Title: Until the well runs dry
Author's Note: There are no words to explain how grateful I am that I got to write for this artwork, as it inspired me in more ways than I can count, prompting me to take as much as I could from my personal experience. Writing this fic has been an extraordinary journey and I want to thank my betas for walking through this with me; callarose, for the exhaustive commentary on everything (and more) and for loving the title, open_atclose, for immediately seeing through the essence of the story and making me blush about it, and starduchess, for pointing out that there is such a thing as too many semicolons and for trying to get the hubby's approval. All of your insights have made this what it is today. Thank you! And thank you, artist, for creating such a dazzling piece! I hope you like the story.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Here is no water but only rock.
T.S. Eliot, "The Waste Land"
People didn't change.
Draco had never expected to find a use for that phrase, a phrase that had often been used against him and his family. However, the time had come to acknowledge the bare truth.
Scorpius's voice broke the silence. It reached him in the bedroom, with that concerned tone his son would use around him. Draco was almost tempted to smirk as the door opened and in walked the younger Malfoy, a frown on his face.
It was like looking into a mirror, as it had always been with them.
"Why aren't you ready?" Scorpius asked.
Draco turned back to the window out of which he had been looking. He heard his son huff and start picking up things from the floor: a stray nightgown, a couple of pictures and – he recognised it from the noise the fabric made – the red dress. A wan smile tugged at his lips. Draco had hated that dress; it was cheaply made and would not have complimented the figure of any witch. Nonetheless, Scorpius carefully placed it back into the wardrobe, because they both knew how dear the garment now was to his father.
Still, he mused, his son could not know the extent of the value he placed on that slim, tawdry piece of cloth, the same musings that constantly reminded him that his brilliant boy would never understand why on that day, of all days, his father had no desire to abide by the rules, the etiquette or the routine.
"Have you got any idea of how many species of aster exist?"
"No, but I have a feeling you are going to tell me."
"Some say infinite."
Scorpius had begun rummaging through his robes, but Draco had not moved from his spot beside the window. His son had already discarded almost everything in the antique armoire, frustration apparent in the miffed mutterings he couldn't hold back. A few years earlier, Scorpius had been all about sneaking into that very room to steal a couple of tailored cloaks and vests; he thought that his father's style might impress the ladies, but he had been only a teenager then. Now, the young wizard standing behind Draco clearly disapproved of his choice of clothing, or at least of what was in the wardrobe.
"Are you boys presentable?" Narcissa asked, peeking into the room.
Draco glanced back long enough to catch her eye.
"No, Mother," he said. "Could you give us five more minutes?"
Scorpius snorted. "Make that fifteen," he corrected. "I can't find anything worth wearing in here."
Narcissa's face fell a little and Draco turned his back on them both. He heard her walk over to her grandson, heard the casual shuffling of garments that was meant to veil their conversation and he closed his eyes in anticipation.
"He keeps the darker robes in the other closet," his mother whispered.
"What is this smell?"
"Very funny. It's called grass. It covers most of the surface of the planet, you know."
"Just keep your eyes closed, Draco."
In the end, he wasn't particularly surprised by his son's choice. Somber, black robes to go with an even more somber and black cloak. It was expected of him, after all.
Draco reluctantly withdrew from his position as Narcissa led Scorpius out of the room. He waited for them to be out of earshot before exhaling a dispirited sigh and letting himself take one good look at what he was supposed to wear. There would be no point in making a fuss, he knew that very well, but if he could have had things his way, those somber, black robes wouldn't have been necessary.
He heard his mother talking in the hallway. He slipped the clothes on, adjusted the hem and looked at his reflection in the mirror of the unused vanity. Draco lazily wondered if he was the only one who saw how the years had passed. His hair wouldn't look any different to the rest of the world, but the lines on his face would tell a different story.
Still, people didn't change. He had to keep that in mind.
"For Merlin's sake, Dad!" Scorpius slammed the door open and barged in. "They are waiting for us!"
Draco hardened his expression. "Do not raise your voice at me."
"To answer your question... no, these are not asters."
"I didn't say anything!"
"You needn't have. Your look..."
"Here, Asteria, give Scorpius to me, you've been carrying him all day."
"Careful! And it's in your eyes... They're practically saying, 'So this is what a cop-out looks like! I dare my wife to find a field of asters and all she can find are purplish-flowers'."
"That was an endearing impression of me."
"Draco? Scorpius? We really have to go now."
At the sound of his grandmother's voice, Scorpius's head dropped and Draco saw him clench his fists as he turned to follow her out.
To her son though, Narcissa's voice was a balm for the ears. Strange how the older he got, the more things about his childhood Draco remembered. His mother's voice, for instance, brought back memories of bedtime stories, a time long before his father had started educating him on the ways of the world, if that could be called an education at all.
His favourite had always been The Warlock's Hairy Heart. Draco had secretly hoped that all wizard tales would be as gruesome as that one. Needless to say, he had been unable to hide his disappointment when he had read the other stories in The Tales of Beedle the Bard and he had moaned and protested for months, until his parents had threatened to Obliviate him of the stories he had read.
Draco glanced at his son, walking beside him, sulking in silence. He didn't know which bedtime story Scorpius had preferred.
He had never thought to ask.
"You're holding him wrong."
"Perfectly balanced on my hip, as you taught me."
"I'm not– what are you doing with that?"
"Honestly, Draco! What does it look like I'm doing? I'm taking a picture!"
"Because you'll need it to remember."
They neared the gates of the Manor after a lengthy walk on the grounds. Scorpius didn't let the opportunity pass, he complained for the umpteenth time about the peacocks, but Narcissa merely chuckled. Draco felt that he much preferred this frank approach to the day than the solemn tone his family had kept inside, but as they passed through the enchanted entrance, he reminded himself that they would have to conform to the formalities of the occasion, once they reached their destination.
He had tried not to think about that place all year long, but the meadow, as beautiful and serene as it was, had haunted his every move.
"Grab the Portkey, Dad."
Draco complied wordlessly and within seconds, the three of them arrived at their stop. A growing assortment of witches and wizards of various ages and statuses had already populated the place, much to Draco's chagrin.
He had to admit he had been careless, neglecting to ask who would be in attendance, for it looked like half of the wizarding world had decided to show up; then, he spotted a known blond head in the crowd and walked towards her.
"Do you even know how much I despise that dress?"
"Daphne gave it to me, you know that... Now be quiet."
"You're painting again."
"Yes, yes I am... It keeps me focused and I feel something with a brush in my hand."
"You make me feel something."
"You'll have to do better than that to get me out of this dress."
Daphne was just standing there, staring into space, when Draco came closer to her. She was a wreck, the telltale signs being one unruly strand of hair and a slight quiver of her lower lip.
He bowed his head in greeting.
"You look old," she said quietly.
He didn't reply, but stood next to her in stillness for a few minutes, until his mother came to warn them that the ceremony was about to begin. Draco wondered for a moment if any other of his former housemates had come, if he should be so bold as to look around for them, and he was instantly brought back to a similar event he himself had failed to attend at the end of his sixth year.
He felt suddenly weary.
Narcissa led him and Daphne to the head of the small gathering. Scorpius embraced his aunt and chuckled softly at something she told him that Draco didn't quite understand. He bent over a cluster of flowers and breathed in. It was a moment of peace not meant to last, Draco supposed so once he noticed that his son had walked over to a small platform, nervously clutching a scroll of parchment.
Daphne leaned over and briefly squeezed his hand.
"Thank you all for coming," Scorpius began. "I thank you because I was one of those who didn't want to come, at first, and even if you might nod your head now and think you understand why I didn't, you don't." He lowered his head and unrolled the parchment.
Draco widened his eyes in surprise – nobody had mentioned any of this to him. He had to admit, however, that it was just like his son to make plans without him for it was ingrained in his genes.
"Nothing changed, Draco, I'm still the same girl you married."
"The woman I married... Please, don't make me beg, Asteria."
"Look at the man in the painting! He's with his son and he's happy and–"
"He's not... I'm not smiling!"
"You're right, but the smiling face of my husband – that's the memory I want to carry with me."
"Then give me a reason to smile!"
"I can't... That hasn't changed either. I'd never lie to you."
"My mother was an artist before she married my father," Scorpius was saying, "but by the time they met, she had abandoned painting." He brightened. "I like to think I was the reason she picked it up again."
Draco tensed as he realised what he was talking about and he almost stepped forward to stop him, but with a flick of his wand, his son produced a large canvas that hovered in mid-air for all to see. Scorpius talked about the meadow they were in, and he talked about Asteria's passion for photography.
"Because it allows artists to recreate details in the privacy of their own studios," Draco found himself whispering alongside Scorpius.
"This particular painting was a long time in the making." He paused and brushed his hand against the watercolour. "I was barely three when the original picture was taken, and I was only one year younger than I am now when the painting was completed... Many things about my mother didn't change throughout the years and this, this didn't either." He smiled softly. "Always there, resting against the wall of her studio..."
By the end of her nephew's speech, Daphne had given up any pretence of not being affected by his words. As she turned to Narcissa for support, Draco excused himself and walked over to where Scorpius was slowly hovering the painting back to the ground.
"She would have loved to hear that," he said in a low, steady voice.
Scorpius nodded and turned to face his father. "You miss her."
Draco had marvelled at his son's inability to read him lately; instead, he found that his assumptions were entirely wrong, just as they had been throughout his whole life, just as he had once assumed that he would always hate the cheap, red dress Asteria was so keen on wearing all the time. She had taught him otherwise, but he still hadn't learnt his lesson.
People really didn't change.
Father and son stared at the canvas for a long while; until nobody else was left on the meadow, until the only difference between the watercolour image and their reality was a modest gravestone where the man and the little boy stood in the painting.
"You were right," he whispered to the wind. "I needed it to remember."
Scorpius looked confused, but Draco shook his head and smiled at him.
"What bedtime story did you like best?"