteen hundreds. It caused quite the controversy, as it is one of the oldest family treasures,” he told Pansy, but his eyes met Draco’s. “What a particularly thoughtful gift.”
Draco bowed again. “It comes with my father’s warmest wishes for your happy future.”
There was a moment of awkward silence as they all mentally tugged at the strings attached to the gift, but if Aristide felt the golden chains of Lucius’s favour chafing, he wasn’t in any position to protest against it now. He waved to a server, who came hurrying with a tray of champagne glasses, and raised his in the first toast of the night. The room quieted down to a hush of anticipation. “To the happy future of the Malfoy family, united.”
They all could drink to that.
“I think it’s good to be rid of that diamond,” Astoria said later as Draco led her in a waltz. “The way your father tells the story, it didn’t sound like your ancestors came by it through honest means. I have to say, I was surprised he was willing to give it up. Or that your mother let him.”
Draco suspected that his father was playing a very, very long game of some sort, but he wasn’t quite sure yet what that entailed. “We should make our excuses before my mother drinks back the diamond’s worth in champagne,” he said, watching Narcissa tossing back her glass before she returned to torturing her old enemy Eugenie Lacroix, who was seated next to her, with her terrible French.
“But it’s such a lovely night.” For someone who was eight months pregnant, Astoria was surprisingly light on her feet still. “This’ll be one of the last times we’re out having fun before the baby comes.”
Draco shook his head, amused. “Aren’t you tired?”
“A little. But how many chances do I get to dance with you?” She was breathless and flushed, but her smile was merry. “Do you think you could make it so we end up by the refreshment table?”
Draco glanced over, calculating the distance as the music swelled in the last chords of the waltz. Getting there before the dance ended required them to spin twice fast across the dancefloor, startling the flock of elderly French geese who were waltzing more sedately around them. A few old ladies clucked in disapproval; Astoria just laughed as they spun and spun, and then conveniently ended up in front of the macarons just as the last note rang out and Draco bowed to her.
“Nicely done,” she said, and kissed him before she dove for the desserts.
“Enjoying yourselves?” And there was the bride. Pansy still had a talent for materialising where she wasn’t particularly wanted. Draco watched her eye twitch as she looked at Astoria happily devouring a miniature eclair, but she kept her sharp tongue in check, and he realised that they’d actually come to some sort of peace.
“Everything is lovely,” Astoria said readily as soon as she’d swallowed. “I can’t believe how quickly you put it all together.”
Draco bit the inside of his cheek to keep from grinning.
“Yes, well, I dreamed of this day since I was a little girl,” Pansy said bashfully. “And it’s easy, throwing a good party, if you can spend all the money in the world. You should try it sometime.”
“I might, if you can be persuaded to tell me where you got these pastries,” Astoria smiled.
Pansy abandoned all pretence of good manners and rolled her eyes. “Draco, your wife is having a love affair with the pudding.”
“I think that’s just my son enjoying a healthy appetite.” Tread carefully, for there are snakes in the grass, he thought in Pansy’s direction, and she did know him well enough to read his expression clearly.
“Lovely.” Pansy looked like they’d forced some of the sweet delicacies down her extremely slender throat, but then she shrugged and whacked him with her fan like the child she’d once been. “As long as Astoria is occupied, you might as well ask me to dance.”
Draco glanced at his wife, who nodded. “Go on, I’m busy.”
“Well, come on then, old battleaxe.” He grabbed the bride and marched her on to the dancefloor quite unceremoniously. For a moment, as they waited for the next dance to begin, he debated stumbling all over her and her ridiculously bedazzled train, but when the music began, they fell into step quite naturally, having spent some time practising in the Slytherin common room together ahead of the Yule ball. That felt like a different life now, though it had only been a few years.
“Now isn’t this nice,” Pansy said as they glided across the dancefloor together.
“Your dress itches,” Draco informed her. “Did you wear this so Aristide wouldn’t touch you more than necessary?”
She glared. “I’ll have you know I’m quite fond of Aristide.”
“High praise on your wedding day,” Draco said, amused. “I hope you’ll be very happy together.”
“We will be, thank you,” she said. “Splendour will do quite well as a substitute for romance.”
As they danced like this, with her in her wedding robes, it was like a glimpse into an alternate reality, one Draco was eternally grateful not to have to live in. “What did you want, Pants?”
“That diamond,” she said, her eyes going to the gift table, where the enormous gemstone was displayed in a place of honour. “Don’t think I don’t realise what your father is doing.”
“What is he doing?” Draco asked wryly. “I haven’t the faintest notion.”
Pansy harrumphed in a very unladylike way, her dark, gravelly voice pushing through the high pitch of the little girl’s tone she usually affected. “You know what they say. Keep your friends close, and your family closer.”
“That’s not what they say.”
She sighed as if he was being very silly. “I have a feeling our families will be very tight-knit. Especially with our babies so close in age.”
Draco took a moment to absorb this. He glanced down towards her midsection, only to receive another whack with the fan.
“Mrs Malfoy, I am shocked. And here I thought you were a blushing virgin bride.”
“Oh, like you have room to talk!” She glanced around as they spun closer to another couple and plastered on a smile. “All I’m saying is, I expect an invitation to the baby’s presentation. And to every family event thereafter. We are, after all, family now. Our children will grow up the best of friends. Why, I might even send my daughters to Hogwarts, or perhaps your boy will benefit from an exchange year at Beauxbatons--”
“Daughters?” Draco was beginning to feel like some sinister plot had, once again, passed him by. In any event, he already felt sorry for his unborn son.
“Twins,” Pansy said. “Both girls. How lucky, I’ll only have to do this once and be done. I’ve always wanted two.”
Draco raised his eyebrows. “Aristide will want an heir.”
“Alas, he will be disappointed. I don’t intend to mother sons, I’m not made for it. My girls will just have to find worthy husbands,” Pansy whispered, and then the music ended and she stepped away, clapping for the orchestra. “Now, go fetch your manatee before she eats me out of house and home!”
Draco stepped on her foot in passing, and thought he could hear her giggle as he went to get Astoria and his mother. Pansy giggling always had been a discomfiting sound, like a raven croaking in the night.
“She’s done it now, she’s gone round the bend,” he told Astoria when they were finally alone in their bedroom later. “Twin girls! She really is shameless.”
“I don’t know that we’re in any position to judge, love.” Astoria was already in bed, shifting around among a mountain of pillows to find the most comfortable position. She looked a little like a beetle that had fallen on its back.
Draco had to smile. “That’s not what I meant. I don’t know what she’s planning, but I have a feeling I won’t like it. Poor Scorpius.”
“I think he’s fine. He will be.” Astoria looked down at her belly, which was the only part of her protruding from the piles of blankets and pillows, an entity all its own. The pyjama shirt she had borrowed from Draco had slipped up, and the baby had grown so big that Draco could see his movements ripple underneath her skin. The whole thing was fascinating and a little bit scary.
He crawled into bed with his wife and laid a hand on the swell of her bump where he could see his son trying to break out and escape. “It’s all right, Scor, no need to panic.”
Smiling, she laid a hand over his and settled in. “The bride may be crazy, but the party was nice. Do you regret not having one for our wedding?”
“No. Do you?”
“No. But perhaps we could have some of those macarons at Scor’s birth celebration.” She thought for a moment and laughed. “You know, your mother told me I should start dropping some hints as to what sort of outrageous present I want you to give me after he’s born. A box of pastries should do nicely.”
Draco made a mental note to thank his mother for the excellent assist. “I think my mother was thinking of diamonds.”
“Oh, I’m sure. She showed me those earrings in the shape of the Draco constellation that she has. The sentiment is sweet, I suppose, but please don’t. She’s welcome to all the diamonds, I don’t want them.”
He grumbled as if that was news, and very inconvenient to him, but it only confirmed the decision he’d made. The grant was set up and only needed signing; the board of directors would probably name a wing at St Mungo’s in Scorpius’s honour when they saw what was coming their way. Personally, Draco looked forward to his wife’s glee more than all the snivelling that would commence, but it was an added bonus.
She would get her macarons, though, he’d make sure of that.