Things Not Done For Love


Story Summary:
They say people you love never truly leave you. Draco wishes they would just leave him alone.

Chapter 01


'Mr Malfoy, there is a visitor for you.'

Draco looked up from the page he'd been staring at. A visitor? He'd asked Astoria not to come, not for a while yet, but he'd missed her from the first minute he'd arrived here. Could she have brought Scorpius? That wouldn't be wise, but he did long to hold the little one in his arms. Not so little anymore, he reminded himself, Scorpius would be off to Hogwarts in a year.

The nurse smiled at his dreamy look. 'I'll show him in for you.'

'Him?' Hold on, there wasn't any him he was very keen to see. 'My father is not here, is he?'

'Yes, he is.' the she said, her smile widening. 'He's been asking for you every day for the past two weeks.'

Draco's lips curled. That nurse looked positively smitten. What in Hades had he done to her?

Then he reconsidered. Lucius had probably done nothing - that wouldn't be prudent - but he could be so very charming, couldn't he? This little brown haired thing - possibly a Mudblood, who was to say?- was one of the first who would be too young to realise who Lucius Malfoy really was. He'd probably been buttering her up ("That white does suit you so, my dear") until she forgot her training and forgot that in places like these, parents were not safe. He himself was the best bloody example!

'Right,' he answered lazily. 'Well, I'm afraid I cannot see him. Do give him my regards.'

The girl didn't leave. She turned and looked around furtively before she walked over to him and sat down on the same sofa. 'Mr. Malfoy, it would be best if you stay in contact with your family. You don't need to be isolated. It does more harm than good.'

He looked at her face. Merlin, that innocence. How long would it take him to crush her last bit of hope? Probably less than a week.

He smiled sweetly. 'I am sorry, but I'm in no state to see my father.'

She now looked crestfallen. 'Oh. Well - he asks me to bring you your family's warmest wishes.'

He did what? 'He's been to see my family?'

She nodded happily.

Draco felt a rush of panic. If he wasn't safe to be around his son, Lucius certainly wasn't. 'In that case, do show him in.'

She beamed and left the room.

Draco looked himself over quickly. He wasn't badly dressed, but a green cashmere jumper and black linen trousers weren't what his father would call appropriate. He liked the comfort of it, though. Besides, it hardly mattered: it was his surroundings Lucius would disapprove of most. This common room, for instance. All the pieces of furniture where made out of some Muggle fabric called plastic, even the sofas. There were bookcases along the walls, all locked (a nurse would get a book for you), and there were some bright pictures stuck on the wall that hardly moved. The rest of the room was eerily white. There was nothing lying around that you could throw, swallow or stab people with. None of the patients were allowed wands. The building didn't even have fireplaces.

Still, he liked this madhouse. He liked its absolute lack of any expectations.

The people, now, they were a different matter. He wasn't with the nutcases - he'd only ever been on floor one, and they were all safely locked in on the fourth floor, but even the first class patients had a look of nervous fear about them. Not unlike he felt right now.

When the door to the common room opened, he recognized the clicking of his father's footsteps before anything else. The sound triggered two responses at once: to stand at attention and to relax, godsdammit. The result made him wobble, so he grabbed the sofa's armrest and pretended to brush off a speck of dust from his sleeve. As his father strode in, he glanced at him sideways to assess the situation.
Lucius Malfoy was dressed to the nines, as ever, all satin lined black velvet. He was even wearing those supposed Slytherin heirlooms, the snake brooches. But he also wore a new cloak and new snake skin shoes. That meant he had something to lose here. Good!

As his father came closer, Draco rose and put away his magazine, which he recognised too late as a copy of Witch Weekly. When Lucius saw it, he sneered, but then he turned to Draco and nodded. 'You look well,' he said after a short pause.

'Thank you.' Draco cleared his throat. 'How is Mother?'

'She is very worried.'

Draco sighed. 'Well, that's to be expected.' Out of the corner of his eye, he saw some of the other patients watching his father suspiciously. Lucius shifted his weight and nodded at the corridor that led to the private rooms. 'Can we talk?'

Draco smiled. Alone with Father in a small sitting room, without his wand? Hell no. 'We could go outside.'

Lucius frowned slightly, but then he shrugged. 'As you wish.'

They both left the room, descended a granite staircase and crossed the entrance hall towards two oak doors. A witch in reception nodded at a House Elf in an impossibly starched white sheet, who bowed and opened the doors for them. They walked down a few marble steps and stepped out into wide grounds, sheltered from Muggle view by a distant circle of conifers. Around the small sandstone castle they had just left, a white gravel path led into green, well trimmed gardens. It felt like home and it relaxed them both somewhat. They walked a few moments in silence, before Draco turned to his father and said: 'So, you've come to tell me to stop this nonsense and return home at once.'

Lucius smiled. 'Naturally. Though I would also like to know why you haven't done so already.'

Draco turned towards the chateau. 'I am not done here.'

'Done?' Lucius sneered. 'Done doing what? Lying on a sofa, sniveling at a headologist?'

Draco smiled to himself. In fact, there had been a lot of sniveling the last few weeks, but not at the headologist's, who had found him maddeningly unresponsive. After all, there were things one didn't mention, and he had always been a good Occlumens. Besides, if he had wanted to talk, he would not have chosen a Gryffindor Mudblood to talk to.

No, it was just that he didn't know what else to do. His nightmares were harder to keep at bay, he'd almost killed his House Elf twice, and now this business with Scorpius...

When he didn't answer, Lucius took him by the arm. 'There's no reason to punish yourself. You were rightto do what you did. Taking a Muggle girl into your grounds, I don't know what could have possessed him. You have no reason - '

'Is that what you told my wife?' Draco spat.

Lucius crossed his arms. 'Of course not!' Then he softened. 'That doesn't make you wrong. Boys need a firm hand.'

Draco looked into his father's eyes and thought of all the times they had glared down at him. A firm hand, indeed. A firm wand, too, apparently. He clenched his fists into his pockets and walked further along the manicured lawns. He could hear Lucius following him. That made him nervous, so he stood still and turned around once more. 'What did you and Astoria talk about, then?'

Lucius hesitated. 'We are all very concerned,' he began, but Draco cut him short. 'Look, Father, I only want to know why you were pestering my wife. So please cut to the chase.'

Lucius smiled lazily. 'Much as this may pain you: your wife contacted me, not the other way around.'

Draco narrowed his eyes. 'She wouldn't!'

'Why ever not?' Lucius drawled.

'Because she knows you!' Draco shouted.

At the sound, a garden Elf poked its head over the hedge beside them. 'Can Parker help you, Mr. Malfoy, sir?'

'No. Get back to work,' Draco snapped. The creature kept watching him, a skeptical look on its face. Draco glared at it. 'Leave!'

Very slowly, the Elf turned and Disapparated with a crack.

Lucius raised an eyebrow. 'Dear me.'

Draco sighed. 'We've talked about this, Father,' he said, walking back in the castle's direction. 'Leave Astoria alone. And don't even think about contacting Scorpius.'

Lucius stepped in front of him. 'They are my family,' he said softly, bringing his face closer to Draco's. 'Don't you see what you are doing to us?'

Draco stood still and looked at his father, willing his face to stay impassive. 'No, I don't,' he said.

'Your...' Lucius paused slightly. 'Your behaviour reflects upon us.'

Draco snorted. 'Really - coming from you, that is just funny.'

Immediately, Lucius grabbed Draco's arm, his fingers digging deep into his flesh. 'What are you trying to prove, son?' the older man whispered, emphasising every word.

And at first, that voice conjured up a thousand flashbacks. Draco felt his body tense, his throat tighten and his heart race; the feel and smell of leather on his arm made him want to throw up. From deep inside his mind, the words 'I'm sorry' bubbled up, though he didn't know what for, it might have been simply for existing.

And yet...

The smell. The smell, right now, was different. It was fresh, pure even. The space around him was not cramped, and the air was mild and warm. Above him, a mass of light blue, streaked with the smallest of white clouds, stretched out into infinity. The sun was warming his back and drops of water were glistening in the sunlight. Above him, he saw an owl, its wings spread like an eagle's, sailing into freedom.
More importantly, he saw Parker the House Elf, who'd come back with reinforcements. Five Elves in starched sheets circled them, standing back respectfully, but nonetheless quietly watchful.

That's when he realised.

He was safe.

The feeling was exhilarating. He hadn't felt this giddy since unpacking his first broomstick. He pulled his arm free. 'I've got to go.'
'We've not finished!' Lucius demanded, but Draco brushed past him. He had to get back to the castle. He needed to write to his wife.


Astoria had a concert tomorrow, Draco remembered. She played the viola, a deep, fiery music that left audiences feeling they didn't quite know what had hit them. She could mesmerise and disturb people, just as she had on the night they'd first met.

He'd really not wanted to go to Mrs Greengrasse's soirée to commemorate those fallen during the Terror (as she called it). It was more hypocrisy than even he could stomach, listening to stories about Weasley, Lupin and his beloved uncle Sirius among those who had helped kill them.
He very much preferred his usual company of goblins. They hated all wizards equally, and pulled no punches. Yet he recognised the evening for what it was: a thinly veiled act of contrition. Those were supposed to be painful, so he went.

It wasn't as bad as he'd feared. The Greengrasses did not own an estate, mostly due to the significant amount of half-bloods in their family tree, but this had also spared them the obligation of stuffing their rooms with heirlooms. The only object in their drawing room that looked rather grand was their white concert piano. The rest of the room had very bright quality to it, with light carpets, soft furniture and great glass doors opening into a pleasant little garden. The lack of House Elves was unfortunate, of course, but the hired Squibs acquitted themselves as well as could reasonably be expected. Besides, Mr. Greengrass had made up for it by purchasing some very good Elf made wine. Expensivewine, too, Draco gathered. One normally bought Elf wine young and let it mature, which was alright if one owned a reasonably equipped cellar, but impossible in a pleasant little house such as this. Smirking, he downed his glass and took another one.
Full glass in hand, he amused himself by watching that Mudblood Hufflepuff (Fletchley? Flatly?) trying to fit in. He wasn't even doing that badly, all things considered. Apparently, some Muggles had managed to retain a few shreds of civilization. Who'd have thought!
Then Astoria caught his eye. Now she was interesting. Like Daphne, she had dark brown eyes and thick brown curls that lay draped over one shoulder. Unlike Daphne, there was something mischievous about her. Oh, she was being perfectly dutiful, nodding sweetly at colleagues of her father who were all trying to outbore each other. But it didn't quite add up. Take her dress robes, for instance. They were a deep gold, a colour she'd accentuated with gleaming ruby earrings. Perfectly respectable and very fetching, but wearing Gryffindor colours in this crowd meant she was making a statement, even if he didn't know what statement. Again, interesting.
Yet he cooled to her immediately when Mrs. Greengrass announced she and Daphne would open the evening by playing a duet on viola and piano. Draco groaned. Viola music, really? Wasn't enduring war stories bad enough without listening to that? With a deep sigh, he grabbed another drink and lowered himself into one of the cushy sofa's.

It could have been worse, he decided when Daphne had started a prelude. Her playing was accomplished, it had to be said. No wonder he hadn't seen much of her at Hogwarts, she must have been spending her time at the music room. Maybe the same was true of Astoria - he had no memory of her at all. Anyway, shouldn't she be joining her sister at some point? Daphne had been playing for five minutes straight.
Twenty seconds later, he understood why. With two strokes of her bow, Astoria destroyed the pleasant atmosphere Daphne had conjured up. Suddenly, the air filled with apprehension. The music was like Fiendfyre, pulsing through his veins and turning everything around him to chaos. Her notes kept pushing and prodding, building towards a climax he wished would never come. Then, after a frightful glissando, there was nothing. The silence lay upon all of them, heavy and stifling, until suddenly, the faintest sound of Daphne's piano drifted their way. Her notes were small and fragile, and when Astoria joined her this time, she sang nothing but grief, deep and cold and throbbing, until she had wrapped them all in a shroud of pain. Only then the music died.

The silence was palpable. With a quick curtsy, the Greengrass daughters took their leave, not waiting for applause. Their mother started the official programme with old Mrs. Yaxley still sobbing into her handkerchief.
The effect was astonishing. Within the hour, Draco had donated to homeless Muggleborns, promised to support grief counseling sessions at Hogwarts and signed a petition to ban Dementors from Azkaban. When the evening ended, he was still reeling. He walked over to Astoria the first chance he got.

'That was beautiful,' he panted.

She sighed slightly. 'Yes, thank you.'

He stretched out his hand. 'Draco Malfoy.'

'I know,' she said, taking a glass of wine from a platter. 'You were in my sister's year.'

'That's right,' he said. They stood awkwardly. Astoria looked profoundly annoyed about something. 'It really was very beautiful,' Draco insisted, hoping to cheer her up.

She rolled her eyes. 'It wasn't supposed to be beautiful.'

Draco nodded. 'Because it was real.'

She look at him, startled. 'Yes.' They both stood silent. 'It's rather loud here, don't you think?' she finally said, nodding at the fireplace in the corner. Draco followed her there eagerly.

'Where were you during the War?' he asked when they were out of earshot.

'At Hogwarts,' she said, leaning against the mantelpiece.

'At Hogwarts?'

She straightened her shoulders. 'You weren't the only one having a hard time of it, Draco Malfoy,' she said. 'The Carrows where quite an experience, let me tell you.'

Draco smiled and leant over to her. 'The Dark Lord used Amycus Carrow as a footstool,' he whispered.

'I'm sure he did,' Astoria said, but Draco cut her short.

'No - an actual footstool.'

Astoria grinned. 'No!'

'Yes,' Draco said, his smile widening. 'And you know how Alecto would always go on about Slytherin pride?' Astoria nodded eagerly. 'Well, for that he made her feed Nagini.'


'His Horcrux,' Draco answered curtly. On second thought, he really did not want to talk about this. He glanced at the piano. 'So - why the viola?'

Astoria took a sip of wine. 'Mama would not let me play the cello,' she said. 'She thought it undignified.' When she saw his confused look, she opened her legs an infinitesimal amount, then giggled. 'Anyway - I'll be damned if I play the violin. I might as well start playing piano.'

Draco straightened up. 'I play the organ,' he said.

Astoria smiled. 'The organ! How very ominous.' She leant over to him and whispered: 'Did your father think the piano was for sissies?'

He stared at her. Then he laughed, harder than he had since the War, or even earlier. And then he kissed her, there and then, for that had been the end of it for him. He'd found his wife.

Astoria had made him beg for three years, of course, but that had been worth it.


He'd write to her about that night, Draco decided. Remind her how fantastic she'd been, even then, and how magnificent she'd be tomorrow. For the first time since he arrived here, he regretted he wasn't going to be by her side, but he'd urge her to take Scorpius. The boy had a right to see his mother in her most glorious moments, he mused, climbing back up the few stairs as an Elf opened the doors again. It wouldn't be long before he'd have to miss her for months on end...


His eyes hadn't had time to get accustomed to the dimmer light inside the entrance hall, but he'd recognise that voice from anywhere. Scorpius was standing at the reception desk, wearing his favourite sky blue Tutshill Tornadoes Quidditch robes. Next to him, Astoria was filling out some paperwork.

Draco froze. The last time he had seen his son, Scorpius had been lying in a hospital bed, with several IV drips sticking into his arms. He'd sent him cards and presents, of course, but he now realised that all the sweets in Honeydukes wouldn't have been enough to make up for that. Scorpius looked nervous and unsure; on seeing him, he'd moved a little closer to his mother.

Draco opened his arms a fraction, as much in welcome as in supplication. 'Hello...'

Scorpius hesitated, as if trying to determine Draco's mood. But then he smiled, stretched out his arms and ran to him. Draco pulled his son into a tight hug.

'Ow!' Scorpius yelped.

Draco let him go immediately. 'What's wrong?' he said, leading him back inside. 'Did you fall off your broom?'

'No.' Scorpius wouldn't look at him. Draco touched his face.

'Then what's happened?'

They heard Astoria's soft voice. 'It won't heal for a while yet, darling.'

Draco felt as if a trapdoor had opened in his soul. 'O dear gods,' he gasped. 'But it's been weeks!'

Astoria only bowed her head.

Scorpius looked from one to the other. 'It's fine!' he insisted. 'I'll be alright, Dad, I promise!'

Very carefully, Draco bent over and kissed the top of his son's head. Then he walked to his wife and embraced her. 'I'm so sorry,' he whispered in her ear.

'He knows,' she whispered back. 'You told him that before you left St. Mungo's, remember?'

In fact, he didn't. He only remembered giving himself up to the Aurors, who'd sent him here instead of Azkaban. Which was just as well, really, as he'd apparently been begging them for the Dementor's Kiss.

He hugged Astoria once more, only to be startled again by Scorpius. 'Look, Mum! It's Grandpapa!'

Draco's eyes darted to Scorpius. His boy smiled at Lucius, but didn't run to him; apparently, that was a response the elder Malfoy still did not elicit. Draco let go of his wife and grabbed his son's hand, but Astoria smiled warmly and walked to him.


'My dear.' He kissed her lightly on the cheek, then walked over to Scorpius. 'Hello young man! I see you've been flying again?'

Scorpius nodded. 'We flew all the way here.' He smiled at Draco. 'I used Dad's old Nimbus!'

'Indeed?' Lucius said, looking at Draco, 'Surely a simple Firebolt would be the safer choice?'

Astoria smiled again. 'This one won't surprise us. New brooms can be a bit temperamental in the beginning.'

'Of course.' Lucius put a hand on Scorpius' shoulder. 'Do you care to show me a few tricks?'

Scorpius beamed. 'Yes!' Draco wanted to speak up, but Astoria shook her head almost imperceptibly.

'Be careful, then,' he said through clenched teeth. When they'd left, he walked over to Astoria. 'You know I don't like it when they go off together,' he said.

Astoria shrugged. 'It was a good thing your father was here. I need to talk to you.' Then she smiled a little. 'I would have left Scorpius at home, but he simply wouldn't let me.'

Draco smiled as well, but after a closer look at his wife's face, he couldn't help but frown. Astoria was dressed in warm brown hues, but she still looked very pale. 'Are you OK?'

She jerked involuntarily. 'I'm alright.'

'Darling, you know you shouldn't practice this much,' he said, taking her by the arm and leading her outside. 'You'll be splendid. You always are.'

She buried her face into his shoulder. 'You're so sweet.'

Draco looked at her, alarmed. This was not a good response. Normally, Astoria would have brushed him off with a dry quip. Now she held on tightly as they walked to one of Draco's favourite spots, a park bench on the right side of the chateau, overlooking both the entrance and the gardens. When Astoria reached it, she let herself fall down and closed her eyes.

'Astoria?' Dear gods, she looked as if she would collapse any minute. Quickly, he sat down next to her and slipped his arm around her back. In response, she leant in to him.

'Darling, tell me-'
But Astoria sat up and pushed her lips on his. Her kiss was hurried and slightly desperate, as if she was trying to lose herself in it. He tried to pull back but she only held him closer, until he gave in and let the days of longing for her take over. Finally Astoria let go and rested her head against his chest. 'I've missed you,' she said, squeezing his arm.

'And I you.' Even so, he was filled with dread. He'd never seen her like this, pinched, with dark shadows under her eyes. His Dark Mark was pulsing with the misery of it.

'Draco...' she whispered, looking up at him, 'you've got to come home.'

Draco sat up. 'You know I can't,' he said curtly.

'You must.' When he didn't speak, she went on: 'It was supposed to be only two weeks, dearest.' She bit her lips. 'I've tried to give you more time, but...'

He glanced at her. 'But what?'

Astoria sighed. 'People are talking.'

'Then let them talk. They'll be delighted,' he said sarcastically.

'Draco!' she said, a hard edge in her voice, 'We have to stick together. It's still not easy, being a Slytherin.'

Draco looked at her. 'You have been talking to my father.'

Astoria jerked her head. 'Well, he's right!'

'"He's right",' Draco mocked her. 'Do you know what sticking together means to his lot, love? I'll hide your business if you hide mine, and we can all cook up Merlin knows what crimes in private.'

Astoria frowned. 'I am not asking you to do that, Draco, you know quite well. I am just asking you to come home and go back to work.'

Draco looked away. 'I wish I could, darling. I really do.'

She put a hand on his shoulder. 'I am not saying you have to stop looking for help. Somebody can come to us, if you want. And it will be easier when Scorpius is not around so much...'

Draco narrowed his eyes. 'You think it's his fault, do you?'

'No, of course, but -'

'Well then don't make it about him!' Draco stood up and took a few steps away from Astoria. The image that had haunted him these past few weeks was swimming before his eyes. His son, huddled on the floor, looking at him with abject terror in his eyes. And again he felt - he wished he could deny it - a grain of savage pleasure.

He turned back to Astoria. 'Can't you see?' he said, his whole body shaking, 'If I come back, I might do it again!'

Astoria looked at him for an agonizingly long moment. Then she bowed her head, buried her face in one hand and started crying.

Draco ran back, sat down and cradled her. 'I didn't mean it, love...' he whispered as Astoria's quiet sobs tore through her. 'Shush, Tori, please...'

Astoria looked up at him. 'Why can't we just live?' she said in a strangled voice. When he didn't answer, she put a hand on his cheek. 'We love you both so much,' she said. 'Why can't you feel it? Why do you let the past suck you back in?'

Draco looked down. 'I am trying...'

Astoria shook her head. She turned away and wrapped her arms around herself, as if trying to protect herself from an oncoming blizzard. 'I understand why this happened,' she finally said. 'Your father, the war. But it really doesn't matter. You chose to hurt our child.' She turned to face him. 'Just don't make that choice again.'

He pulled back, very glad he didn't have a wand with him. 'You think that is easy, don't you?'

'No,' she said, 'but do you think you're the only crazy person here?' She sat up. 'Nearly every wizard alive has been through a war. We're all completely bonkers!'

That sealed it. Astoria never spoke like that, not ever. Somebody must have hurt her, he had no doubt.
It had happened to him as well; some former Snatchers had ambushed him, trying to extort gold. It was one of the only times he'd been glad about the Dark Lord's master classes in torture techniques. But he wasn't there to help her, now, he realised with a pang.

He grabbed her hands. 'Astoria, if anything has happened to you - I know a few goblins that'll butcher anyone for a handful of Sickles.'

Astoria groaned, exasperated. 'It's not that!' She turned her head and stared into the distance. Only after a very long time she said: 'They've cancelled my concerts.'

'Oh.' At first he felt mostly relief, but that changed after one more look at his wife. 'All of them?'

She hung her head.

'But that's impossible,' Draco said. 'On what grounds? We've signed those contracts months ago.'

Astoria snorted. 'Most of my gigs are in private homes,' she said. 'And the professional venues are trying to buy me out.' She jerked her head. 'Apparently, some of the sponsors have been complaining.'

Draco sighed, then hugged her close. 'I've told you before,' he said, 'this won't last forever.'

Astoria closed her eyes. 'You don't get it.' She took a deep breath. 'I can deal with the snide remarks everywhere I go. I don't care if I don't get invited to any dinners ever again. I can even care for our injured child now I have to.' Then she turned to him again, her eyes wide with fear. 'But if they don't let me play...'

Draco froze. On Astoria's face he saw everything he'd been fighting in himself: the fear and terror, the creeping madness. But in her, it was worse. Astoria looked completely lost, as if she knew no way to hold on.

He grabbed her arm. 'Screw them,' he said deliberately. 'You don't have to let them do this to you, Tori. You could play anywhere.' He stood up, suddenly invigorated. 'Why don't we go abroad? We've got the money...'

'No!' she said. 'I don't want to go abroad. I want you home, with us. I don't know how much clearer I can be.'

Draco stopped dead. 'In spite of what I've told you?' he asked hoarsely.

She nodded.

'But...but... it really could happen again!'

She stood up. 'You have a choice, Draco. Just don't do it. It's that simple.'

Draco had trouble keeping his head straight. 'I can't riskit!' he blurted out. 'You can't risk it!' He grabbed her shoulders. 'Why would you even suggest this? To please the Selwyns?'

She pushed him off. 'Yes! The Selwyns, the Rosiers, the Averys... They can destroy everything we've built. Merlin's balls, Frederick Rosier is your boss!'

Draco stared at her as if he'd never seen her before. 'You would risk Scorpius getting hurt, just so I don't lose my job?' He felt his facial muscles contort. 'What would I have to do to stop you keeping up appearances? Kill Scorpius, perhaps?'

Astoria gasped. 'I am the only reason he isn't dead yet, you twisted fuck!'

'Still, you'll take your chances.' He smirked. 'For your art.'

She stood up and took out her wand. 'Don't go there, Draco, I swear...'

'Then tell me I'm wrong!'

She lifted her chin. 'It's so easy for you,' she taunted. 'Daddy's little lordling. You've never had to fight for anything. My parents had to bow and scrape to get me where I am.'

'And how are you liking the results, Tori?' He swept his arm around and pointed at his surroundings. 'Was this place worth the effort?'

A stinging jinx grazed his cheek. 'Shut up!' she shouted. 'It's not my fault we're in this mess, and you know it!' She glared at him. 'Look at you! You're lucky I let you within ten feet of me! Not to mention your son!' She took a few steps closer and whispered: 'If I wanted to, I could put you in Azkaban until Scorpius was thirty!'

He grasped her shoulders. 'Then why don't you?'

She laughed. 'You'd like that, wouldn't you? It would all be so much simpler.' Then she shrugged him off. 'Tough luck, Draco. I want my life back. So you'd better come home before I start plan B.'

'Which is?' he sneered.

Astoria smiled. 'I'll let Scorpius stay with your parents for the summer. He has been clamoring to for a long time.'

Draco gasped. 'That is not funny!'

'I wasn't joking.' Her smile widened. 'After all - they've never hurt him. Unlike you.'

'You bitch!' He would have swung at her if the pack of House Elves hadn't turned up again. He suddenly hated their humongous eyes staring at him.

Astoria didn't seem to have noticed. 'You'll be home tomorrow,' she said. 'Dinner's at eight.' She turned around and waved at someone in the distance. Draco followed her gaze and saw that his father and Scorpius had appeared. Astoria smoothed down her hair and started walking towards them.

'Hey!' Draco tried to grab her. 'We're not done here! Co-'

He couldn't finish: a Stunning Spell hit him straight in the chest, slamming him into the ground. He tried to push himself up but he was too disoriented. Through his watering eyes he saw nothing but ten craggy feet closing in on him. He grasped around for a wand that wouldn't be there. 'Astoria?' he called, 'where are you?'

Parker's head appeared above him. 'Mr. Malfoy needs to rest now,' he said firmly.

'No! No! Astoria!' he yelled, but then another spell hit him, and everything went black.


'Some port, Draco?' Lucius asked.

Draco let the last traces of chocolate mousse melt from his tongue before he nodded. 'Don't mind if I do.'

Across the table, Narcissa smiled at him. 'Do have some cheese.'

Draco chuckled. 'Yes, Mummy.' Lucius frowned, but Narcissa's eyes filled with warmth. Lucius signaled an Elf for port. Under the table, Narcissa squeezed his hand. 'It was good of you to come, dear.'

It had been a rather good night, Draco conceded. The food had been excellent, yes, but there was something else. For the first time he could remember, the dark dining room had emitted something warm; a glow. Of course, that had something to do with the candles Narcissa had lit, and the blazing fire, but most of all, things were calm. Lucius was relaxed, Narcissa was happy, and as for him, he hadn't reached for his wand all evening.
He glanced at his mother. She'd gone a little overboard; her purple dress robes with silver beading were exquisite, but more fitted to a grand celebration. She even wore a tiara. Then again, she wasn't the only one; Lucius had been murderously hard on the House Elves all evening and had constantly been offering to pull strings, at the Ministry, at Gringotts, at Hogwarts, Durmstrang and would Draco really not let Lucius introduce him at the Wizengamot?

He squeezed her hand in return. 'It was my pleasure, Mother,' he said.

'Good,' she said. 'I hate the idea of you alone in that house every night.'

'Narcissa!' Lucius interjected.

'What?' she shot back. 'With Scorpius at school and Astoria all over the place, who's taking care of him?'

Draco sighed. 'Astoria can't hope to sustain a career if she never leaves Wiltshire,' he said. 'She stayed with Scorpius while he needed her. She deserves this.'

'And what about you?' Narcissa pressed.

'I'm joining her this weekend for the final two weeks of her tour,' Draco said. 'After that, Astoria and Scorpius will be home for Christmas.' He took a sip of his port. 'Besides, I can't drop everything at Gringotts just to follow Astoria around.'

'Maybe not this year,' Lucius said. 'But there's no need to stay at Gringotts, Draco.' He leant back in his chair. 'It's a good place to get contacts, of course. But you might want to get more involved in the running of this place.'

'Why?' Draco asked. 'Are you planning to retire?'

Lucius frowned. 'Don't get your hopes up, boy, I'm not dead yet.' He took a sip of port. 'Managing the family's affairs would give you a lot more freedom. And, of course, it would give that Weasley woman the change she's always pushing for.' He drained his glass.

Narcissa shook her head. 'If you boys are going to talk politics, I'm off to bed,' she said breezily. 'I wish Camille wouldn't insist on early morning meetings. I find it much easier to be charitable after a good night's sleep.' She stood up and gestured for an Elf to clear the table.

Draco tensed. There was no way in hell Camille Zabini could make his mother do anything she did not want to do. If she left now, it was only because she wanted to give them the chance to start the... second... part of the evening. The look she exchanged with Lucius was proof enough of that.

Lucius nodded. 'We'll take our drinks in the my sitting room,' he said to the Elves. They waited until Narcissa had left before moving to the adjourning room, where two glasses of Firewhiskey stood waiting on a round wooden table near the fireplace. Two dark leather armchairs stood facing each other; a small cushioned sofa completed the small circle. Lucius sat back in his usual chair on the right, contentedly savouring his whiskey. Draco draped himself on the sofa. Staring into the flames, he reached inside his right pocket. He nodded to himself when his fingers brushed the velvet jewelry box. Things were working out.

Lucius smiled at him.

'I must say, I was rather surprised at your request,' he said lazily.

Draco raised his eyebrows. 'Why?'

Lucius tilted his head back. 'You expressed rather a - distaste - for the practice not so long ago.'

'Yes, well.' Draco cleared his throat. 'It is an acquired taste, to be sure.'

Lucius blinked. 'But you haven't reconsidered?'

Draco shook his head. 'If you think it helps.'

They finished their glasses in silence. Draco marveled at how relaxed he was; he'd expected to be a right mess. He felt only slightly nervous when Lucius stood up. 'Shall we?'

Draco nodded. He rose and followed his father through the corridor. They turned left and descended into the cellars, where two House Elves quickly scurried out of their way. Only when they crossed the cellar to open yet another door, invisible but for the slightest outline, Draco hesitated. Looking down the coarse stone steps, disgust crept into his heart. Even after all these years, the memories of this place burned.

He turned towards his father. 'The girl,' he said hoarsely.

Lucius stopped. 'As specified.'

'She will be Obliviated afterwards?'

Lucius shrugged. 'It's not really necessary. She doesn't speak a word of English.'

'Still.' Draco swallowed. 'There's no reason to burden her more than necessary.'

Lucius laughed. 'Those Muggles we bought her from were hardly gentle, Draco. She'll see worse than you before long.'

Draco glared at him. 'It's the most prudent thing to do, Father.' He wrinkled his nose. 'Besides - since when do we set store by Muggle thugs?'

Lucius nodded approvingly. 'Point taken.' Draco wanted to go downstairs but Lucius held him back. 'Son.'

Draco turned to him and saw genuine concern in his father's eyes. It was just like Lucius to only turn parental at times like these; he had looked the same moments before he'd introduced Draco to the Death Eaters.

He straitened his shoulders. 'Yes?'

'Have you really considered what to expect from this night?'

'Of course!'

Lucius smiled. 'It's just - formal wear isn't usually required.' He looked at Draco's pocket. 'And I see you've brought a gift.'

Draco took out the box. 'Trust me. This is not a gift.'

'Well then.' Lucius took out his wand and pointed it at the rusty gate at the bottom of the stairs. 'After you.'

Draco lit his wand and slowly walked down the stairs as the gate swung his way. When he reached it, he clung to it a moment, sweating, but what he saw what awaited him, his grip relaxed.

In the shadows of the dungeon, a girl was waiting. She had white skin and deep brown curls that cascaded down her back. Her slim body was clad in elegant golden dress robes that clung to her soft curves, but left her arms, shoulders and neckline bare. She stood with her arms raised. Around her wrists, two golden scarves bound her to the ceiling. The scarves were pulled so tightly she was forced to stand on tiptoe. Her hands were drooping and her head was hanging down, but at the sight of Draco's wand tip, she raised it, squinting at the small beam of light. Draco stared, enraptured, until the girl moved her lips without making a sound.

Draco waited until Lucius had come in before he said: 'Silencing charm?'

Lucius nodded.

Draco looked up the stairs to where the door had melted into the wall again. 'Is that really necessary?'

Lucius shrugged. 'More of a precaution. It stops most of them from screaming themselves hoarse when they're alone.'

Draco smirked. 'We wouldn't want that.' He walked to the girl, drinking in every feature: the softness of her face, her long brown curls, the fullness of her breasts only just hidden by the golden bodice. When he reached her, he ran the fingers of his left hand through her hair. She jerked and turned her head away, but that was exactly what he wanted. Tenderly, he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, revealing a soft, immaculate earlobe.

'Perfect,' he breathed, rubbing the lobe lightly between his finger and his thumb before trailing his hand further down and resting his fingers on the soft skin just below her jaw line. He could feel the girl swallow and felt her heartbeat drumming an erratic rhythm against his fingertips. Her lips were still moving futilely, so he took his wand and pressed it, ever so lightly, against her throat.


The girl shivered, sending a delightful ripple from her neck down her spine, but when she found she'd regained control of her vocal muscles, she started babbling, urging him to do something in a language he couldn't make head or tail of.

'Hush, now.' He pressed two fingers against her lips. She stopped and looked at him, searching every inch of his face. Then she averted her eyes.

Draco's left hand trailed her face once more. He felt his wand pulsing, absolutely writhing with delight. The girl seemed to notice: she was tilting her head back, away from the pressure of its tip against her throat. Right you are, my sweet, he thought, not yet. Slowly, he pulled back the wand and put it in one of his inside pockets. With his free hand, he then took out the jewelry box and held it in front of her eyes. She watched, uncomprehending, when he let go of her face and opened the lid to show her the tear shaped ruby earrings, draped on a bed of black satin.

He took out an earring and held it against her unpierced earlobe. His father took a few steps closer.

'Be careful not to damage anything you can't heal yourself,' he said.

You would know, Draco thought grimly. He handed the open box to Lucius. 'Of course not.' Suddenly determined, he pressed the hook against the tiny piece of white flesh. The girl shrieked, but he kept pressing until he pierced it. A few drops of blood trickled down her jaw and into her neckline. Draco took the other jewel and jammed it into her right ear. Tears leaked out of the girl's eyes. Again, she turned her head away, but he grabbed her chin and slowly forced her to face him.

He smiled. 'Ah, but you are a beauty.' He turned to his father. 'Thank you,' he said sincerely. 'She is magnificent.'

Lucius crossed his arms. 'Get her back in one piece, will you,' he said. Draco nodded, but Lucius pressed on. 'I mean it, boy. I don't want the Aurors on my case.'

The girl, sensing discord, suddenly turned to Lucius. 'Please,' she begged, the word foreign and heavy in her mouth.

Lucius whipped out his wand. 'Be silent!' he bellowed as the force of his curse knocked the girl backwards.

'Father!' Draco walked over and supported the girl, who was somehow trying to curl into a ball.

'In one piece,' Lucius repeated, before walking out of the dungeon, leaving them both in darkness. The gate fell shut with a clang.

Draco laughed. 'Maybe,' he whispered to no-one in particular. He nuzzled the girl's neck and sucked her still-bleeding earlobe, but he was quickly distracted by his pulsating wand. He stepped back and took it out of his coat. It was throbbing and seething, emitting a strange, purplish glow that made the girl's brown eyes look even bigger. He closed his eyes and finally let the wand's energy pulse through him. Then he smiled.

'Maybe not.'