Worth Fighting For
Pairing: Draco Malfoy/Hermione Granger
Canon: Through DH (EWE)
Other characters: Pansy Parkinson, Scorpius Malfoy, Astoria Greengrass, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Rose Weasley
Summary: Though seven years have gone by since the War, Draco can't seem to get out of the past. When he hits rock bottom, it's his three-year-old son Scorpius who makes him realize he wants to take control of his future. And that decision is only the beginning of a journey that will change him forever.
Author's Notes: I don't think I've ever poured this much into a fic before, but I couldn't have done it alone! Thank you to inadaze22 for helping me to get this story off the ground in its early stages: you've been with me from the beginning and I'm not sure I would've been able to finish without you; to Sam, beta extraordinaire, for your amazingly detailed and thorough notes and suggestions; to miss_bowtruckle and callarose for generously stepping in to read over the story at the last minute; to my wonderful flist, for your encouragement and support; and last, but definitely not least, to my wonderful artist Lucy-I can't wait to see your creation, I'm sure it's absolutely gorgeous! I should also mention that I was partially inspired by Kramer vs. Kramer, though one needs no knowledge of the book/movie to understand this story. I hope you all enjoy!
July 15th, 2005
He thinks he's losing it.
Things are so buggered up now it's almost hilarious.
Of course, it's not funny-it's downright depressing as hell-but if Draco thinks about that too much he has a hard time seeing a point in doing anything, and those are the days when he gives up, at least temporarily. He stays in his shitty, tiny flat and only gets up from the couch when he's hungry or needs to go to the loo, and watches the telly. Yeah, so Draco Malfoy has a telly. That one is genuinely funny, because who knew he would ever like a Muggle appliance that much? The addiction is Pansy's fault but he honestly doesn't even care. It's mindless, and thinking is too painful these days. When thoughts do cross into his brain they're about death-more specifically, his. Because if he really were to die, no one in the world would give a damn and it would be days before anyone would find him.
He's stayed in funks for days when he lets these thoughts have too much power over him and he's already lost a couple jobs that way because he won't even feel like showing up to work. It doesn't matter that it's hard enough for him to simply find the job, and he knows that finding something else will only be harder. That would require caring, and he simply doesn't have the energy to do so. Right now he's on his way to losing job number...well, whatever number it is that he's at now. He's lost count.
If there is a God-as if he believes in all that delusional crap anymore-but if there is, He's doing a pretty crappy job up there. He's Draco fucking Malfoy, You Asshole. He wasn't supposed to end up like this. This was supposed to be somebody else's life, anybody's but his.
What really sucks is that he was in this exact same position right after the War.
Seven years later, and nothing's changed-he's as miserable as he was then.
Well, that's not entirely true because now he has a three-year-old son. He wants to love him, he really does. He just doesn't think he's capable of loving anyone, even his own flesh and blood. Maybe it would be different if Scorpius had been planned and not a surprise. When he started seeing Astoria a few years ago, he didn't even see a distant future with her, let alone a child. The pregnancy was an unforeseen complication after one careless night of spontaneity. Even though they decided on an abortion before the first month was up, she couldn't go through with it, changing her mind before she made it beyond the lobby of St. Mungo's. When she told him she wanted to make things work, Merlin help him-he believed her.
They couldn't afford a wedding. The Ministry confiscated the Malfoy money after the War, claiming it for reparations. But somehow, they managed.
Apparently they weren't managing as well as he thought, because when he woke up this morning she was gone. At least she left a note of explanation behind on her pillow, but he's still bitter, and he thinks he'll resent her for the rest of his life. He's done a lot of cowardly things in his lifetime, something he knows better than anyone, but this is worse than any of that.
And now he doesn't know what to do, because Astoria took care of Scorpius while he worked. Even though he played with his son a little in the evenings, Scorpius doesn't really know him, and Draco has no idea how to take care of him. He doesn't know anything about kids and Draco doesn't think he has it in him to be vulnerable enough to show Scorpius the affection he deserves. That aside, he doesn't have the luxury of time because it's a constant struggle to afford food and rent. Last month he almost even got his arse evicted out of this piece of crap, and he still owes Pansy money.
Ha, Draco Malfoy, homeless and poorer than the Weasleys.
That would be a laugh.
Sometimes he does even laugh, not the 'ha, ha' kind, but the bordering-on-insanity kind. Because he really thinks he might be. Bordering on insanity, that is. If he weren't such a chicken shit, he thinks he would've killed himself a long time ago. Because what does he really have to live for now anyway? His son? Scorpius would be better off without him, and that's not wallowing, that's the fucking truth.
He even tried once, after his mother died.
The Muggle way.
It hurt so damn much that he couldn't follow through with it, and he has a pathetic white scar across his left wrist to remind himself that he had been too much of a coward to do the one thing that would've actually made people happy.
Maybe Pansy would've shed a tear.
But he seriously doubts it.
She keeps on trying to tell him that she's his friend and shit, that she worries about him, but if he were to die she'd probably feel relieved to be rid of the burden of looking after him. Not that he wants her to. He's given her so many reasons to get the hell out, and even though she's threatened to, she always comes back. Someone has to keep you out of trouble, she says, as if he's the one who needs a stupid babysitter.
But it was Pansy who'd finally found him, bleeding and unconscious on his bathroom floor, and he's pretty sure she's afraid of finding him like that again if she were to leave him alone for longer than a week. That was before Astoria though, and he hasn't even told Pansy that she walked out on him.
He's pretty convinced the bitch was planning on doing this all along.
She couldn't go through with the abortion herself, so she figured the next best thing would be to dump the baby with him and take off. That's what he should've done, long before there even was a baby, but even though he's Draco Malfoy he still has needs. She'd been more or less in the same place he was, so his name hadn't bothered her that much.
Then Scorpius had ruined everything.
Draco closes his eyes and leans his head back on the couch. Every time he thinks things can't possibly get any worse, the universe finds a way to prove him wrong. Because Merlin forbid if Draco Malfoy is actually happy. Not that he had been-he can't remember ever being happy, except maybe when he was still in his mother's womb-but at least he was content with the routine, even if he had just been going through the motions.
He can't deal with this right now.
He needs a drink.
Well, being a single father certainly puts limitations on his free time.
As much as he wanted to go to a bar, even Draco couldn't leave his son for that long. After making sure Scorpius would be sleeping for at least a half an hour, he heads out to the store to grab two six-packs, and then gets comfortable with the couch and the telly.
A couple hours and ten drinks later-well, he doesn't know if it's really been ten since he's already lost track, but ten's a nice number-he's not really feeling that much better. If anything he's feeling worse, because he's still miserable, he's just having a hard time remembering why. Pansy won't stop calling him so he turns his mobile off, but he figures it won't be that much longer before she comes looking for him. She knows something's up, but he wants to put this confrontation off for as long as possible.
The truth is he has no clue what to do, and there's almost nothing he hates more than feeling helpless and trapped.
Especially after the War.
The knock on his door makes him jump, and he curses because there's only one person who that could be.
"I know you're in there, Draco! You know how I feel about you ignoring me, so if you don't open this door I'm going to come in anyway whether you like it or not."
He's pretty sure he can't even move right now, but there's nothing he can do against an Alohamora at the moment, so he's stuck. Shit.
She's in his flat within seconds and her cross expression only worsens when she looks at him. "Merlin, Draco. What the hell is wrong with you?"
He's more concerned with his vision at the moment, because he's blinked at least five times and her double is still there.
For the first time he takes a good look at the beer bottles littered around his feet, and it's then he realizes that they're all empty. Okay, it definitely has been more than ten. Oops.
Finally he musters a glare, too sluggish for wit. "None of your business. Fuck off."
Pansy takes one look at him and sighs, helping herself to the chair across from him. "Falling back on old habits, I see. What's going on, Draco?"
If he had the energy he would be glaring, but exhaustion is taking over and he slumps forward, putting his head in his hands. She's already seen him at his worst. He's got nothing to hide from her now.
"Look, Pans. I just-don't want to talk about this right now, okay?"
Her expression softens. "She left you, didn't she?"
Even in his messed up state, he can tell it's not really a question. She can put on a good show for those around her, but she's actually pretty observant when she wants to be.
Clenching his teeth, he insists, "I said I don't want to talk about it."
But the words are slurred together, and she just shakes her head. "Right, because conveniently you can hardly speak. We'll be discussing this tomorrow though, and you can count on me not to forget. But I think you've had enough to drink now... come on, I'll help to your bed, all out of the goodness of my heart."
"Don't need help. M'fine," Draco mumbles, intending to get up and prove it.
His traitorous body has other ideas, and his knees buckle before he's been standing for even five seconds. Pansy takes pity on him and grabs his arm so he falls into her instead of on the floor, which would have been far more pathetic.
She's smirking, which only irritates him more. "You were saying?"
"Bugger off," he growls, but no matter how much he wants to push away, he dislikes the idea of falling on his arse even more. Another lose-lose situation. The story of his life.
"Sorry, Drakey," she singsongs, because she knows he hates it. Bitch. "Lucky for you, I'm feeling magnanimous tonight."
"Big word. I didn't know you could manage four syllables," he slurs, hoping she at least gets the gist.
She rolls her eyes. "Don't push it, asshole."
"Please tell me you've at least thought about your situation a little."
"Oh you know me Pans, I'm not really the thinking ahead type."
"Now might be a good time to start, don't you think?"
"Oh, I don't know. I'm in no hurry..."
He should be, but he's not.
Thinking too hard means making everything real, and he's always had a tough time dealing with reality, with actual consequences. That's why he hadn't been able to just kill Dumbledore outright, back before the invasion. Sending poison and a necklace indirectly meant that he wouldn't have to see the results first hand, which is how he prefers things. Makes delusions much easier to keep that way.
Pansy is shaking her head at him. "You've got to grow up sometime, Draco."
He snorts. "As if you're really one to give me this lecture."
"Growing up is about taking responsibility for your life," Pansy retorts coolly, "and it took a couple years of therapy for me to figure things out. Have you ever considered-"
"No way in hell would I ever let some shrink psychoanalyze me," he interrupts harshly, glaring now. "They're nothing but pompous assholes who think they know you better than you do, and I'm tired of being judged."
"My psychologist wasn't like that at all. It was liberating to unload everything on someone who was actually listening."
"Well, I'm glad that worked for you, I really am. I'd just never feel comfortable getting all touchy feely with a stranger. I can barely do that with you."
The truth is that psychologists scare the crap out of him.
He's not ready to face certain things, but when he does, he wants it to be on his own terms, not because he's been forced to confront issues he still doesn't really know how to deal with. It's taken him long enough to just admit that, and he's not sure he can handle anything else right now.
She shrugs. "Suit yourself. But admitting that you need help isn't a weakness, Draco-it's a strength. I've learned that much."
He doesn't want to have this discussion anymore, and he purses his lips, ready to be meaner if she pushes it.
Pansy coughs once, a sly look on her face. He's suddenly suspicious, and the feeling only deepens as she says, "Well, do what you want Draco. But I've figured out how you can pay me back for the last few days."
Draco eyes her warily, afraid of where this is going. Pansy always knew how to drive a hard bargain. But he just sits, waiting for it.
"Ginny invited me to Potter's birthday party-they're having it at some Muggle pub instead of the Three Broomsticks because Potter didn't want to deal with all the extra attention. I want you to come with me."
He can't have heard her right.
No way, no fucking way-
"You're looking at me like I've just grown an extra head that breathes fire," Pansy snaps.
He's regretting having this meeting at his flat now, because it's not as though he can get up and leave her here. He's well and truly trapped. Again.
"Surely there's something else I can-"
"Perhaps you heard me wrong, Draco. That wasn't a request."
It's not that he doesn't want to repay her, because he hates feeling as though he owes people. Draco Malfoy is no one's charity case. But this is just too much. "Over my dead body."
"Maybe if you're lucky, Crabbe Sr will grant your wish," Pansy says nastily.
"Fuck you." That's also on the list of things he doesn't want to get into at the moment. "Ask Blaise."
She lifts an eyebrow. "Why torture him when he doesn't owe me anything?"
"Look Pansy, I've accepted your strange friendship with the Weaselette. But I refuse to get involved with Gryffindors. They'll kill me with their bare hands."
Maybe he is being a little dramatic, but it's not that hard for him to picture. Trying a different approach, he adds, "Besides, I can't leave Scorpius. Why do you need me, anyway?"
"Moral support," she says, shrugging. "I'm only on Ginny's good side-I don't much care for the others and they don't much care for me. I'll ask Ginny for babysitter recommendations, and I'll even pay the bill this once. I need to be seen at this party, Draco, and Ginny said I could bring someone. The more the merrier, and all that."
"Sounds as merry as a Death Eater revel," he grumbles, folding his arms across his chest.
"You'll confuse them all," she says, the sly smile back, and he has to admire her cunning if it is at his expense. "I can see you getting into it, messing with everyone's heads. I bet they'll be so surprised to see you there that they just won't know how to deal with you."
"Fine," he snaps, annoyed because that actually does sound a little appealing, "but this is it for a long time. Got it?"
She stands, beaming at him. "It'll be worth your while, I promise."
He glares, but he's never been able to stay mad at her for long. "Get out of my flat, Bitch."
"I'll be seeing you, Asshole," she says, flouncing out the door.
Those became their nicknames for each other after he'd started incorporating Muggle swear words into his vocabulary-just another weird part of their relationship.
But he still can't believe he got conned into going to this party.
Things just keep getting better and better.
He should've just severed ties with Pansy and bailed on her.
He could write a novel about why this is a bad idea, and yet here he is, trailing sullenly behind her with his hands stuffed deep into the pockets of his trousers.
"Oh, lighten up, Draco," Pansy says airily over her shoulder. "I've seen dead people who look happier than you do."
"I'd be happier too if I were dead," he grumbles, in such a bad mood that even people who walk by with smiles on their faces piss him off. "At least I wouldn't have to be here."
Whipping around to face him suddenly, she snaps, "Look Draco, I mean it. Don't make me beg, because I won't. I didn't ask you to be cruel. I just need a friend in there, all right? If you're going to be like this the entire time, then go. It's not worth it."
If it were anyone else, he'd jump on the opportunity.
In spite of his earlier thoughts, he's not ready to do that to Pansy because she's not anyone else, and never has been.
"Fine," he sighs. "But if they jump me, you'll have to live with that on your conscience."
She smirks. "I think I can deal with that."
She opens the door and he prepares for the worst, already getting ready for a fight. The place is crowded and noisy, but all it takes is for one person to notice them before a hush descends over the entire place. But whispers are soon rippling throughout the gathering, and Draco glares instinctively, deciding to leave this one to Pansy.
There's a head of red hair moving through the throng and the Weaselette emerges in the little bit of space between them and everyone else, exclaiming, "I'm so glad you could make it, Pansy!" And then she glances at him, whispering, "What's he doing here?"
"You said I could bring someone, didn't you?" Pansy reminds her, bearing straight and haughty. "He's promised to be on his best behavior."
"That's true, I did," the Weaselette says, and she doesn't even try to hide her regret. "Well now that he's here, I'm not about to throw him out. After all, we've all changed since school, haven't we?"
"I do have a name, in case you've forgotten. Second person would also be acceptable," Draco interrupts, crossly.
The Weaselette surprises him with a laugh. "Of course you do, Malfoy. Just don't cause any trouble, and we'll all be able to continue to have a good time."
He thinks he might actually be able to see why Pansy likes her.
Draco shrugs. "Fine by me."
The truth is he really doesn't want to make much of a scene here either. He's perfectly content to sit in the far corner at the bar and drink until he doesn't even remember who anyone is. It's true he doesn't drink as much as he used to-he'd developed a serious problem after his mother died almost five years ago. For a while it was so bad he'd be drunk just about every night. But he hasn't been able to completely break the habit, as Pansy loves to point out to him.
Pothead and the Weasel are standing nearby, and both are eyeing him intently. The last time he'd seen them had been at his mother's funeral, and they'd reached an unspoken reconciliation of sorts although there is now too much water under the bridge for the suspicion to completely disappear.
He has no problem with that whatsoever, because he has no interest in associating with them any more than he has to. Finally they nod at him, and he returns the gesture. That seems to be enough for people, and when they realize that nothing is going to happen, the room gradually fills with conversation again. Pansy is still talking with the Weaslette-he'd tuned them out a while ago-so he edges through the throng to the bar and orders the strongest drink they have.
It's practically empty since just about everyone is milling about or sitting down at the tables, and he's relieved for the space. But it's then he realizes that he hadn't seen Granger over with the other two, and his curiosity piques in spite of himself. He scans the crowd for her, and he finally spots her on the opposite portion of the room as the Weasel.
Pansy has apparently relocated, because Granger is now with the Weaselette. They are close enough for Draco to discern that Granger's chatting the other girls' ear off about her current quest to free the house elves. He can't help but roll his eyes as he overhears her complaining about the injustice of it all.
His drink is definitely more interesting, and he's about halfway done when he's aware that someone's standing beside him. It's Granger ordering a drink, and Draco waits for some witty repartee, but she's so focused on her order that she doesn't even see me.
"You're going about it the wrong way, you know," he says, before he even knows what he's doing.
Granger's staring at him as though she's seeing a Thestral for the first time.
Her expression is so comical that Draco almost wants to laugh. It's been so long since he's found anything genuinely funny that the urge feels strange and foreign, leaving a bad taste in his mouth.
"It's not about what's right and what's wrong," he continues, thinking that maybe he does need to get my head examined. "It's about tradition-for everyone, even the house elves. You can't expect immediate results if you're talking about reforming everything at once. It's just unrealistic."
"So you honestly think house elves like being enslaved?" she cries, and that's all it takes for her not to see him anymore. She would have probably tried to argue for house elf rights with the fucking Dark Lord if the opportunity had come up.
"Did you not hear a single thing I said?" he snaps, wondering how someone so bright could be this stupid. "Where's your common sense, Granger? You can never change everything at once. That's a fundamental concept."
Her eyes have turned to ice, and he can tell she's seeing me again. Well, good. He doesn't want her to forget. "Why are you talking to me, anyway?"
He shrugs, and downs the rest of his beer in a single swallow. "For the fucking shits and giggles, Granger."
Her frown is unexpected, and he glares. "What?"
"Oh, nothing," she says, sipping her wine, "it's just that I don't think I've ever heard you use Muggle swears before."
She's right. His father always used to say it wasn't proper for Purebloods to use crass language, and he uses it mainly out of spite. Draco knows Lucius would just froth at the mouth if he could hear it, and he gets some immature pleasure out of that.
He studies her wine thoughtfully. "Well, I never imagined you to be much of a drinker."
"One glass of wine doesn't make you an alcoholic," she snaps, but he catches her looking over at Weasel, and the woman now on his arm.
His curiosity finally gets the better of him, and he simply can't help himself. "But the Weasel does?"
She stands up, pursing her lips. "Goodbye, Malfoy."
He watches her go lost in thought, not even aware that Pansy had come up behind him until she starts speaking. "What was that all about?"
"What was what about?" Draco asks, too distracted to be really invested in this conversation.
Even though his back is turned, he can still feel her eye roll. "Don't play dumb with me, Draco. I saw you chatting up Granger."
"What's it to you if I were?" he says, finally facing her to find her frowning at him with her arms crossed. "Ah, I see," he continues, smirking, "you're jealous."
She's glaring now. "Of Granger? Don't be ridiculous."
His smirk only widens. "You are jealous, aren't you? I know jealousy when I see it, Pans, and this looks and sounds like it to me."
"Shut up, Draco, and stop being annoying," Pansy snaps, pushing away from the bar and walking away.
He can't help a grin.
In a span of only about a few minutes, Draco had managed to piss off both Granger and Pansy Resting his head in his hands with a satisfied smirk on his face, he orders another beer, in a much better mood than he ever thought he'd be this afternoon.
"I have a solution for you, Draco."
"Are you going to make me beg?"
Pansy had invited herself over to his place the next day, and since it is a Sunday, she had caught him while he'd still been in bed. She'd made him some coffee as he'd struggled into his clothes-he'd been plagued with the usual nightmares and hadn't slept for even a couple hours at a time-and had been even grouchier after having been woken up.
They're sitting at the little table in the middle of his kitchen, and the contrast is almost hilarious. He's slouched over the table, glaring down into the mug of coffee between his hands while Pansy is across from him with perfect posture, an obnoxious grin on her face.
"I'm letting you off the hook this time," she smirks, looking as though she's enjoying this entirely too much, which only makes him glare more fiercely into his coffee. "But anyway, Ginny was telling me about her kids, and mentioned that Granger uses this great daycare center that actually wouldn't be too far for you. They have rooms for kids of all ages, and Scorpius would be fine there."
"You didn't tell her about-"
"I'm not even going to bother answering that. Why do you still have to question help when it's offered to you?"
"Because nothing's offered without a price. And you can stop acting all innocent and offended over there, because I know you, Pans-you'll wait until a few huge debts have added up and will then demand something big in return, like you did with that party. I would do the same if I were in your position, so I'm not criticizing you, okay?"
"But I wouldn't even be bothering to help in the first place if I didn't care, Draco."
"No, you just like knowing that people owe you because it makes you feel powerful and superior."
She stands up with a sigh and a shake of her head, pulling a piece of paper out of her purse. "I hate dealing with you when you're in these moods. Here's the address and number-you can take it or leave it, I really don't care. But good luck trying to find a better alternative."
He stays in his chair for a long time after she leaves, staring at the paper but not really seeing it. He does want things to change and he's tired of living like this, but the last seven years have brought nothing but one disaster after another, each one greater than the last, and the only way he's been able to cope with everything has been to remain completely apathetic.
First there had been his brief Azkaban sentence before his trial, and in his case it hadn't really made much difference that the Dementors hadn't been there because the guards had not been kind to him, and he probably hasn't properly dealt with everything that had happened down there. Then his mother had died a couple years later, he'd taken up drinking, and had his failed suicide attempt shortly thereafter.
When Pansy had introduced him to Astoria Greengrass, who'd worked with her at the Daily Prophet at the time, he'd thought things were starting to look up. And that, of course, had been when everything had dissolved-again.
He picks up the piece of paper, and for the first time he really looks at it.
The only reason he's actually going to do this is because there is no other option. That's how it's always been, and he's not used to having choices anyway. But he's a survivor-the only reason he'd even sliced one artery that night had been because he'd been extremely depressed and drunk out of his mind, so after that he'd stopped drinking. Or tried to, anyway. That had probably been the lowest point of his life-the nadir in an overall low period that's pretty much continued-but he'd gotten through it.
And somehow he'll get through this too.
Naturally Granger and her spawn are the first people he sees when he takes Scorpius to daycare for the first time, and he almost rolls his eyes. It's only a matter of time before she notices him, and when she does her eyes widen predictably and comically.
"Yes it's me, and yes I have a son," he snaps before she can say anything, although he regrets his harsh tone immediately because Scorpius grips his hand tighter and tries to hide against his leg. "So you can stop staring. Besides, it's rude."
"Well, I'm sorry if seeing you with a small child is more than a little incongruous," she fires back without hesitation, "and I hardly think you're in any position to point out rudeness. You know what they say about people in glass houses, after all..."
This time he does roll his eyes as he sneers, "Oh please, spare me the clichés Granger. Shouldn't we be setting a good example for our children?"
"And you would know all about what that would be like, I'm sure."
He takes a good look at her daughter, who almost looks intrigued by their whole exchange, and thinks that she might be about the same age as Scorpius. "Let me guess...she's not three years old, is she?"
"Three and a half." There's an equal expression of horror on her face at the realization.
"Well, let's just hope they're still at that age where they're afraid of the opposite sex."
Granger isn't looking optimistic. "Rose has a lot of boy cousins. They treat her as though she's one of them, and she loves it."
"I don't suppose we can tell whoever is in charge to forbid them from playing together."
It's wishful thinking on his part, and she shakes her head almost mournfully. "It seems that this is out of our hands now."
His son is going to be playmates with Granger's daughter. Well, at least the upside to Scorpius's sullen mood is that he hopefully won't have to listen him talking about Rose all the time.
"Come on, Scorpius, stop playing around and eat your supper."
Even though they'd had the same meal a few days ago and Scorpius seemed to love it, the three-year-old is stubbornly pushing his squares of meat around with his fork.
Draco sighs, trying to keep the frustration out of his voice. "No, it's not. You had it the other day and had no problem eating it."
Scorpius scrunches up his nose and stabs the chicken almost violently.
"Stop that," Draco snaps, and his son only scowls harder. "You won't get any pudding until you eat it."
"Really. Not even for pudding?"
Draco knows how much his son loves pudding, and if Scorpius will turn even that down out of some kind of rebelliousness, this is probably some kind of mood.
Scorpius shakes his head.
"All right, fine. Then you can go to bed."
His son gets up without a word, and Draco leans back in his chair with a dazed expression on his face, wondering what the hell just happened.
Scorpius won't talk to him.
The child is moody and sullen, and though Draco suspects it's a delayed response to Astoria's disappearance now that it's reality, he doesn't know what to do. He confessed his concerns to Pansy a few days ago, but nothing's changed.
"Draco, his mother was around all the time and she left. He's bound to go through moods right now, it's natural. Don't worry about it," she'd said, in a tone that suggested he should've realized all that on his own.
"Don't worry about it? How can I not worry? I'm not equipped to deal with this Pansy, I don't even know what to say!"
"Just be there," she said, with something between a smirk and a smile on her face. "And stop making those kinds of excuses for yourself. It's really not an attractive quality."
"As if you would know what those are."
"Don't you dare try to make this about me."
"Daddy, look! Look!"
The shouts dislodge Draco from his thoughts and he turns around to see Scorpius running towards him, a piece of paper in his hands. He can't help a smile. This is the most enthusiastic he's seen his son in days. While he doesn't know what's brought about the change, at the moment he doesn't care.
"Rose draw it."
"Drew," Draco corrects absently as he takes the drawing from his son's outstretched hand.
"Drew," Scorpius repeats, scrunching up his nose in concentration. "Rose drew it."
It's a self-portrait, and Draco has to admit that it's actually quite good. Not as though that's much of a surprise, considering it's from Granger's child. It's most likely that she's already a genius in the making.
Puffing out his little chest proudly, Scorpius declares, "I drew her, too!"
Draco manages a tight smile, because in spite of his good mood, he's suddenly distracted by the past.
Scorpius picks up things easily because he's a fast learner, and Draco doesn't coddle him as much as mother and lacks his father's money and influence, so he's actually motivated to do well. Draco really wasn't as a student, and though his grades were decent he applied himself more out of a desire to satisfy his parents than himself. It's almost funny that his struggle to fix the Vanishing cabinet was the first time he bothered to stretch the boundaries of his intelligence, and now he resents his parents because he wishes he were nurtured to have Scorpius's eagerness.
"She said I'm a good at draling, daddy!"
This time Draco's smile is genuine. "It's drawing, Scorpius. Say drawing."
Scorpius frowns. "Drawing."
Draco pats him on his blond head, and he beams. "There you go."
He looks down at the picture again, a thoughtful expression on his face. In spite of his original horror at learning of Scorpius's friendship with Rose, he's starting to reconsider. Maybe Rose will actually be a good influence on his son, and will give him more drive and desire to not waste his talents because people will actually notice them.
Scorpius may be a Malfoy, but he's also half-Greengrass and young.
At least there is still hope for him.
"They've only just met and I hear about your son all the time."
She looks absolutely miserable, but at least he can take some pleasure knowing that she's going through the same thing he is.
"They can do whatever they want here, but I'll draw the line if they ever want to play together outside of daycare. Seeing you even this much is more than enough."
"Trust me Malfoy, the feeling is mutual," she retorts, folding her arms over her chest.
"If that was your attempt at being witty, I'd say you failed miserably."
"Really? I thought it was brilliant."
She's staring at him, and he can just see the wheels turning in her brain as she tries to figure him out. He's sneering but it's more out of habit than anything else because even his sarcasm had been relatively harmless, intended more to be funny than biting.
Finally, her lips twitch ever so slightly, and he smirks.
They're waiting outside the daycare center together, and even though they're not talking Draco still feels uncomfortable.
Her constant staring isn't helping either.
Annoyed, he snaps, "What?"
Granger chuckles, which only irks him further. "I'm sorry Malfoy, seeing you with a small child is going to take some getting used to."
"So what, you think I'm poisoning his mind with tales of the good old days when the Dark Lord was still alive and stories from My Life as a Death Eater?"
"Hey, you said it, not me."
"Oh, for Merlin's sake-"
"I did notice he doesn't seem to be open with you all the time. Problems at home?"
He stiffens. "None of your business."
There's an indescribable look on her face, but he still doesn't like it. "I just thought-"
"None. Of. Your. Business."
Now he's extremely irritated, but since he can't stalk away somewhere, he settles for staring at a point ahead of him, hoping she gets the hint.
This time she does.
"Daddy, you're late."
Draco's already forgotten the mother's name, but she gives him a sympathetic look as he collects his son and says goodbye. There was a birthday party with some of Scorpius's friends from daycare, and Scorpius was right. But the moment is in the past now, and he knows he needs to make it right, only he doesn't know how.
"It was fifteen minutes!" Draco exclaims as they walk home, having a hard time keeping the frustration out of his voice. "Come on, I've said I'm sorry."
Scorpius drags his feet beside him sullenly, tiny hands jammed in the pockets of his trousers.
"I did not! Look Scorpius, I just had a hard time getting away from work today. It happens, and I'm sorry. Okay?"
"Mummy would remember. When is she coming back?"
"She's not coming back, so you're stuck with me now and I'm doing the best I can."
"I want Mummy."
It takes all of Draco's willpower not to sigh. "Well, you don't always get what you want. It's a good lesson to learn early, so remember it."
Scorpius kicks at the ground, scowling. "I hate you."
Well, that had definitely not been the right approach.
How does he fix this?
"Draco, you seriously need to stop stressing about this. He didn't mean it."
"Since when did you become such an expert on children, Pansy?"
"Please. Everyone says things they don't mean when they're upset."
"So what am I supposed to do?"
"I really doubt you're as helpless as you're making yourself out to be. Last time I checked, you're a capable adult, and he's your son, not mine. If you want things to get better, you're going to have to figure out how to do that."
Draco knows she's right, and that's definitely not helping his mood.
He still hates it when he's wrong.
"Look Scorpius, your mum sent a postcard."
The card is a surprise to Draco, though the fact it's addressed to Scorpius and not him is not. It only tells him that Astoria's up to something, but it's too early for him to know if that's actually true or if this is just him being paranoid.
Scorpius doesn't even look at it. "I don't care."
Though the message is short, Draco thinks Scorpius would want to know Astoria still loves him, that he wasn't the reason she left.
"Come on, I'll even read it to you."
"Can I go to bed?"
Draco blinks. That's a first. "You sure? We just got back, you haven't even had dinner yet."
"Yeah, I wanna go to bed."
Sighing, Draco nods and lets him go, leaving the postcard on the kitchen table.
"Daddy? Why did mummy leave?"
How in Merlin's name is he supposed to explain this to a three-year-old?
Come on, Draco, get a grip. Don't mess this up too.
"You know how you fight with your friends sometimes?" Draco explains, slowly. Scorpius nods, so he continues, "Well, sometimes adults fight too, and that's what happened with me and your mum. We fought, and your mum needs to go be by herself for a while."
"When is she coming back?"
Scorpius's large eyes make Draco's heart hurt, and the emotion is so unexpected that it catches him somewhat off guard.
"We thought the best thing for everyone-you and us-would be to stay apart. We just don't get along the way we used to, and she isn't coming back. I'm-really sorry, Scorpius."
Merlin, that was hard to say.
Scorpius won't stop staring at him. "Are you leaving, too?"
And now it's Draco's turn to stare, though he tries to conjure up a hopefully comforting smile. "I told you that you're stuck with me, didn't I? I meant that. I'm not going anywhere."
He wipes a tear off Scorpius's cheek with his thumb. "Try to get some sleep, okay?"
Scorpius nods, and Draco's almost out the door when the toddler calls, "Daddy?"
Draco turns tentatively. "Yeah?"
"I love you."
No one's said that to him since mother died, and he'd convinced himself he didn't need to hear them anymore. He certainly can't remember the last time he's said them to anyone and actually meant it, but somehow around the lump in his throat he manages, "I love you, too."
And it is the truth.
"If you say I told you so, I swear-"
Pansy smirks. "Yeah, yeah, whatever. You're not as scary as you think you are, Drakey."
"So Astoria's sending postcards, huh? Now that definitely sounds suspicious."
"Well, he's gotten two since the first one." Draco narrows his eyes. "You think I'm being paranoid, don't you."
She shrugs. "Maybe, maybe not. It could've been really hard for her to leave that little boy. She really could just be trying to stay in his life the only way she can now."
"Or she could be trying to turn him against me."
"Why would she do that?"
"Because she's evil."
Pansy stares at him for a moment before breaking into laughter, and Draco only glowers at her as he hands her coffee.
"You know, don't think you can expect free coffee from me every time you come in here."
She simply lifts an eyebrow. "As I said, your threats aren't that scary."
"Bitch. Get out of my domain, you've overstayed your welcome."
He can hear her laughter until she disappears.
"You're looking-different today, Granger. Going out tonight?"
It's true, she is more dressed up today than usual. Instead of her typical black trousers and a blouse that leaves everything to the imagination, she's wearing a black skirt that follows her legs nicely and a tight blue shirt with a decent view. Her face might be plain, but Draco would have to be blind not to notice her body. Especially in an outfit like this.
She guffaws. "Different, Malfoy? Is that your backhanded way of giving me a compliment?"
Snap out of it, Draco. Remember who she is.
He stiffens. "No, of course not. It was just an observation."
"Ah, I see." Then she smirks. "Well, thank you."
He rolls his eyes. "If you're trying to impress a man, you'll need a little more than this, trust me."
"I didn't ask for your opinion," she snaps, good humor instantly gone.
"Touchy. In case you were wondering, that's how I feel when you poke around in my personal business."
She nods reluctantly. "Noted."
Things are getting better now that Scorpius talks and interacts with him.
Draco is hesitant to say he's happy, because he's not sure he is yet.
But if this is how his life continues, well.
He thinks he might be able to get used to it.
"So Ginny says that Rose and Scorpius are best buds now."
"Yeah, tell me something I don't know, Pans."
"Oh come on, can't you see the humor in it?"
Draco gives her his very best Not Amused face. "Ha, ha."
"You don't even find it the slightest bit funny?"
"Irony. I get it. I would appreciate it if you didn't discuss my personal life at The Daily Prophet with the Weaselette, all right?"
"You're no fun anymore, you know that?"
She sighs. "Oh all right, fine. Now where's my coffee?"
"I really should make you pay this time."
Smiling slyly, she says, "Think of this as compensation for the rent money you owe me."
He glowers at her, but hands over the coffee anyway.
She takes it, smirking.
Draco hates Halloween now that he's no longer a child.
Before Scorpius, Draco would pretend he wasn't home.
Yet seeing as how his son is actually old enough to go out and enjoy the holiday and hasn't stopped talking about it, the last thing Draco wants to do is set their relationship back by refusing to take Scorpius out because he'd rather sit at home.
So he puts on a ridiculous looking mask while Scorpius goes as a ghost-not original at all but then again, Draco supposes everyone goes as a ghost at one point. The boy has an unlimited amount of energy, and it's late by the time he shows signs of exhaustion.
"Look at all the candy I got, daddy!"
Scorpius won't stop going through the bag, and Draco can't help a laugh. "You do know I'm not letting you eat all that, right?"
"You can pick a handful of your favorites for now, and then I'll save the rest for later. How's that deal sound?"
"Okay, I guess."
Draco laughs and ruffles his hair. "Good. Now go get ready for bed."
"Okay." Then Scorpius smiles. "It was fun, Daddy. Especially with you."
When Scorpius hugs him, it only takes Draco a few seconds for the shock to go away so he can hug him back.
"I had a good time, too."
And he isn't even lying.
For the past several days, Draco hasn't been able to shake off the feeling that someone's been watching him. There are people who've been harassing him about his father, so it's not completely unfounded. He knows these people, knows that they won't leave him alone until he gives them what they want.
And sure enough, Crabbe Sr. is waiting for him one evening when he comes back to the flat with Scorpius. The older man doesn't say a word, but Draco doesn't like the predatory stare he's giving his son.
"Who is that, Daddy?" Scorpius asks, looking up at him with wide eyes.
"Go to your room, Scorpius," Draco orders, firmly but gently. When he doesn't move, Draco adds in what he hopes is a reassuring tone, "It's okay, I know him. Everything will be fine, all right? I'll get you when I'm done."
Scorpius squeezes his hand and heads off, and Crabbe waits until he's out of sight to speak, getting right to the point.
"You've been ignoring our warnings."
Draco folds his arms across his chest, feigning boredom. "And?"
"They aren't idle threats, Malfoy."
"Well, you can stop wasting your time. I'm not interested."
"Think of Vince-"
"None of this is going to bring him back," he says, trying to remain calm and controlled, though inwardly he's seething. "The only thing revenge is going to do is get us all in more trouble than we already are, but if that's what you want to do, fine. You'll just have to find a way to achieve your ends without my help."
Crabbe Sr's beady black eyes flash with danger, but Draco stands his ground. He's not going to let this bastard bully him, especially not in his own home.
"You're going to regret this, Malfoy," he growls, waving a fat finger aggressively in Draco's face.
He simply can't bring himself to answer something that unoriginal with a comment. And besides, he knows Crabbe's not going to try anything now. That would be far too Gryffindor.
With a final snarl, Crabbe Sr. strides out the door in controlled anger, and Draco leans back against the wall, feeling suddenly weary. He knows he hasn't seen the last of him, but right now there's not much he can do about it.
A few days later, he gets another note.
Now you must face the consequences of your choice.
"I'm getting harassed again."
"They're not going to leave you alone until you do something, Draco, you know that. And then they're going to come after Scorpius. It's not going to stop."
He's having my weekly coffee with Pansy, contemplating his hopeless future. It's not as if he actually wants to give in to the demands of some bully, but he has no way of knowing how many of father's old supporters are in on this, and he's just one bloke.
"But what can I do, Pans?" Draco growls, hating this even more. "I don't want to put Scorpius's life in danger, but they're not giving me any options here, and I don't exactly have anyone to go to who would willingly help me."
Pansy leans back in her chair and folds her arms across her chest, considering him thoughtfully. "Well I guess it all depends on how much you care about your son. When I was going to therapy, my psychologist had me write up lists of pros and cons so I would have a better idea of how choices would affect me. You might want to think about that."
It's actually not bad advice.
When he goes home, he sits down on the couch with a pad of paper and a pen, and stares off into space for a long while. Earlier, this would have been an easy decision-he could have refused knowing he had nothing to lose. Scorpius hadn't really meant anything to him then, and he could've sacrificed him with a clear conscience. It's not as though these bastards would've known that.
Frowning and biting his lip, he goes over to the pros of not having Scorpius column and writes: cheaper, more privacy, less stress and responsibility. His hand then gravitates to the other column and hovers, and he realizes he doesn't know what to write.
Maybe he hasn't changed as much as he'd thought.
Putting the pad aside, he gets up and goes to his room, heading over to the crib where Scorpius is fast asleep. Sighing, Draco reaches down to touch his hand, but before he can pull away, he wraps his little fingers around his thumb. He stands there somewhat helplessly, not really sure what to do because for someone so small, his grip is tight.
He is so out of his element here, feeling as lost as he did throughout sixth year.
But he can't tear his eyes away from his son.
After Scorpius loosens his hold, Draco goes back to the couch and picks up the pad, not sure what he's going to write even when he goes to the empty con column. His hand knows what it's doing though, and when the pen stops he blinks down at the single word.
It's not until a little while later that he finds out they really mean business.
After putting Scorpius to bed, he figures it's time he had some new groceries-he's down to odd combinations of leftovers now-so he ventures out into the cold night to get some. There are a few people around, but he's so lost in his own thoughts that he doesn't even really notice the sound of footsteps behind him until it's too late. Someone grabs his arm and pulls him into a deserted side street, pinning Draco's arms behind his back before he can get his wand. Another masked figure jumps out a few leagues in front of them, and Draco is pretty much helpless as the curse hits him, and it takes everything he has to hide the wince as he hears a couple of his ribs crack.
But there's absolutely no way he's letting these assholes get the best of him, and just seconds after the curse hits, kicks his leg back, aiming high.
A startled fuck! lets him know he hit the jackpot, and he smirks as his captor staggers and releases him, and Draco has his wand out in one fluid motion.
He still hasn't forgotten how that felt-and the lingering scars are constant reminders-and the former Death Eater in front of him is on the ground instantly, blood everywhere.
He spins around just as his enemy behind him sends a curse at his leg, and he doesn't get out of the way in time because his ankle explodes in pain, sending him to the pavement. The Death Eater is then standing over him, and all Draco can see through the mask is an ugly sneer twisting his lips.
"Our actions will only escalate from here, Malfoy. Consider yourself warned."
And then his huge fist slams into Draco's face, and that's the last thing he sees before he passes out.
It's still dark when he regains consciousness, and for a moment he's not even sure where he is. But it all comes back to him in a rush when he tries to get up and can't even lift his head up off the pavement before pain rushes through every part of his body, and he closes his eyes and reminds himself to breathe. He doesn't know how late it is, but the fact that the sky is showing no signs of getting lighter is definitely a good thing. He thinks of Scorpius, all alone at home, and hopes his son is at least sleeping and warm. The night air is crisp and chilly, and Draco figures he's been lying here for a while because along with everything else he's cold and stiff.
And his vision is alarmingly unfocused.
He brings a hand up to his face, and his left eye isn't even opening. Shit. But he's more concerned about his ability to stand up than his eye right now, and it is only sheer determination that brings him to his feet. He finds his wand against the curb, but he's in no state to Apparate anywhere, so he's on his own.
It is an eternity.
There aren't that many other people around and he's thankful for that, because he's sure he looks like a drunken person the way he's staggering down the sidewalk. He has to pick himself off the concrete several times, and each occurrence is more painful than the last. But just when he thinks he might not even be able to lift another foot, he is at his front door, and he has never been happier to see his flat in his life.
He can't even bring himself to check out his appearance in the mirror.
Dragging himself back to his bedroom feels like too much of an effort at the moment, so he collapses on the couch in his living room and passes out instantly.
Even without the alarm he manages to wake up on time. His entire body feels stiff and numb, and his right foot is at an odd angle. He still can't see out of his left eye, and when he finally gets to the bathroom he stares in horror, because it is so black and swollen that all he can do with his wand is get it to look a little blue and open a bit more. Healing and glamour charms have never been his forte-a shame, really-and along with his bruised ribs his right ankle appears to be badly sprained and he can't hide the limp.
When he goes to get his son, Scorpius just stares at him with large eyes. "Daddy? Are you okay?"
Draco stares back, because Scorpius sounds concerned. At a loss for words, Draco gives him what he hopes is a comforting squeeze on the shoulder.
"Of course I'm fine, I only tripped over something. You don't have to worry about me."
Scorpius doesn't take his eyes off him once for the entire morning though, and Draco feels an odd tug at his heart, still surprised that someone so small can have such a powerful affect on him.
Granger's come and gone when he drops Scorpius off at daycare, and he almost breathes a sigh of relief. His appearance has already made a few eyebrows lift, and he's going to need a good story to deflect probing questions by the time he arrives at work. So when people ask the inevitable, he says coolly that he broke up with his girlfriend. He's convinced that his female coworkers are a little bit impressed that a woman gave him that kind of mark, although they try to hide that with sympathy and compassion. He's not fooled, though.
It's Granger he's worried about.
There's no way she's going to buy that explanation, and he knows how persistent she can be. Maybe he'll get lucky and arrive before her today. Ha. Yeah right.
And, sure enough, they get to the door at the same time.
She nods at him, and then does a double take, frowning. "Malfoy-what happened to your eye?"
"I walked into a door." It's so lame that he struggles to hide the wince, and he holds his head up high to disguise his discomfort. There's no way he's letting her in on the details of his personal life no matter how hard she questions him.
Granger lifts a predictable eyebrow. "And the door fought back?"
It's obvious she's not convinced, and her eyes move down his body to rest on his right foot, because he's clearly favoring his left even while standing. "I suppose it got your foot too?"
"Mind your own business, Granger." He's not going to pretend anymore-even he doesn't want to insult her intelligence that much-but he's still not going to tell her anything. "What do you care, anyway?"
"You're not in some kind of trouble, are you?"
He grits his teeth. "I said-"
"That it's none of my business, I know." Her tone is cavalier, but the look in her eyes says otherwise. "But if you are in trouble, you really should go to the Ministry."
"I don't need their help, or yours. This conversation is over."
He doesn't even wait for her to walk ahead of him through the door, though his limp somewhat ruins the dignity of his escape. At least she displays some tact and doesn't push the issue anymore.
Granger's never struck him as a gossip seeker though, and he can't help but wonder why she bothered to say that in the first place. Why would she care if he went to the Ministry or not? He figures she's worried more on Scorpius's behalf. That would be just like her.
He knows the beating isn't the last sign of them, and sure enough, he gets another note a few days later.
If you really care about your son, reconsider your decision.
It doesn't even matter that Crabbe Sr is brutish and stupid.
His hand is shaking-with anger or fear, he's not really sure-and he can't take his eyes off the note. They've already attacked him and the thought of them punishing his son is just too much. He's used to dealing with things on his own, and even though he thinks he's not sure he can this time, he has no one to turn to.
Who would care?
Granger lacks more common sense than he'd originally thought if she actually believes the Ministry would willingly help him with this, and he can't involve Pansy more than he already has. There's no telling what they'll do to her if they find out and the last thing he wants is her blood on his hands. He already has enough.
A chilling sense of déjà vu rushes over him, and he has to sit down. It's his past all over again. He desperately wants things to change, but no matter how hard he tries to run from it, how hard he tries to ignore it, it keeps on repeating itself, leaving him feeling as though he's living a broken record.
And he's never felt more alone.
Weeks have passed now, but so far nothing else has happened.
Each day has progressed in more or less the same way-he takes Scorpius to day care, goes to work, picks him up, and goes home. He continues to run into Granger when she's collecting her spawn, and they snark at each other for old time's sake. But he's more paranoid than ever, and refuses to let himself get too comfortable. He knows that's what they want, and he's not planning on letting his guard down again. The constant stress is getting to him though, because even the slightest unexpected noise makes him jump, he's been sleeping even worse than usual, and he's always irritable.
When Pansy snaps at him and demands to know what's wrong with him, he says that Scorpius has been keeping him up at night. It's far more convincing than his lame I ran into a door, and she always calls him on his bluffs but she doesn't counter his explanation with anything this time so he figures he's safe.
He's forced to stay late at work one day because one of the employees is sick and no one else can fill in, and he has to ask Granger to look after Scorpius for a few hours. When his shift ends, he's even more exhausted than usual, but he's not even home for a few minutes before someone starts pounding on his door. All of a sudden, something doesn't feel right, and he's on his feet in an instant, his mouth dry when he throws open the door.
Granger is there, her hair even more wild than usual and her face wet with tears, and there is so much energy radiating from her body he can practically feel it.
"They're gone, Malfoy, gone! Rose and Scorpius, someone's taken them! I was there watching them and reading a book, and when I looked up they were gone!"
"Calm down Granger, I can't hear a word of what you're saying," Draco snaps, his anxiety coming out as frustration as he grips her shoulders, forcing her to be still. He doesn't think he's ever seen her so out of control, and his stomach is plummeting fast because there's only one explanation for this.
Taking deep gulping breaths, Granger continues, "They wanted to play at the park when I picked them up, so I took them there and sat on a bench, where I could keep a close eye on them. There were a few other adults there, but I assumed they were all watching children as I was. Rose and Scorpius went over to play with a little ball, and then they were gone!"
"Portkey," Draco says numbly, "it was a Portkey."
He knows he's stating the obvious, but there must've been too much on his face because Granger suddenly narrows her eyes, and she's about to speak when there's a sharp tapping at his kitchen window.
She follows him in as he goes to it, and this is getting worse by the second because he knows what the post is going to be. Sure enough, there's an owl waiting for him at the window, and the bird tosses the post at him and then flies off. Granger is quiet as he tears the envelope open, but he knows it's only the calm before the storm. The air around them is so thick with tension that it's almost hard to breathe. A ring falls into his hands, and of course there's an accompanying note:
That is all it takes.
She's at him then, her fists flailing at his chest. "What have you gotten my daughter into, Malfoy? I told you to go to the Ministry-"
He grabs her hands and forces her back. "And what would they have done? They would've shown me to the door. I didn't mean for things to happen this way-"
"Well they have." Granger's not nearly as hysterical now, but there's an almost manic look in her eyes. He understands-even if they don't know that Rose is her child they don't need her. And Draco wouldn't put it passed them to murder children. "And you can do what you like, but I'm going to get my daughter back."
He's left the Portkey on the kitchen counter, and before he sees what she's doing, the ring is in Granger's hand. "That's mine."
"I guess you'll just have to come with me then."
Draco doesn't need to think hard to figure out where she's going, and as much as he despises the idea, he realizes there's no other option, because there's no way in hell he's leaving his son to these bastards. Opening the front door, he motions for her to lead the way.
Granger gives him a long, calculating look before turning abruptly and striding out, and he follows her mechanically, feeling as though he's in some strange alternate universe.
But all he wants is Scorpius, for this madness to be behind him.
If this is what it's going to take in order for that to happen, then so be it.
When they arrive at the Ministry, Granger is still in the lead, and Draco has to stop a minute before they enter the building because the last time he'd been here, he'd been on trial, and he hadn't thought he'd ever be stepping into this place again. Granger's presence isn't enough to keep him from beginning to hyperventilate as he's overwhelmed with an unexpected flood of memories, and then she's in his face, her hands gripping his shoulders to steady him.
"Okay Malfoy, easy...what's gotten into you?"
She sounds more irritated than concerned, and he doesn't blame her because he's equally annoyed at himself and probably even more so. Not only is he losing it a little, but he's losing it in front of Granger. And that's just unacceptable.
"Nothing," he snaps, grateful his breathing is under control now as shakes himself out of her grasp. "Let's get this over with."
She doesn't look entirely convinced but she doesn't question him further, and by the time they get to the receptionist's desk on the Auror level, Draco's lost count of the number of people who've stopped everything they were doing to stare at them.
The receptionist is no different and she can't take her eyes off him, her mouth hanging open slightly. Draco just smirks at her, fully prepared to give her attitude if the situation calls for it.
"We're here to see Harry Potter," Granger says, and when that's not enough to capture the receptionist's complete attention, she says sharply, "it's urgent."
"Uhhh," the receptionist begins as she shuffles through papers that are scattered on her desk, "I don't see you here on his schedule..."
"Trust me, he'll see us," she interrupts, mess with me and you'll regret it clearly underlying her tone. Draco is almost impressed.
The receptionist holds up her hands in a defensive gesture, and apparently that's all Granger needs to walk purposefully down the corridor. Potter's office is first, so they don't have far to go. She raps on his door sharply, and when they hear his faint come in, she wastes no time in opening it.
"Hermione, what-" Potter stops briefly when he sees Draco behind her, finishing off with, "is he doing here?"
"He's going to tell you that." She's looking right at Draco, not Potter, and he's instantly annoyed because her expression is similar to those he's occasionally given Scorpius when he's been misbehaving.
If it had just been the two of them and this hadn't been an emergency, he would have snapped, I'm not a child Granger, so there's no need to talk to me like that.
But that's only going to waste time, and they've lost enough as it is because it's already well passed supper. So he takes a deep breath and tells Potter everything. Much to his surprise, Potter remains very calm and isn't antagonistic at all, although his body is rigid with tension. Granger just watches him as he speaks, her arms folded across her chest and tapping her right foot, and her nervous energy is almost making him nervous.
Finally, though, he's done, and Potter is quiet for a moment, a troubled frown on his face. "We were wondering if this were going to be a problem, but we didn't think they'd act so soon. We thought that seven years in prison would make them want to assimilate into society and remain more or less anonymous, but our idealism got the best of us I guess."
Draco knows his lips are curling into a sneer of disgust, but he can't help it. These do-gooders make him sick to his stomach. Maybe the War did end with the Dark Lord's death, but things are never that black and white. Trying to be the better person will only come around to hurt you-haven't these people learned that? You study the other side and use their tactics against them. If the Dark Lord had triumphed and killed Harry Potter, Draco's pretty sure he wouldn't have even bothered with prisoners. He would have enslaved or murdered them.
"Do you know how many of them are involved with this, Malfoy?" Potter asks, and Draco shakes his head.
"I only know of Crabbe Sr, and possibly two others-the only one I've seen is Crabbe. I'm pretty positive Goyle Sr's in on this too, probably Avery and McNair..."
Potter nods. "And then there's Rololphus and Rabastan Lestrange, Nott, Rowle, Yaxley, the Carrows..."
Granger's eyes widen with realization. "We also have to consider those who went into hiding. For all we know, they could have all regrouped."
"Well, we aren't going to let them get away again." Potter's eyes are harder than Draco's ever seen them, and for the first time he acknowledges that Potter is a decent leader. Not, of course, that he'd admit such a thing out loud.
"I'll put a team together, and Malfoy will Portkey to the destination, along with Hermione and me under my Invisibility Cloak. We'll slip away to send my Patronus to the team so they can see where we are. Do anything you can to stall them, Malfoy. Even they won't be stupid enough to have brought the kids with them, so we'll have to get at least one of them alive."
It sounds like a solid plan to Draco, and he's forced to nod and actually agree with him. He resists the urge to shudder.
But Potter's not done.
"There's one other thing... I'm going to have to tell Ron."
Draco doesn't quite know if he's speaking more to him or Granger. He already knows they're divorced-he would've had to be dumb and blind not to figure that out-although he's unsure as to the status of their friendship.
Granger sighs, but it's more resigned than apprehensive. "I know."
"I can deal with Molly Weasley, Harry, I assure you."
Now Draco's extremely curious, but even he can understand it's not the time or place for that. So he compromises. "Well, as long as you tell him when I'm not in the room. I like my limbs attached to my body, thanks ever so much."
Potter and Granger actually laugh a little.
"I suppose we could accommodate you there, Malfoy," Potter says, "although you're definitely going to be hearing about it later, and I'm not sure I'd stop him. You've put his daughter in danger-I think that would entitle him to at least one piece of your anatomy."
Draco's actually surprised Potter hasn't drawn blood, but the post-War world has changed them all, and there are bigger things out there than school rivalries. Of course, that doesn't mean they're all going to be best buds after this and will hang out at the pubs on the weekends-ugh.
But if Draco's earned a little bit of their respect after this, he'd be okay with that.
Draco is beside himself.
He had not slept at all the night before, but adrenaline and four cups of coffee are doing a pretty good job of keeping him going, although he's pretty sure he looks a mess. Weasel had come in earlier and punched him right in the jaw-he hadn't said a word, although the power in his fist and the death glare had been more than enough. He's missing practice with the Chudley Cannons to be here, but Draco supposes he at least values Rose over his beloved Quidditch. Potter has him on the Auror team, which makes Draco slightly nervous. But if he can temporarily set aside rivalries, he thinks Weasley should be able to as well.
He's waiting in Potter's office and straightens up immediately at the knock on the door, and Granger walks in.
"How's your jaw?"
Her serious expression hadn't prepared him for the query, and he barks a laugh. "Ha, ha, Granger. Is the team ready?"
She smirks a little, but then the moment is gone. "Yes, Harry and Ron are prepping them now, and Harry will be meeting us here when he's done. Are you nervous?"
Holding his head high, he snaps, "No."
Studying him thoughtfully, she says, "I'm not sure I believe you."
He glares at her. "I'm not about to confess anything to you right now Granger, so you can forget it."
She opens her mouth and is about to answer when the door opens, and Harry strides in with the cloak and Draco's Portkey. Glancing at the time, Draco sees they have just a few minutes, but the fact that Potter and Granger are both in here with him makes it easier for him to hide his anxiety.
"Ready?" Potter asks, but it's Draco he's staring at as he throws the cloak around them.
"Yes," Draco bites out.
They all touch the Portkey, and Draco thinks it's the longest minute of his life. Despite that, he's still not completely prepared for the tug at his navel. He comes close to falling on his arse when he lands, but he's able to regain his balance just in time and quickly takes stock of his surroundings. He's in a small clearing framed by a dark forest, and the only light is coming from the full moon, which makes menacing shadows of the trees and gives the place an overall eerie feel.
Potter and Granger creep away underneath the Cloak without a word just as Draco makes out dark shapes emerging from the woods and he has to smirk because even without the Dark Lord, the former Death Eaters haven't lost their taste for the dramatic. They're wearing plain black masks along with their dark robes, and-there are a lot of them.
One steps out farther than the rest and doesn't stop until he's a couple feet away from Draco. He's aware of the circle that's formed around him, and he knows he's not in this alone but he can't help the feelings of claustrophobia and doubt.
What if these people have other plans for him tonight?
What if the Aurors don't get here in time?
What if his son and Rose are already dead?
But Draco is also the master of projecting arrogance and confidence, so he draws upon these emotions to make a mask of his own.
His opponent breaks the silence first, and even with the mask, Draco identifies him immediately as Crabbe. "We were wondering if you were going to make it."
"Well, here I am," Draco drawls, back straight with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his trousers. "Now you need to fulfill your end of the bargain."
"Do you really think we are that stupid, little Malfoy? Arriving here was just the beginning for you. You need to break your father out of prison first before we will do anything more."
"If you're as smart as you think you are, why do you even need my father in the first place?"
"No one had the power and influence of Lucius Malfoy, and no one could motivate and command a room the way he could. But we also want to send a warning to the Ministry, a warning that Lucius Malfoy's escape is only the beginning."
"The beginning of what?"
"The next great Wizarding War, so we can finish what the Dark Lord could not."
The thought is absolutely chilling. "But all I'm doing is letting my father out. I don't want any more part in this plot of yours."
"Still a coward then I see," Crabbe says derisively. "But very well. Do what we want and that will be all we ask of you."
Ha. Yeah right. Even though he hasn't seen any of their faces, he knows of their existence, and with his father on the loose, he knows the blackmail wouldn't have stopped here. However, he suspects they'd have just sent someone to murder him.
But he keeps all of this out of his face and voice as he answers, "Then let's gets this over with."
Just as Crabbe opens his mouth, the air around them explodes with the sound of cracks, and Draco relaxes just marginally as the Aurors arrive, because there'd been a voice in the back of his head whispering that this hadn't been going to work out.
"You little bastard! Cruci-"
But Draco is ready for Crabbe's raised wand, and before he's even finished the curse he cries, "Expelliarmus!"
Before Crabbe can struggle to his feet, Draco is standing over him, wand pointed at his heart. He knows what he should do, but he's getting flashes of what it had felt like standing on top of the Astronomy Tower over Dumbledore, and his hand starts to tremble despite himself. Even the sounds of battle around him have faded into the background, and in this moment they could have been the only two on the field.
"What's the matter, little Malfoy?" Crabbe taunts, "don't have the stomach to finish the job? Too scared? Well, it wouldn't be the first-"
Draco's voice is shaking from emotional overload and he's angry and frustrated at himself, but at least they'll have one to interrogate, and Draco really hopes he's there for that. But the battle isn't over, and the action around him quickly comes into focus as he looks around. The Aurors have forced the Death Eaters into the forest, and he takes off in a run, scanning the scene quickly to gauge who has the upper hand.
Out of his peripheral vision, he spots Granger just as a Death Eater aims a spell at her, and she's completely oblivious because her back is turned as she's warding off another enemy. The light is already out of his wand, and even though what occurs next takes only a matter of seconds, it all feels in slow motion to Draco. Shouting isn't going to do any good, but she's too far for him to actually push her and that leaves only one option.
He doesn't even stop to think about what he's doing before he dives in front of the spell, wand out. But the curse hits him directly in the chest and it's powerful. He staggers backwards, wand arm limp and momentarily breathless as the Death Eater advances. Just as he's righting himself, his opponent falls forward, and Potter is standing over him.
Even though Potter has probably just saved his life, Draco can't help a sneer. "What, you didn't think I could kill him?"
But all he says is, "You're welcome, Malfoy."
This only annoys Draco further, and he knows it's the right thing to do but he just can't bring himself to say thank you. So instead he asks, as cavalierly as possible, "I don't suppose you heard what spell he said?"
"No, but we can do Priori Incantatem later to figure it out. How are you feeling?"
Draco purses his lips. "Fine."
The truth is his chest is starting to hurt a little bit, but his pride keeps him from saying anything. The battle is slowly dying down around them as the Aurors gain the upper hand, and Draco sees Granger and Weasel coming up to meet them.
"We've Stunned a few," Weasel says, "so we should be able to get the information we need."
Potter nods, solemn. "Good. There've been a couple casualties on our side, and a lot of injured. I'll put Matthews in charge of getting a team together to take the wounded to St. Mungo's, and we can Portkey the prisoners back to holding in the Ministry and follow them there."
It takes a few minutes to deal with the prisoners, but it's enough time for Draco to notice that the tightness in his chest is definitely getting worse. He probably should've said something then so he could've gone with the others to St. Mungo's, but there's no way in hell he's abandoning Potter, Granger, and Weasel now. Not when he's so close to finding out where these bastards have his son.
They're out of Portkeys so they have to Apparate, which Draco's stomach just doesn't like because it gives an awful lurch when he lands. He stumbles slightly, feeling like he's going to throw up.
The Weasel laughs and he glares fiercely at the road in front of him, quickening his steps. He spares a thought as to what Granger's facial expression looks like, but glancing back would mean he'd also have to see Potter and Weasel, and he doesn't want to know that badly. But his chest still feels tight and he grits his teeth, willing the sensation to go away. He can't show weakness in front of them, not now, and he doesn't want to give either of them a reason to force him back. He doesn't want to be a liability, but he needs to be here.
The pain isn't going away though.
His chest really hurts now.
He knows it's not normal, but his pride won't allow him to stop so he keeps walking, grateful there's space between them so they can't see his face. But Merlin, it hurts, and it's getting harder to focus.
And now his eyes are starting to water.
Intense stabbing pain hits him then, and before he can stop himself, Draco cries out and stumbles to his knees, wrapping his arms around his torso. Draco is only dimly aware of someone shouting his name in the distance-he thinks it's Granger-and as he's wondering what the hell is happening to him, he finally passes out, too tired to resist.
The first time Draco wakes up, the pain is overwhelming.
And he's not sure where he is.
Voices buzz above him, but he can't identify them.
There's something soft beneath him, and he's so out of it he doesn't even know what it is.
But keeping his eyes open is too much effort, and he's out again.
The next experience is far less painful.
Draco cracks his eyes open tentatively, almost afraid, and blinks into the bright light of whatever place he's stuck in. The walls are white, and he's lying in a bed that's practically swallowing him.
Startled, he lifts his head up off the pillow and sees Pansy sitting in the chair by his bed. She looks like she hasn't slept in days.
"What are you doing here?" Draco manages, barely. His mouth is unbelievably dry, and even moving his tongue is an effort.
"Did you really think I wasn't going to find out about all this?"
She gestures to the room with a hand, and he's frowning, because she actually does sound genuinely worried. "You didn't even have an emergency contact on your file. This has been all over the paper-Ginny knew what was going on with Granger and she's been putting the story together, but I felt like a dumbass because I didn't know anything about you! Do you realize how awful it was for me to find out that way?"
The Daily Prophet.
Media involvement is the last thing he needs. Maybe he wanted all that attention and fame back in Hogwarts, but he doubts reporters will be interested in finding out what really happened. And he doesn't really expect the Golden Trio to set them straight, especially since Rose got caught up in his mess. At least the Weaselette is writing the main story, but he knows there are going to be others.
She nods in agreement.
And then he sits up straight as everything really comes back, but he regrets the action immediately when his stomach revolts, and the damned drugs must be wearing off because Merlin, it hurts. Pansy pushes him back none too gently, and she's prepared to say something but he doesn't even give her the chance.
"Scorpius," he gasps, "where is he?
Pansy's hand doesn't leave his shoulder. "Calm down, Draco. He's fine. One of the prisoners knew where the kids were, and they were scared and a little scratched but they're okay."
"And who's been with him?"
"Who do you think, Asshole?" Lifting her head proudly, she practically growls, "Granger came and dropped him off with me, and I've been looking after him. It's also because of her that I'm allowed to sit in here with you at all. She's even been coming in and out to check up on you."
Draco blinks at her, sure he must've heard wrong. "You've got to be kidding me."
"Trust me, I wish I were."
He closes his eyes, his meager energy reserves already pretty much depleted. "Ugh, what the hell happened to me anyway?"
"There was something growing in your stomach," Pansy says. "It was some kind of parasite, I think."
He can feel the bile rising in his throat, but manages to force it back. "I think I just threw up in my mouth a little."
Pansy crinkles her nose. "You're disgusting, Draco."
"Well, at least you didn't have something growing in your stomach." He still feels like he's about to throw up, and doesn't trust himself to say anything more.
"The Mediwizards think you'll be able to go home in a few days, although they've been very careful to keep the exact time from the press so you're not attacked by mobs of people waiting to pounce on you. I don't even know when you're out of here."
Draco groans. "Great."
She gives him her most obnoxious saccharine smile. "Just think of it as time to recharge."
He doesn't want time to recharge. He wants to go home so he can see his son.
Her grin only widens, and he if he were up to it, even her gender wouldn't stop him from punching her in the face.
January 2nd, 2006
Christmas comes and goes but he's not even really aware of it.
It's the same as every other day, and the New Year is no different. The only way he even knows that it's January is because a nurse tells him, although it doesn't really matter since he's lost track of how long he's been in here a while ago. At least the pain is gone, and he can almost say he's happy the day of his release.
But, of course, it is short lived.
He is almost free when the receptionist calls him back.
"Oh, Mr. Malfoy, I almost forgot-there's a note here for you."
Frowning, Draco walks back to the desk, lifting a quizzical eyebrow. "Do you know who it's from?"
She hands it to him and he takes it. The note is in a small white envelope with his name scrawled on it. He stares down at the handwriting, a knot of dread forming in his stomach as he recognizes it.
"She had long black hair and green eyes," the woman says, but Draco's barely listening at this point because he already knows what's coming next. "Said her name was Astoria Greengrass."
And the hits just keep on coming.
But he already underestimated Astoria once, and he's not about to make the same mistake. So when she's already waiting for him at his flat after he leaves the hospital, he's not even surprised.
"Astoria." He acknowledges her coolly, but that's all he's going to give her.
She rises purposefully from the couch, still the ice queen he remembers. "I'm not here for small talk, Draco. I'm here because I want my son."
"Well, you should've thought of that when you left him here."
"I had no idea what my life was going to be like, if I were even going to be able to accommodate him. But I can, and more than you're able to, it seems."
"You have absolutely no idea what-"
"You're never going to be free of your father, Draco. Even after seven years, his absence hasn't made things any easier. And Scorpius doesn't deserve that."
"And what makes you think you'll be a good mother? You left, Astoria! He probably doesn't even remember who you are."
It's a low blow, but he doesn't feel guilty in the slightest.
Her eyes harden to granite as she says fiercely, "Why do you think I couldn't go through with that abortion, Draco? We might have no obligations to each other, but I want to be a mother. I've been following The Daily Prophet since I've been away, and seeing his picture made me realize how much I missed him."
"And tell me, how much did you rehearse that to get it so convincing?"
She glares at him, folding her arms across her chest. "Fine, Draco, you tell me. Why do you think I'm here?"
"Maybe you think that I'll be able to obtain a higher paying position after what's happened, that you're hoping to blackmail me to give you money if I want to keep Scorpius."
"Draco, you've been blackmailed so many times that you see manipulation where there is none. I've been living in London now for the past several months-you'd still get visitation rights."
"I'm the only familiar face he knows, Astoria. If you strip that from him, you'll only damage and upset him. I know you haven't been able to see it, but I've come to care for him, and I've given up a lot to keep him in my life. If you have any compassion at all, I'm asking you not to ruin that."
"I'll take this to court if I have to."
"If you think that's going to stop me, you're sorely mistaken."
"Good luck finding someone who'll even want to defend you."
"You should be worrying more about your own case, Astoria. You'll find that a lot has changed since you left."
"I doubt that. I'll be in touch, you can count on that."
"I look forward to it."
She slams the door behind her on her way out, and it's only then that he allows himself to let his guard down. Is he ever going to get a break?
Maybe he should have stayed in the hospital after all.
He goes into work the next day, but he's so distracted that he keeps on making mistakes, and they get progressively worse. He switches up drinks constantly and makes the wrong things, and one time he even comes dangerously close to pouring scalding hot coffee on his hands. But finally the day is over, and of course he runs into Granger on the way to get Scorpius before they're even inside, and it's the first time he's seen her since he lost consciousness.
She actually smiles at him and he just blinks at her, wondering if he just hallucinated it in his exhaustion.
But it's still there when she says, "Malfoy, Harry told me that I should've been in your place in the hospital. Thank you is hardly enough, so if there's anything I can do for you, anything at all-don't hesitant to ask."
Before he's even really knows what he's going to say, his mouth is open.
Granger simply lifts an eyebrow, looking at him expectantly.
Taking a preparatory breath, he continues, "Astoria's back, and wants Scorpius. I don't know what the woman's up to, but I'm taking her to court. And since you work in the Department of Magical Law-" he can't quite continue at first, because he's never approached someone like this for help in his life, and it feels unnatural and wrong.
She owes you anyway, she just said so. All you're doing is clearing a debt, and probably even making her feel better about it.
The perspective helps him finish.
"I don't suppose you'd be willing to be my lawyer. There's really no one else."
She blinks at him, and Draco doesn't blame her surprise at the request. But her answer surprises him more. "Yes."
"Wait, you're serious?"
"I could have easily been in your place when Ron and I divorced," she says, and there's nothing but compassion in her tone. "We split amicably, thank goodness, but had we not I would've wanted Rose just as much as you want Scorpius. But I have some idea of where you're coming from and what you're going through, especially after everything that's happened. Of course I'll defend you."
He still can't quite believe it, that something this fortunate could happen to him. And because of that, it makes it far easier for him to tell her two words he's never been able to say to anyone else. "Thank you, Granger."
She smiles. "You're welcome."
Eyes hardening, Draco practically growls, "If that bitch thinks she can just walk in and take him, she's in for a surprise. I'm not giving him up without a fight, not after everything."
Granger has a thoughtful look on her face, as if she's trying to figure him out by studying him hard enough. And he knows he's going to have to learn how to open up a little, because he just needs her to believe in him enough so his case is convincing.
As if it's really that simple.
Their first meeting is at her flat a couple days later.
He finally told Pansy yesterday, and he needed to literally close her mouth with a finger when she wouldn't stop staring.
"Granger is going to be your lawyer. Granger. Are you shitting me?"
"I've never been more serious in my life."
"And you asked her. I find that a little hard to believe-"
"She said she owed me. And-I'm going to need you to speak on my behalf. It's a lot to ask-"
She'd just cuffed the side of his head. "No it's not, Asshole. I just can't believe you and Granger are going to be working together! I expect stories."
So now here he is, trying to feel as though standing in Granger's foyer is the most natural thing he's ever done while Rose and Scorpius play in the living room.
"Well, I know it may seem like an obvious win for you, but it's going to be tough. You're going to have to convince the jury of a lot of things, and I should also tell you that you're going to need a job."
"I have one."
"Malfoy, making minimum wage isn't going to be enough to show the judge and jury that you can support Scorpius. You're going to need something with at least a couple more zeroes."
"A couple more? I'm sorry Granger, but that's going to be impossible."
"Do you want your son or not?"
"Can you be realistic for at least five seconds? I'd have to work at the Ministry for that kind of money, and if you think they're going to even want to hire me, then maybe you need your head examined."
"Can you stop being a coward for at least five seconds? How long have you been using that excuse to avoid having to really face your past, Malfoy? Seven years is a long time, but things aren't just going to change on their own. That's all up to you. Show that you really are different, and with good references-"
"Oh, stop being so melodramatic. I'll write you one, and I may be able to convince Harry and Ron to as well. And I know Kingsley Shacklebolt, so I can put in a personal word for you too. I'm not saying this is going to be easy, Malfoy, because it isn't. But if Scorpius really means that much to you, then he'll be worth all of this."
"I wouldn't have gone through all that if he weren't. And I wouldn't be here now, either."
"Good. Now let's get to work."
Kingsley Shacklebolt meets with him personally about his job a few days later.
Draco's definitely not short but the man towers over him, and stares at him for a long while before even saying anything. And maybe Draco would've backed down if this had happened right after the War, but his confidence is slowly returning and he stares him right back.
Finally, Kingsley says seriously, "Hermione came to speak with me a few days ago, as she may have mentioned to you. She explained your situation to me, but apart from that, she says she's believed you've changed, that you have the right to a second chance."
Biting back the sarcastic comment that almost pops out of his mouth, he replies, "And what do you think?"
Shacklebolt doesn't even blink. "I will reserve judgment until I can see you in action myself."
"So does this mean-"
"Before you get too excited Malfoy, you should just know this is going to be a desk job."
Draco realizes now how tired of making coffee he'd been, because even this sounds like a better alternative. "That's fine. What department?"
"You'll be Harry Potter's assistant. He never finishes his paperwork on time, so we decided he could use the help. He's aware of the arrangement and is okay with it. Are you?"
Draco knows he's staring, and he's convinced Granger had something to do with this.
Harry Potter's fucking assistant. Karma is such a bitch.
But he knows this is a test, and that his reaction is all part of it. "Yes."
Finally, there's some expression on Shacklebolt's face-his lips twitch ever so slightly. "Good. You start work tomorrow."
"How was your first day of work, Malfoy?"
Granger's over at his flat tonight so they can start putting together a list of people who might speak on his behalf. Draco's already exhausted, but he manages a glare.
"You are a sick, sick individual."
The desk had been an absolute mess, and he'd spent all morning simply trying to find the reports. Draco's main job is to transcribe Potter's Auror reports, and since Potter's handwriting is an absolute disaster, it had taken all day and he'd only made it through a small portion of them.
She can't stop grinning and Draco scowls at her and rubs his right hand, which is stiff and cramped after holding a quill all day. At least making coffee hadn't been painful. "Wasn't Potter ever taught proper penmanship?"
"With his busy Auror schedule, he hardly has time for that. Here, let me," she offers, a small smile on her lips.
She takes his hand in hers and he's about to pull away, but her massage actually feels good and he allows himself to relax marginally. She starts chuckling softly, and Draco snaps, "What?"
"I'm sorry Malfoy, it's simply too funny-"
And her chuckle becomes full blown laughter.
He just glares.
"You should be prepared to answer questions about where you stand in regards to Muggles and Pureblood superiority."
"And how is that relevant?"
"Because, they're going to want to hear that Scorpius won't be raised with prejudice against Muggles and Halfbloods, so I'd like to hear what you'd say."
"This isn't your way of trying to feel me out, is it? To see if my views have really changed?"
"I wouldn't be asking if it weren't related to your case."
"I'm not sure I believe you, but I'll humor you this once, all right? I don't think Muggles are inferior, just that they aren't as evolved because they don't have magic-"
"You seriously still believe that?" She's risen from her seat, righteous indignation all over her face. He stiffens instinctively, because if Granger still reacts like this, Astoria's lawyer is going to destroy him. But her mouth is opening, and he forces himself to pay attention. "If anything, not having magic has made Muggles more evolved!"
He lifts an eyebrow. "Please Granger, enlighten me."
"Because they've had to compensate for not having magic, and look at their output! Even you use Muggle appliances now, Malfoy! I mean, Muggles have created mobiles, laptops, the television, have discovered cures for diseases, and-and made spaceships! How could a lesser evolved race have done all these things?"
"But that's not-"
"That's not what Malfoy, not good enough for you?"
"That wasn't what I-"
"It makes me sick when I see witches and wizards abuse magic, just because they have it-I still cook meals even though I don't have to and walk even when I could Apparate, because magic just makes us lazy! And how is that an advantage?"
"Would you like to step off your pedestal for just a second and let me get a complete thought out?"
She's breathing heavily through her nose, her chest rising and falling with her anger. But she's silent, and that's all he cares about.
"Merlin Granger, you go on about this the way you do about House Elves! I never said that Muggles weren't accomplished, did I? You just assumed that's what I meant."
"You didn't even let me get to my opinions of Halfbloods. I still don't have an explanation-maybe magic is just a gene that will be recessive for a couple generations before being dominant. I don't know! I didn't even notice you in school until you started hanging around with Potter, okay? That's why I hated you more than I would have. And I was raised with the word Mudblood, so it was already part of my natural vocabulary."
She's opened her mouth, but before she can go off again he continues hotly, "I already know what you're going to say, so let me just help you out. I am not excusing myself, nor denying that I was a racist bastard. I know I was, and I hated you most of all because you were the contradiction of everything I was taught to believe. And I didn't know how to deal with that."
"That's no excuse either-"
"But what incentive do I have to change if people will only see the person I used to be, despite what I do now? I know it's hard for you Granger, but please at least try to see all this from my perspective."
"I am trying, Malfoy. That's why I'm here. But sometimes it's just so hard to get passed who you were in Hogwarts when your racism was such a large part of who you were-"
"So other people are allowed to grow up, but I'm doomed to be that boy forever?"
"But it's more than who you were to people, Malfoy. It's what you remind them of."
"So I'm a convenient scapegoat." His lip curls. "How does that make them any better than me? Why should I be held responsible for everything?"
"Because sometimes people need someone to blame in order to deal with grief."
"Now look who's making excuses."
He's prepared for the retort when she opens her mouth, but then she does something he doesn't expect-she closes it, pursing her lips. It's a stalemate, but he considers it a point for him, because she'd rather not say anything than have to say You might be right, Malfoy.
He knows he's right on this one, but knowing that even Granger thinks he's right about something gives him even more confidence in his opinion. And if he can convince her, he hopes he'll be able to have the same affect on the jury.
It's Astoria's turn to take the stand today, and he's reminded oddly of his mother because Astoria carries herself with the same elegance and pride.
Despite what's happened, Draco can still see what had first attracted him to her. Those green eyes are piercing, her black hair is striking against her pale skin, and her body is slender and has curves in all the right places. While he would never want to get back together with her, he can't say he regrets meeting her because he wouldn't have gotten to know Scorpius. Despite everything else that's happened to get him to this point, he really wouldn't want things any other way.
And this realization startles him so much that he almost misses the first question.
"If you wanted Scorpius in your life, why did you leave him in the first place?"
"It was the hardest decision I've ever made."
Draco has to force himself not to roll his eyes, because he's still convinced she's acting, that there's some other reason she's doing all of this. Whatever it is, he's not buying this for a second.
He thinks her pause is entirely too contrived as she continues, "I know how this must look. We aren't married, and I left when Scorpius was just two years old. But everything just happened faster than I'd anticipated. Draco and I met a few years after the War, and we'd never planned on anything long-term so it took us both by surprise."
There's a sad smile on her face, and Draco almost believes it.
Almost-but not quite.
Taking a deep breath, she says, "At first I stayed because I didn't want to hurt Scorpius as a result of a mistake we'd made, but I realized I was losing myself. I had to stop working, and I felt as though I had nothing of my own.
"I loved Scorpius, but didn't love myself, and didn't think I could be a good parent. So I left. But I've realized a lot of things since being away. I never stopped loving him, but now that I have a stable job and relationship, I know how to give him what I couldn't before. And he deserves to know his mother."
Her expression is sincere, but to Draco her words sound fake and rehearsed, and he suspects there's some other reason that she's here. For her to have appeared so soon after the widely publicized kidnapping is suspicious enough, but if she doesn't love Scorpius at all Draco isn't sure why she'd go through all this effort.
"Thank you, Ms. Greengrass. No further questions."
Granger takes the floor confidently, and while she might not look as intimidating as Astoria's lawyer, Draco's experienced her fierce grilling firsthand, and if he were Astoria he'd definitely be worried right now. But Astoria's outward appearance doesn't change except for a slight curl to her lips. Draco can't help a smirk of his own.
Tear her apart, Granger.
"You said just now you think Scorpius deserves to know his mother. Doesn't he also deserve to know his father? What makes you think you're more entitled to your son than Draco?"
"I'm not saying he doesn't have a right. But come on-we all know who his parents were. I seriously doubt that, on his own, Draco would be able to instill the right values to his son. I'm not suggesting he'd love him less than I will, but Scorpius will do far better with me."
There's silence as Granger stares her down, and when she speaks her voice is harsh, unforgiving. "But you left."
"Objection, badgering of the witness!"
Before the judge can intervene, Granger interrupts, "I'll put it another way. If you already left once, how do we know you'd be a permanent presence in his life? How do we know you won't leave again in a couple years?"
There's a distant look in Astoria's eyes, and it's apparent her mind has checked out for a moment.
But Granger is relentless. "I'd like an answer to my question. How do we know you won't leave again?"
When Astoria keeps her silence, the judge gives her an impatient look. "Ms. Greengrass?"
Finally she refocuses and states clearly, "Because it was a mistake. And I learned from it."
"Let's hope for Scorpius's sake that you're telling the truth."
Granger waves off her lawyer's persistence and heads back to her seat. "It's fine, I'm through."
On the pad of paper between them, Granger scrawls at least her silence will be on the record.
But will that be enough?
There's an earnest expression in her eyes as she writes back I hope so.
"Have you considered the possibility that your father hasn't actually killed anyone?"
"And you're saying you have? Are you fucking crazy? This is Lucius Malfoy we're talking about-"
"I haven't forgotten that, Malfoy," Granger interrupts coolly, "and I still think he's foul and deserves to be in prison."
Her expression softens as she continues, "But he's your father. He was at the center of everything, but I never saw him dirty his hands once with actual killing. Did you ever think that he continued to stay with Voldemort because he was trying to protect you and your mother?"
He gapes at her. "How in Merlin's name did you come to that conclusion?"
"Just think about it for a second, Malfoy. If he'd defected after he'd realized the full extent of his commitment, Voldemort would've had Narcissa and you murdered, and then Lucius himself."
And Draco does think about it, because he has to admit it makes an awful lot of sense. But-
"He made sixth year a living hell for me, his prison sentence literally killed mother, and the damage he did to the Malfoy name is pretty much irreparable." He shakes his head. "If he'd really been thinking about mother and the future of his family, he never would've joined in the first place."
"But he was young and impressionable."
Draco snorts. "You say that as if my father were a victim, and I seriously doubt he was. No, I'm pretty sure he knew exactly what he was getting into, and didn't want his hands dirty so he could play both sides of the fence. But look where that got him. And I still can't believe I'm debating this with you."
"Well, it helps to be able to play the devil's advocate in law," she says, a slight smile on her face. "But the jury won't hold it against you if you have mixed feelings about your father. And you shouldn't hold it against yourself."
"Thanks for your permission, Granger," he sneers.
She's hit entirely too close to the mark, which makes him uncomfortable because he'd never really thought himself to be that transparent.
"I'm serious, Malfoy."
"So am I, Granger."
Pansy's testimony is low-key event, but when Granger calls Harry Potter to the stand, the room ripples with whispers, even among the jurors. When the noise only continues to rise when Potter sits down, the judge has to call for order, which does not happen until after several intense beatings of his gavel.
Granger nods her thanks to the judge, and Draco does his best not to let his real emotions show on his face. Truth be told, he absolutely hates this. He does, because he's fucking tired of Potter bailing him out. Though he was reluctantly grateful for the man's help in rescuing his son, this is almost too much. All it shows is that his word really doesn't count for anything, and probably never will. By this point however, he can tell that he's already missed the start of the questioning. So he tries to pay attention, focusing on Granger so he doesn't have to look at Potter.
"Tell us about Draco Malfoy's actions on the night of December 19th. How did you become involved?"
Potter gives a half-smile. "I doubt very much that Mr. Malfoy would have come to me if it weren't for you, Hermione. The day before, Hermione and Draco approached me and asked for my help along with an Auror team to rescue their children and bring the ex-Death Eaters to justice. Draco was as worried about his son as any parent would be who loved their child and was willing to do anything to get him back, even follow Hermione to me.
"I mean, come on-he could have agreed to break Lucius Malfoy out of prison, and even though the man is his father he chose not to and confessed everything to us. And I saw him save Hermione Granger's life on the battlefield. If that doesn't show how much he's changed over the last seven years, I don't know what else will."
"Thank you. No further questions. Your witness."
Draco wonders if the opposing lawyer would dare cross-examine the Boy Who Lived Despite All Odds but apparently the guy is enough of a cocky bastard. The man doesn't even hide the swagger in his step as he approaches the stand, brushing against Granger on her way to sit down. Draco's pretty sure it's not an accident.
"You and Mr. Malfoy were rivals in school, is that correct?"
"Well yes, but-"
"You testified on his family's behalf after the War, but I understand that was only because his mother, Narcissa Malfoy, saved your life and your defense was primarily a result of the life debt?"
"Yes, but also because-"
"You are also best friends with Hermione Granger, Draco Malfoy's lawyer. Would it also be safe to assume that you are here as a favor to her, which would mean we cannot entirely trust your testimony?"
Granger is on her feet now, and Draco can only see the way her body is trembling in anger because he's sitting so close to her. "Objection, unnecessary badgering of the witness!"
Even the judge is having a hard time hiding his displeasure now. "Sustained. Watch yourself, counsel. Remember who this young man is. You do not have to answer that, Mr. Potter."
"He doesn't have to, I'm through."
Draco doesn't miss his smug smile as he strides back to his seat, and the whispers ripple through the courtroom once more as Potter gets up and takes his.
Well, the judge really didn't like that line of questioning, Draco scrawls on their pad.
But he's injected the jury with even more doubt, Granger writes back, and it might be stricken from the record but it's stuck in their minds, which is far worse.
Draco scowls and scratches angrily, Fuck.
She looks at him apologetically, and he's floored momentarily because she actually seems sincere.
Yeah. I'm sorry.
This is the day-his day.
He's trying to force the anxiety down, but the last time he'd been in this position, he'd been facing the Wizengamot, and he's feeling slightly sick to his stomach.
Just as he's about to push open the huge double doors, Granger pulls him aside, and he can see nothing but encouragement on her face. "How are you feeling?"
He rolls his eyes before he can stop himself. "How do you think I'm feeling, Granger? I'm fucking fantastic."
Offering a small smile, she says, "You're going to be fine. Just don't be afraid to show them a little bit of who you are."
"I mean it. The jury wants to see a little vulnerability."
"Yeah, and I bet Astoria's lawyer does too."
"At least it will be over soon."
That would be comforting if Draco were going to know the results immediately, but she'd already warned him that it would be a few days. Great.
But he nods at her and straightens, injecting a bit of swagger in his step as he throws the doors open. Every eye in the room is on him but he ignores them all. A hush descends over the entire room when he takes the stand, and he swears everyone can hear him breathing and his heart beating. And then Granger steps forward, and he feels instantly at ease. Unlike last time, he has real support, someone who's come to believe in him. And that makes a world of difference.
"Tell us how you met Astoria Greengrass."
"We met through a mutual friend," Draco says, clearly and confidently. Astoria is staring at him, but he refuses to look at her. "I was at a low point in my life, and so was she. There were no strings attached and we weren't committed to each other, but we were both satisfied with the arrangement."
"Then your son Scorpius came along. How did he fit into your lives initially?"
"I expected her to get an immediate abortion, and thought she wanted that too. When she decided to keep him, I was willing to stay because he's my son, too. If he were going to know his mother, I wanted him to know his father."
"What happened on the night of July 14th, 2005?"
"Astoria walked out on us without any warning. She's explained her reasons for leaving, but seeing as how she'd been the one to keep the baby in the first place, I'm not satisfied. She had plenty of chances to walk out and end it all, but didn't."
"What were your feelings regarding your son at this point?"
"I wanted to be around, but it was only out of a sense of obligation and duty. I didn't have the best role models in my parents, and didn't really think I was father material."
Lifting his head proudly, he says, "He's been my redemption. I'm a better person now because I've gotten to know him, and I want to be this person for him. I make enough to support him, and we don't have much but we have each other. I love my son, and we've built a life together. I've shown that I'm the parent who can be trusted to be there, and I don't think she has any more of a claim on him than I do."
"Thank you, Mr. Malfoy," Granger says, and her face is neutral but he can see a smile in her eyes as she takes her seat. "Your witness."
Astoria's lawyer strides up to him purposefully, and Draco can tell right away that he's going to be an asshole.
"What's the most meaningful relationship you've had in your life, Mr. Malfoy?"
He'd been expecting a different approach, and he's not at all prepared to answer this question. A while ago the answer would have been his parents, but now he's coming up blank. The lawyer gives him a cool look and his cold stance just screams hard ass, but Draco refuses to panic. That's simply not an option.
He'll show this guy he can't intimidate him. He's Draco fucking Malfoy.
"Probably Pansy. She's been the closest thing to a friend I've had."
"And not the mother of your child?"
"Our relationship was superficial at best."
"Or your parents?"
"Seeing as how my father's in prison and my mother's dead, there is no relationship. And we didn't part ways well."
"So you're saying you haven't had any meaningful relationships in your life."
"I told you-"
"You mentioned your friend, yes. But since it took you so long to think of her name, I wonder if you really believe that."
Draco bristles at his tone but tries not to show it. He doesn't want to give this guy a reason to think that what he's saying is having any affect on him.
"Objection! How is this relevant?"
"I'm just getting to that."
The judge nods. "Proceed."
Since Draco is the only one who can see the lawyer's face, he's not even bothering to hide his distaste, and Draco resists the urge to curl his lip.
"Well, if you've never had any real meaningful relationships in your life, how do you expect to have one with your son?"
Draco blinks. "I'm sorry?"
"If you've never really had a successful relationship, what makes you think the relationship with your son will be any different?"
There is absolute silence in the courtroom, and Granger is halfway out of her seat again. "Objection!"
She has an apologetic expression on her face, but she can't help him now. It's all up to him, but this very issue has been the root of all his insecurities, and now that it's caught him in the moment, he's feeling his confidence start to crumble. "I just want what's best for Scorpius."
"And you really think that's you."
"Objection, unnecessary badgering of the witness!"
"I'll ask another way. Do you think you'd be a responsible parent?"
He's so distracted by his thoughts that he can't even respond.
"Let me ask again-do you think you'd be a responsible parent?"
Draco bristles at this asshole's arrogance. Raising his head proudly, he stares him right in the face. What gives him the right to think he knows him better than Draco does? He's asked the question in such a way that tells everyone he thinks Draco would be a shitty parent, but Draco's not going to give in and give him what he wants.
"Yes I do."
"No further questions."
Draco doesn't even look at Astoria when he takes his seat, although he can feel her eyes on him. Granger pats his leg, an offer of wordless comfort, but he has no idea how his performance affected the jury and he forces himself to consider the possibility that he might lose. After everything he's been through, he can't imagine anything worse than that-Scorpius has given his life new meaning and a reason to get up in the morning, has made him want to be a better person so he can be a better father. He's shown him what it means to love.
He can't think about losing.
A few days later, he gets the call.
She doesn't give him any indication as to the results, but simply asks him to come meet her at the coffee shop a few blocks away, where he used to work. But he just has a bad feeling about this, and it sits heavily in his stomach, making him feel almost ill. It only expands the closer he gets to the meeting place, and when he finally gets there to find her already waiting at a table for him, all he has to do is take one look at the somber expression on her face to know the outcome.
The envelope is sitting on the table, but he doesn't even want to read it. Numbness spreads over his entire body, inside and out, and all he can do is stand there. He'd thought about what he'd do if he lost, and he knew he'd be upset, but he hadn't expected to feel this crushed. Even Granger looks distraught, and she stands up and moves towards him, arms stretched out.
It's that motion that unlocks him, and if she so much as touches him right now he thinks he might just break down right here, because for the first time, everything is real. And the last thing he wants is for Granger to see him that vulnerable.
"Malfoy, I'm sor-"
But he doesn't even wait for her to finish before he turns and walks away.
"Draco? Draco are you in there?"
He hadn't even gone into work today because he just hadn't thought he would be able to handle it. He's lying on the couch with an arm over his face, and the fact that it's still the afternoon hadn't stopped him from finishing a couple bottles of beer already. The last thing he wants right now is company. Maybe if he's quiet she'll just go away.
Ha. Pansy never just goes away.
"Draco? I know what happened...Granger came to see me and told me, said she was worried about you. I know you're in there, okay? Will you at least just talk to me?"
He supposes Pansy does have good reason to be concerned, but he's not drunk.
He just really wants to be alone.
Not even bothering to hide the weariness in his voice, he says, "Look Pansy, I need some time to myself right now, okay?"
There's silence, and for a moment Draco thinks she might just force herself in anyway.
Finally though, she answers, "All right, I'll leave you be if that's what you want. I just needed some peace of mind."
He exhales the breath he hadn't even known he'd been holding when he hears her walk off, and if he weren't so numb-the alcohol's politely begun the process of detaching his brain from the rest of him-he thinks he'd probably be crying.
If he knew how.
"Scorpius, there's something I have to tell you."
He's been putting off this moment forever, because telling Scorpius will finally make this real. And Draco's not sure he's strong enough to handle this reality.
Scorpius looks up at him with round eyes. "What's that, Daddy?"
"Um, well, you see..."
He'd spent days mentally preparing himself for this moment, but none of that had been enough because all he can see is Scorpius, staring up at him with large, innocent eyes. Fuck.
Taking a deep breath, he tries again. "So you know how you sometimes fight with your friends?"
"Well, sometimes adults fight too. And that's what your mum and I have been doing, except we've been fighting over you."
His son is silent, an intent look on his face.
"Your mom won the case, so she's coming to take you home with her soon. But I get you for dinner once a week, and you can stay with me every other weekend."
Scorpius is frowning. "What about my room with you?"
Merlin, but this is killing him. "You'll have a room, just with your mum."
"And you won't forget about me?"
Draco doesn't know how he manages the smile. "I couldn't forget you, Scorpius. And you might not be living with me, but I will never, ever leave you. I promise."
"I can call you too?"
Draco takes his son into his lap, feeling more helpless than ever. And it's awful. "Yes, of course you can."
"I love you, Daddy," Scorpius whispers miserably against his shirt.
The lump in Draco's throat is more painful than anything he was in St. Mungo's for and he holds his son closer to him, squeezing his eyes shut.
"I love you, too. This won't change that, I promise."
And he desperately hopes so.
The day Astoria is supposed to take Scorpius away starts like any other.
They make the same breakfast, but the only difference is they eat in silence. Scorpius is usually full of energy while Draco is struggling to wake up. Today, though, his son is still and sad. Draco is miserable but trying not to show it, but he thinks he's doing a poor job because Scorpius is probably picking up on his mood as well.
The few belongings Scorpius has are already packed in a bag in the middle of the living room. When breakfast is over, they sit on the sofa in silence, and Scorpius has his head in Draco's lap. Draco is stiff and on edge, but when the doorbell finally rings he jumps a little anyway. Scorpius lifts his head and stares at him with wide eyes, and Draco manages a smile as he takes him to the door.
Astoria is standing there, and there's a moment of awkward silence before she says, "Draco, can I speak with you? Alone?"
Eyeing her warily, Draco says in what he hopes is a gentle tone, "Scorpius, please go to your room. I'll get you when we're done."
Scorpius squeezes Draco's hand and leaves quietly, and Draco motions for Astoria to come in but she doesn't move.
"Astoria, what are you-"
"I'm not coming inside, Malfoy. I'm here because-I owe you an explanation."
He suppresses the sudden surge of optimism, because he doesn't even know what she's about to tell him.
Taking a deep breath, she says, "I wasn't entirely honest on the stand, when I explained why I left. I was losing myself, but-I was losing myself to you. And it wasn't until I was away from you that I realized how much I'd actually fallen for you. That hadn't been part of my plan. I was angry, and just wanted to hurt you. After reading about what you'd done to get Scorpius back, this was the only way I knew how."
"Please let me finish, all right? I need to get this all out now, because even just standing here is torture. But I've thought long and hard about this, and-I'm not going to take Scorpius with me. I've seen how you've come to care for him, and he doesn't deserve to be punished as a result of my vengeance."
Draco just stares at her, unsure he's heard her correctly. "So this means-"
"Yes," she nods. "He's yours."
He's hesitant to label the emotions running through him, because he thinks he might actually be happy. The closest he's felt to this has been acceptance, and after being miserable for so long he's almost afraid of the change, because he realizes now he doesn't even really know how to deal with such positive energy. He's not even sure he actually deserves to feel this way.
So in an effort to distract himself from all that, he tries to process the first part of Astoria's paragraph. "You mean to say that everything you told me during that first meeting was a lie?"
She lifts her head proudly. "They were a means to an end, and I hardly think you have the right to look so disgusted. I know revenge isn't a foreign concept to you."
His cheeks flush with anger.
"Oh, don't even try to justify what you did with something like that-I didn't leave him, not once, not even after you left! You-you're fucking crazy!"
He's in her face and shouting by the end, but she doesn't even flinch.
Her voice is tight. "I wouldn't have left in the first place if I hadn't realized I'd fallen in love with you."
He hadn't factored love into this.
"What are you-"
"I saw nothing but a dead end," she says, eyes distant, "that I was stuck with someone who couldn't love me back. And to feel stuck when I practically have my whole life ahead of me-the feeling overwhelmed me, and I panicked."
"Then why didn't you just get the abortion in the first place?"
"It was the mother in me, I guess. I didn't want to punish my son for a mistake I'd made."
"And the postcards?"
"I meant every word on them."
"What you did was beyond low," Draco says, coldly, "and I can't forgive you for putting us through that trial. But-thank you. For changing your mind."
His voice softens by the end, because he is grateful. He's just not willing to show her how much.
"He's been good for you. Even I can see that."
There's silence then, and it's so uncomfortable that Draco asks, "Where will you go?"
She smiles, but it's sad. "Somewhere I can think. But I'll be fine. And so will you. Just promise me one thing, Draco-for your sake, please tell Granger how you feel about her, okay?"
Draco blinks, at a complete loss. "I'm sorry?"
"I saw the way she was looking at you during the trial, and my woman's intuition suspects you feel the same."
He scoffs. "Me and Granger? Don't be ridiculous."
"I'm only telling you this because I don't want you to end up like me. I thought I did, but when I won that didn't make me feel any better. If anything, I felt even worse. Just don't make the same mistake-your pride isn't worth it."
His mouth opens but nothing comes out, because he's trying to work out all this in his head. He'd been so emotionally tied up in his son that he hadn't even spared a thought to anything he might've been feeling for Granger.
Astoria moves closer to him, and he tenses instinctively but she only places a soft kiss on his cheek. "Goodbye, Draco."
All he can do is nod stiffly-he has nothing more to say to her.
He might've said something sarcastic, but despite all that's transpired between them, he's glad they parted this way. Anything else would've left a bad taste in his mouth.
And he's tired of regrets.
He's grateful for a Saturday because he'd needed the time with his thoughts, and when he finally leaves his flat, there hadn't been a definite destination in his mind but his feet bring him to her doorstep later that evening. Before he can talk himself out of what he's doing he rings her doorbell. He wants to share the good news with someone, and she's an obvious choice after everything she's done to help him. And maybe he also wants to know if what Astoria had said is true, because thinking about it had only made him more confused.
When she comes to the door, her eyes widen slightly when she sees him standing there, and it doesn't matter what she's wearing or that her hair is a mess because all he's thinking is Merlin, she's beautiful.
How had he not noticed before?
"Malfoy," she says, breathing out his name in a relieved exhale. "I've been worried about you. Is everything-"
"She gave him up. Astoria gave Scorpius up."
Her hand flies to her heart and her entire face lights up with an irresistible smile. "Oh Malfoy, that's wonder-"
And then, before he really knows what he's doing, he's kissing her, smothering her words as he puts her lips on his. It's awkward and hesitant and just a little bit desperate, because he needs to know if there's any chance she might feel the same and this is the only way he knows to ask.
He's already cursing himself when she pulls away, but there is a light in her eyes he's never seen before. "Do you want to come inside? It's okay, Rose is with Ron for the night."
This is his choice.
He's still getting used to the idea that his life is what he makes of it, that it's now up to him to make his own decisions. It began with Scorpius, and he'd spent hours agonizing over what to do. But he doesn't have the luxury of time now.
The moment will be gone when she closes her door.
But something still holds him rooted to the spot even as she's turning to head back inside, giving him a small smile over her shoulder and beckoning him with a finger to follow her. It's that motion that makes up his mind.
No regrets, remember Draco?
Giving her a smirk he doesn't quite believe in yet, he puts one foot in front of the other, and when her smile broadens he thinks he's made the right decision. When they are safely inside, she doesn't waste a minute before she turns around and kisses him fiercely, and even though Draco's kissing her back, his guard is still up, watching and waiting for a reason to get the hell out of here. But lust is slowly taking over as her hands start roaming up and down his back and then his own hands are on her hips, pulling her closer. She tugs at his shirt, and he's not even really thinking clearly when he takes it off.
Her breath catches when the absence of his shirt reveals exposed skin, and he's about to say something like If I'd known that was all it took to make you speechless I would've done that a long time ago when he sees her staring at his scars. His shields are up more forcefully in an instant, and her eyes flick to his shuttered ones so quickly it's almost as if she could hear them.
Her eyes find the long scar that begins on his left side as high as his stomach and ends halfway down his thigh, and she traces it lightly with her fingertips, following it down to where it disappears beneath his trousers. She looks back up at him, the question in her eyes, and he says tightly, "Sectumsempra."
"How do you carry all this with you?"
Instead of the sympathy he expects, her words are wrapped in compassion, and later he'll tell himself he'd been startled into giving her a real answer.
"It's easy. They keep me grounded, remind me of the things I've done so I don't get so lost in the person I'm becoming that I forget the person I was."
Up until this point, his entire body has felt like a coil, all bunched up and ready to spring. Ordinarily he would have, but the one thing that's kept him here is the absence of pity in her expression. There's something else but he's not quite sure what it is-he would say it almost looks like respect if that didn't sound so ridiculous.
But when her hand dips below his waistband and comes dangerously close to his hardening length, all these feelings are forgotten and he practically rips off her shirt, no longer physically able to stop the moment.
When Draco wakes hours later to disorientation and then mild panic as he realizes he isn't in his flat, it only takes a couple seconds for everything to come rushing back to him.
And, sure enough, there's extra heat emanating from Granger's body curled up against his, and her arm is lying on his chest. For a moment all he can really do is stare at her, not really sure what to do. He hadn't been planning on staying the night, but he's fairly certain she expects him to stay. Of course he wants to-that has nothing to do with it.
But what the hell is he doing, exactly?
He's made peace with his attraction to Granger somewhat in so far as he's acknowledged it. While he has no problem sleeping around with no strings attached, Granger doesn't deserve that. She deserves commitment, someone who will be completely devoted to her, and Draco knows he's not good enough for her. He's not above using people, but Granger has become an exception, and he can honestly say he doesn't want to hurt her.
Sometimes bravery is as simple as doing the right thing, she'd told him once.
Maybe there is some hope for him after all.
He's pushing papers around his desk mindlessly, hopelessly distracted. It's been several days since he left Granger's, and he hasn't heard anything from her since. Somehow, though, he's gotten lucky, and he's managed to avoid her even at daycare. He doesn't know what to make of the silence, but he's decided it's for the best because it makes it easier for him to convince himself that he's made the right choice.
And then his office door opens without warning.
"Usually it's customary to knock first," he drawls, and when he finally takes his eyes off his papers, he jumps to his feet when he sees that Granger is standing in front of him, an indescribable expression on her face. He thinks she looks angry, though, and there's something else but he can't identify it.
Pursing his lips, he snaps, "Granger, what-"
He doesn't even see her raised hand until she slaps him with it, and the sound rings like a percussion instrument, the force enough to send him back into his chair. He thinks his ears might actually be ringing, and he brings his hand slowly to his swollen cheek.
Eyes flashing, he snarls, "What the hell was that for?"
Back ramrod straight, she says severely, "Don't play dumb with me, Malfoy. You left, like a coward, in the middle of the night! I'm not going to get down on my knees and beg you to take me back because I've never been that girl, but I think I deserve an explanation! Didn't that mean anything to you?"
There's a superficial sarcastic comment already poised on his tongue and ready to go, but it's as if her slap knocked the reflexive anger out of him because he's suddenly weary and has to sink back in his chair.
"Of course it did-don't be ridiculous. But that's why I left, don't you get it? I'm not good enough for you-"
"Don't I get to make that decision?"
"Maybe, but Rose-"
"Needs a stable father figure in her life," she finishes, and that is so far from what he'd been about to say that his disbelief startles him into silence, and she continues, "I mean, sure, Ron's around enough so she doesn't forget who he is and Rose has male friends, but that's not the same."
He snorts. "And I'm the best replacement you've found?"
Her eyes soften as she sighs. "I want her to grow up around love, Malfoy. I still love Ron, but as a friend, and I want to show her that you can keep your career and have a family, that The One is more than just some fantasy perpetuated by romantic comedies."
He blinks sluggishly. "And you think that I'm-but why?"
Smiling softly, she says, "Love isn't supposed to make sense. But that's the beauty of it, and I've stopped trying to reason my feelings for you a long time ago. The experiences we've shared together over the past several months-or however long it's really been-have enabled me to really see who you truly are. The world has forgiven you, and I don't hold you accountable for anything. And you owe it to yourself to move on."
Despite his efforts, she's been slowly chipping away at his armor, and he feels naked and vulnerable. He wants everything she's talked about, but has spent so long convincing himself he doesn't to avoid facing his past. So he's taken the easy way out by telling himself he doesn't deserve happiness, and now there's a fork in the road.
He can either tell her she's crazy and deluded, that he doesn't love her and never will, that Astoria had practically dared him to kiss her.
Or he can finally take charge of his life.
She's just been watching him silently this whole time, and it's probably only been a few seconds but it's felt like an eternity to Draco. Wordlessly, he gets out of his chair and walks around the table, doesn't even stop until he's only an inch away from her. He's actually grateful for the rapid beating of his heart, because it distracts his mind long enough so he can kiss her.
His eyes close instinctively and his hands gravitate towards her hair, and he can feel her hands rest on his hips as she kisses him back with complete abandon. But it's not enough-he needs to see her, and needs visual assurance that he's followed the right path. And Draco isn't so blind that he can't see the love on her face, even with her eyes closed.
Stop questioning, Draco. You don't need to protect yourself from her. It's time to move on.
Then he closes his eyes and really leans into the kiss, finally allowing himself to do something he's never quite been able to do, even when he'd been with her that first time.
He lets go.
June 5th, 2010
"Come on Hermione, we're going to be late!"
"One more minute, I promise!"
It's his thirtieth birthday, and Pansy had offered to look after Scorpius for the evening in order for them to go out. He hadn't wanted anything big, but Hermione had made reservations at a classy place for dinner to surprise him, saying that she'd wanted to at least do this for him.
"It's a new decade, Draco," she'd said, an irresistible smile on her face, "you have to mark it somehow!"
A new decade.
He's been thinking about that a lot lately. For the first time really, he can honestly say he likes the person he's become, and his life actually has genuine meaning. He's not only living for his son and his girlfriend-he's living for himself.
Wrapping his fingers around the box in his pocket, he wonders if today will be the day. He's had the ring for months now, and after swearing Pansy to secrecy he's already asked her to be his Best Man. But even though he knows Hermione loves him, there's a part of him that's still a bit afraid she'd say no, and that's a change he's not sure he could handle.
But there's something temporary even about the label girlfriend, and he knows his heart is ready to make things permanent. It's just his mind that's getting in the way, because his mind has protected his heart for so long it's still hard for him to truly let go.
The soft click of high heels on the top of the steps draws him out of his thoughts. When he looks up he sees Hermione beaming down at him, wearing a black halter dress that accentuates all her curves. His breath catches, and he can't take his eyes off her as she walks down to meet him. He doesn't even let her speak before he draws her to him in a tight embrace and kisses her deeply.
When she finally pulls away, she manages weakly, "I thought you said we were going to be late."
He smirks. "Well, they're the ones getting paid. I think they can wait a little longer."
She chuckles in agreement and he kisses her again, savoring the moment.
He used to dread even waking up the next morning.
Now the future really is something worth fighting for.