|He Will Find Beauty
Author: Lomonaaeren PM
HPDM slash, LMNM, oneshot. Narcissa is trying to live her life after the war, and to let Draco live his own and make his own decisions. She does have the advice of a Seer to cling to: He will find beauty. COMPLETE.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Family - Draco M. & Harry P. - Words: 7,202 - Reviews: 61 - Favs: 251 - Follows: 21 - Published: 01-08-09 - Status: Complete - id: 4778919
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: He Will Find Beauty
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco (main), but also Draco/others in the background. Lucius/Narcissa.
Word Count: ~6800
Warnings: Profanity, angst, hints of slash and het sex, Narcissa POV. DH Spoilers, but ignores epilogue.
Summary: Narcissa has been struggling to live her life again since the war. Much harder is watching her son struggle to live his. But Narcissa is comforted by the words given to her by a Seer immediately after the battle, even though she doesn't know exactly what they mean: He will find beauty.
Author's Notes: Ohmygod, so fluffy. What is up with this trend of writing fluffy fics lately?
He Will Find Beauty
The house seemed to shake with the force of the slamming door. Narcissa opened her eyes and blinked, disoriented, for a long moment before she sat up in bed and realized what must have happened.
Another of Draco's lovers had stormed out.
Narcissa shook her head and yawned, allowing her eyes to slip shut again even as she stretched and otherwise went through the process of waking herself up. She hadn't thought the Smith boy the right lover for Draco. They were both unyielding personalities, used to getting what they wanted when they wanted it.
Although Draco is a little less used to that since the war, she thought, and stepped out of bed to use the loo. A house-elf had already appeared and was laying out the lilac robes she had decided to wear today.
Narcissa's hand slid over the pillow next to hers. Once, Lucius would have lain there, and the scent of his body and the glide of his hair still lingered in her memory.
But Draco was not the only one who had become used to doing without.
Draco was sitting in the small dining room, his hands clenched around a mug of tea, a murderous scowl on his face that had already frightened the house-elves out of the room, though usually they lingered to ask Narcissa if she would like more honey, butter, or marmalade. Of course, her breakfast was steaming on the table across from her son; they would not be that neglectful of their duty. Narcissa sat and took a bite of toast, closing her eyes for a moment as it crunched.
"How could he do that?" Draco burst out.
Narcissa hummed quietly as she began to spread the pat of butter that sat in a cool white dish next to her plate on her toast. "Zacharias left, then?" she asked. She always tried to call her son's lovers by their first names, at least if he had taken the trouble to bring them to the house and introduce them to her. Merlin knew how many times Draco had spent the night in a strange bed and walked away the next morning.
"Left, and he's not coming back." Draco drew back his hand as if he would hurl his cup at the wall, but her mild glance restrained him. He set it down instead and heaved a deep breath. "He said that my fortune wasn't enough for him anymore," he admitted, his voice grating like waves on shingles.
"I'm sorry, darling," Narcissa said quietly, and then went on eating her breakfast, even though Draco was looking at her in expectation of more.
The silence stretched between them until Draco heaved himself to his feet, snarled, "I'm going to walk in the garden," and burst out the swiveling door that separated the small dining room from a study, making the delicate panels spin wildly on their chains.
Narcissa gazed thoughtfully after him, quelling the temptation to rise from the chair and follow him out the door, just as she had spent the last few months of Draco's wild career refraining from counseling him about his lovers. She knew that her silence angered and bewildered him. He had always been used to her advice, even though he disregarded it most of the time, and her protection, though he tended to flee it at the most inopportune times.
But Narcissa had tried, since the war, to leave him more often to his own devices. She had looked at her son on the day that Lucius was sentenced to Azkaban and realized that, although Draco had been spared prison, he still wasn't free.
He had never emerged from the cocoon that surrounded spoiled children, the cocoon of dependence on his parents. He had never suffered the real consequences of being left to fend for himself. Even when he might have, when the Dark Lord had assigned him to destroy Dumbledore, Narcissa had intervened and found another destroyer.
That had been the right thing to do. Draco was sixteen at the time.
But he was twenty-one now, and he needed to learn to make his own decisions and not fear his failures. As much as it hurt Narcissa to watch him wildly beating his wings simply to keep from falling, she thought it needed to happen. And as much as the impulse to help filled her, she held it back.
She drew in her breath, blinked, shook her head, and turned back to her toast and butter, and the buttered scones that followed. She did probably eat too much butter, but that was one of the mild comforts she allowed herself in the changed, hard life that had followed the war.
And she did have another comfort.
She had been walking across the Great Hall, trying to find a bathroom, when someone had paused in front of her. Narcissa looked up, expecting another person who would spit on her and tell her that she hadn't earned her survival. She had sought a bathroom in part to clean off the spittle that was clinging to her hair right now.
Instead, a strange woman with splayed-out hair and a flushed face stared at her, and her eyes were stranger yet behind her glasses. The woman pointed a finger at her as her eyes rolled back in her head and she spoke in a deep, blank voice.
"Do not worry for your son. He will find beauty."
And then the woman's eyes rolled forwards again, and she staggered slowly away, looking bewildered. Narcissa frowned after her.
She learned later that the woman was Sybil Trelawney, and that she had been known to make a few true prophecies in her time. And she had clung to that prophecy as a spar in the wake of the blows that followed, Lucius's imprisonment and Draco's wild carelessness.
"If only," Narcissa murmured now, and gave a smile she knew was a little small, a little bitter, "she had said when he would find beauty."
She finished her breakfast and stood up. She had gardening to do.
Three days later, Narcissa was carefully stalking a giant Century Rose that had grown up wild in the midst of her garden and which would make a beautiful plant for the central showpiece; Century Roses really did bloom for a hundred years, and this one had just opened its petals.
But Century Roses also had magic, and they objected to being tamed.
Now, as she came nearer and nearer, Narcissa kept a careful eye on the Rose's thorny vines, which curled inwards and outwards like seaweed drifting underwater. She had a small, portable magical shield over the left side of her body and a set of enchanted pruning shears in the right hand. If she could inflict one good cut on the body of the plant, then the wound would interrupt the flow of the magic through the stem and weaken it sufficiently to enable her to cast the spells that would root it where she wanted it to root, instead of where it wanted.
The Century Rose's vines uncoiled and struck with blurring speed. Narcissa barely managed to get her protected left arm in the way in time. The thorns bounced off skin like stone and were deflected upwards. The petals rustled angrily.
Narcissa spun towards the sound, alerted to something unusual by the trembling, cracked tone of Draco's voice, and the thorns caught her triumphantly in the backside. Narcissa found herself sprawling before she realized it, her face brought close to the mud and almost pressed into it. Behind her, the Century Rose swayed and clacked in a celebratory dance.
Doing her hardest to keep her mind off the mud she knew must be staining the hem of her robes by now, Narcissa stood and looked at this new lover, the one her son seemed so nervous about having her meet.
Her breath deserted her. The last time she had seen the man standing at her son's side, he had been a distant blur in the Wizengamot courtroom, testifying that she and Draco had both helped him during the war and didn't deserve to go to prison. And the time before that, he had circled opposite the Dark Lord.
Harry Potter ducked his head, as though meeting her eyes embarrassed him, too, and shuffled his feet. His cheeks were read. Narcissa wondered for a moment if that was nervousness, or if he was trying desperately not to laugh.
Draco hovered beside him, eyes bright and proud and nervous as Narcissa knew she had looked when she stood beside Lucius in front of her parents for the first time and asked their blessing to be married. And she had known that blessing would be granted. Lucius was a wealthy, handsome pure-blood with plenty of magic, everything her parents had dreamed of for their daughter.
Especially after Andromeda, Narcissa thought, and then realized that the shine in Draco's eyes had dimmed and Potter had taken a step or two away from her. She was letting her thoughts get in the way of greeting her son's new lover, the first one in some time he had introduced like this. She smiled and stepped forwards, firmly gripping Potter's hand when he might have withdrawn it. She had mud on that hand, but she couldn't use the other one because it had the pruning shears in it, and anyway she thought Potter would understand.
"Hello, Mr. Potter," she said quietly. "You're dating my son, I take it?"
Potter looked up slowly. He peered at her with one green eye still mostly hidden by the dark fringe, and said, "Yes, madam—er, Mrs. Malfoy. I am."
And then he turned and looked at Draco, still from beneath his fringe, and his eyes were so brilliant and soft that Narcissa's breath left her lungs again.
And the way Draco looked back…
"Be welcome," she said, and it was for more than mere politeness that she said it.
"He's wonderful, Mother."
Narcissa didn't have to encourage Draco to talk in the mornings, for once; he sat back in his chair and chattered, not needing even tea to wake him up.
One morning, he was talking about Potter's flying skills; the next, how Potter had taken him into a restaurant in Diagon Alley as if it were the most natural thing in the world. "Despite all the stares," said Draco, hooking his feet under the table and leaning back so far that his chair wobbled on two legs, "and the complaints, and the hissing whispers that say I'm not good enough to be seen with him. You know, Mother." He gave her a glance of pure sympathy.
Narcissa nodded. She had encountered much the same on her shopping journeys to Diagon Alley, to the point where she had almost given up going.
But she had thought of Lucius in his cell, without sunlight on his face or companionship for the heart and mind, save on the occasions when she came. And she had thought of what she would have to say to him if he knew that she had cowered in the Manor.
So she went. But it was harder for Draco, who had never known the days when the Black name was feared or the hard years immediately after the first war, before Lucius had escaped suspicion and built up his charitable and political contacts again. He could not accept that this was the way the world was sometimes.
Except with Potter beside him. Then Draco's talked about the world around him, the one that stared, with a restive defiance, his eyes like a hawk's.
"He introduced me to the Weasleys, Mother, and made them swallow it!"
"He lets me drag him to museums and other places I know he isn't really interested in, but he comes along because he likes to watch my face."
"He defends me in public."
"Why did you decide to start dating?" Narcissa asked once, when Draco was devouring his breakfast and she realized she hadn't heard that story yet.
To her surprise, Draco's face slowly turned red, and he shook his head. "I'll tell you someday," he said evasively.
Narcissa was more than happy to let it go. What mattered to her was that her son seemed well on his way to finding the beauty the Seer had promised.
She knew the day Draco broke up with Potter, even before he came to tell her.
He not only slammed the door loud enough to shake the house, he blasted it off its hinges. Narcissa hurried in from the gardens—she had finally managed not only to tame the Century Rose but to plant several other magical species that would protect the others and strengthen the soil—and found Draco kicking the wall over and over again, his face set and blank in a way she'd never seen it, and which frightened her.
She cast a spell that would cushion the wall. Draco noticed only after his foot had already made a few dull thunking sounds on the invisible shield. At once he whirled around and stared at her, tears streaming down his face.
But the blankness remained, and he made no sound.
"What happened?" Narcissa asked quietly.
"I asked him to do a favor for me!" Draco's fingers were ripping into his own skin now, and that frightened her still more. Draco had a tendency to hurt other people and things when he was upset, but never himself. "A simple, stupid favor! And he won't do it!" The walls shook now with the force of his anguish, which was manifesting itself as wandless magic. "I wanted—I wanted him to, and he—he won't—he chose his friends over me—"
And then Draco was gone, running up the stairs as if that were the way to escape a broken heart.
Narcissa's mind filled with plans as she stood there. She could contact Potter and ask for his side of the story; having someone who would calmly listen to him might be enough to bring him back to Draco's side. She could remind Potter of the life-debt he owed her. She—
And then she stopped, and slowly made herself take a step away from the abyss that had opened up in front of her, which would have been the ruin of her plans for the last year or so.
He has to fend for himself. I can't interfere. He's an adult now, and what right do I have to try to guide his heart or Potter's?
Besides, the Seer had said he would find beauty.
But a new thought came to Narcissa as she went to wash the dirt from her hands.
She never said for how long he would have it.
"And how is Draco?"
Lucius's voice croaked and limped. Narcissa shifted a bit closer to the bars. She was sitting on the stone floor outside Lucius's cell, and she didn't care how much dirt and slime that got on her robes. Robes could be cleaned.
Nothing could replace the touch of her husband's hand reaching through the bars and closing on hers.
"Not so well," Narcissa said quietly. "He finds it extremely hard to accept Potter's loss."
Lucius chuckled painfully and then tilted his head back so that it rested against the wall, closing his eyes. Dark circles traveled around them like the beginnings of spiderwebs. Narcissa stroked his hand, but said nothing.
"He has always found it hard to deal with Potter," Lucius whispered. "I did hope that he might have grown up by this time."
"He still won't tell me why it ended," Narcissa said. "But I suspect that either it was entirely his fault or at least partially his. Either would haunt him like this. If it was only Potter being a bastard, then I think Draco could forget."
Lucius opened his eyes. He was smiling now, as if her words had given him a spark of strength. "You have been wiser about him lately, my dear. I find it comforting, to know that our son has at least one protector now that I'm here."
Narcissa leaned in. The touch of his lips through the bars felt cold and soft as fallen leaves, but she didn't care.
"Erm. Mrs. Malfoy?"
Narcissa turned slowly, because she had not heard this stranger come up behind her and wanted to preserve her dignity. Lucius's hand had tightened on hers, which made her think it was an enemy.
Instead, Potter stood there blinking at her, one hand scratching at the corner of his jaw, as if he didn't know what was going on, but didn't like it anyway.
"I didn't realize you had a cell like this, Mr. Malfoy," he said. The hostility in his voice when he spoke to Lucius was barely suppressed.
"I do." Lucius said nothing else. His neck was stiff with dignity, too, now. Narcissa felt comforted. No matter how their circumstances might change, their characters wouldn't, she thought.
And then she wondered, because she had been trying to change herself, to live, and she had wanted Draco to change, too.
She didn't get the chance to pursue the thought, because Potter said warily, "But that's not—that's not right. You did less during the war than some other Death Eaters because Voldemort broke your wand."
Lucius sighed. His anger was still there, but buried beneath the surface of his voice now, Narcissa thought, as if he had decided not to waste it on Potter. "I also broke into the Ministry before the war properly started, and escaped from Azkaban later. They counted that when they sentenced me." He coughed, and his voice sank, but Potter heard the words, from the way his spine went stiff. "Besides, when have you known the Wizengamot to do what is right, Potter?"
The young man turned and strode away from them. Narcissa clucked her tongue. "That wasn't very intelligent," she told her husband. "He might have helped you."
"I don't want his help," Lucius said angrily.
His stubbornness could stand to change. But Narcissa also didn't see much reason to think it would help matters if it changed, and maybe it was helping him to resist the damp and cold and general despairing boredom of the prison, which the Dementors were gone from but in which they still gave the prisoners nothing to do.
She held his hand a little tighter.
"How is Theodore?" Narcissa asked as Draco marched through the entrance hall of the Manor, passing the room where she sat winding up her fishing line.
"We broke up." Draco didn't stop marching. His mouth was fixed in a pout.
Narcissa blew her breath out in a silent sigh and bent over the fishing line again. It shone silvery as it coiled around the spool, and she smiled. When she had first begun playing with this, she had been certain that she would never understand it or manage it, but she had.
She rose and carried the rod and the basket of food the house-elves had packed for her—which would be used to store fish if all went well—towards the front door. Overhead, something broke with a lightning-like crash. Narcissa sighed again.
He really wants Potter, but he won't go back to him, or Potter won't come back to him.
Narcissa didn't know which it was, and she knew it wasn't her place to interfere. There had been more than enough of that during the war. And then she had looked at her son that day in the Great Hall after the battle was over and realized that he had no idea how to survive on his own.
Sometimes, she was not sure her new decisions were any better than the old ones.
He will find beauty.
But which kind? Narcissa thought, as she vanished, Apparating to a small river she had discovered some time ago. And can I stand to see him broken in the process of discovering it?
She tossed her dripping hair out of her face. It flopped back. Narcissa cursed tiredly. She could cast a Drying Charm, of course, but she had never been good with that kind of simple household magic—not when there were always house-elves about with warm fluffy towels, either at home or at Hogwarts—and she would prefer being completely dry some time later to damp and uncomfortable now.
Her hands were cut from the line, and smelled like fish. Her robes were soiled and stained with river-water and river-weed. She was already sneezing, and might come down with a cold. There was one silvery fish—she didn't even know what kind it was, though it shone with flecks of gold and rose, too—lying in the basket instead of the hoped-for four or five. She had been pulled into the river twice.
But for all that, she was content, and not only because she knew she could go home to her bed and house and didn't have to make her living doing this. She had done something new. She knew what it was like to fish. Maybe she wouldn't continue it, but it was different from anything she had done in her life so far, and that was the point.
She came into the house, and paused. There was only one sound, which was not what she would have expected after one of Draco's temper tantrums. Either things would still be breaking, or the house-elves would be squeaking in dismay as they cleaned up the things he had smashed.
Instead, the faint, thready, helpless noise came from the small dining room where she and Draco liked to eat breakfast. Narcissa thrust her head round the corner.
Draco sat at the table, crying as if he were twelve years old again and someone had punched him for the first time. A crumpled paper lay on the table in front of him. Narcissa stepped up and looked at it over his shoulder, brushing Draco's hair back with one comforting hand.
The paper contained orders for the confinement of Lucius Malfoy in a private prison—some of those who had lost their wealth or changed sides late in the war had offered to prove their new allegiances by donating their houses for this purpose—and for his treatment by a Healer. Better food was recommended. He would have books, though none that contained spells.
Whoever had written the paper had run out of patience near the end and added, in a sneering fashion, that this had only happened because "Harry Potter wanted it to."
Narcissa closed her eyes for a minute. Potter had not got Lucius out of prison, but, considering his convictions, it was unlikely that he would. But he had done this.
He had done this.
Draco spun around just then, threw his arms around Narcissa's waist, and cried out, "If he did this for Father, why couldn't he do a favor for me?"
Narcissa clasped his shoulders in her arms and bent down to kiss his forehead. "What favor did you ask him?"
"I wanted him to recommend me for Auror training," Draco whispered.
Narcissa blinked. So the argument between them hadn't been Draco's fault after all. "That doesn't sound hard for him to achieve."
"He told me," Draco said, his voice muffled against her robes, "that he couldn't recommend me because he knew I hadn't sat my NEWTS, and that would mean I was getting in under false qualifications. He knew they would take me if he made the recommendation. But he wouldn't." Bitterness besieged his voice.
It was true Draco hadn't sat his NEWTS, Narcissa thought. He had insisted that he didn't want to go back to Hogwarts, he couldn't, not after the trials. The shame would eat him alive. Narcissa had suggested working with a private tutor, but Draco had also insisted that no one would be able to look past their name and teach him fairly.
"Potter didn't sit his NEWTS, either, did he?" Narcissa asked. "And they accepted him for the training program."
"He did sit them," Draco said. "But that doesn't matter. If he loved me, he would have recommended me. I told him so, and that he didn't really love me if he didn't."
"Oh, Draco." Narcissa caressed the back of his neck. "I don't think he'll break the rules that way even for someone he loves."
"But he broke the rules for Father!" Draco pointed a shaking finger at the paper on the table.
"I think he sees that as correcting an injustice," Narcissa said. "Other prisoners who did worse than Lucius were being treated better. But if he thinks that you wouldn't be a good Auror without your NEWTS, and other lives might depend on yours, then I don't think anything could persuade him to—"
Draco broke away from her, stared up at her with red-rimmed eyes, said, "I thought someone would be on my side," and ran out of the room.
Narcissa sat down then, to read the paper for herself and properly absorb the miracle.
"Is Draco—I mean, Malfoy, here?"
Narcissa had not risen to her feet when the house-elves brought her word that there was a visitor at the door; their manner reassured her it was someone she knew, and therefore she might as well wait in one of her visiting rooms with a book and in comfort. But she stood now and came forwards with her hands extended to welcome Harry Potter, who blushed when he saw her and used one foot to scratch the back of the other leg.
"I wanted to thank you for what you did for my husband," Narcissa said. "He's recovering now from an infection that might have got worse in Azkaban until it killed him."
Potter's eyes flashed as he looked up. "It wasn't right, what they were doing to him," he said. "I only did what was right."
Narcissa laughed softly. "I am not inclined to disagree. Now, why did you want to see Draco?"
Potter coughed. "I—I found a NEWTS tutor I think would teach him fairly," he said. "Some of his family members also supported Volodemort, and he was accused even though he didn't do anything. He got free, but he's had trouble finding a job, and he knows all about what it's like to face unfair treatment just because of what your name is."
"What is his name?" Narcissa asked. She was touched by Potter's offer, but he wouldn't know any of the families who had had sometimes antagonistic relationships with the Malfoys down the years, and who shouldn't be trusted.
Narcissa thought about it, and nodded slowly. The Fairchilds had supported Voldemort during the first war, but not as much during the second, and they had been on mostly good or neutral terms with the Malfoy and Black families through the last century. One of their sons ought to do.
"Thank you," she said. "Now, Harry, can I ask you a question?"
Potter looked surprised, then suspicious. "I already told you why I tried to move your husband," he said.
"No," Narcissa murmured, "I know that. But why are you trying to help Draco? He told me the circumstances under which you broke up. I could not blame you if you never wanted to have anything to do with him, after that."
Potter stared at the ground, or maybe his hands. "I couldn't help refusing him," he said. "He hasn't had the training, and I don't think he really wants to be an Auror to help people. He only wanted to be one to be with me."
Narcissa kept quiet, but she did wonder how Potter could have missed the compliment in Draco's desire, if he really did feel that way.
"And he still spouts his blood prejudices everywhere," Potter went on lowly, "even to Hermione's face." Narcissa sought for a moment for a person to connect with that name, and then remembered Potter's friend, Hermione Granger, who, like him, had become a war hero. "There are a lot of half-bloods and Muggle-borns in the Aurors. He won't get on."
"Thank you," said Narcissa. "But that does not tell me why you wanted a tutor for him."
"Because if he earns it," Potter said, looking at her, "that's a different thing." He hesitated, then added softly, "The first time I saw him after the war, he was completely out of place, at a party he hadn't been invited to and where everyone was snubbing him, but he was still trying to brave it out. He earned some of my regard then. I started talking to him, and the more I saw of him, the more I learned to admire. I'd give up a lot of things for him. Just—not everything."
And then he left.
Narcissa went thoughtfully upstairs to inform Draco, wondering as she went whether it was possible that Draco might not find beauty more than once.
Draco had a haughty edge to his voice that made Narcissa wary at once. He wasn't feeling something sincerely when he spoke like that.
Or, at least, if he is, it's usually only something that will cause him pain in the end.
"Yes, Draco?" she asked, looking up from her book.
Her son leaned against the doorway of the library, his arms folded, his head tilted at an angle she knew he must have studied. He looked like a number of wizarding statues raised after the war to the fallen heroes, in fact. But he wore a sneer instead of the customary gentle smile. Narcissa supposed it wasn't much more condescending, but she still didn't like it.
"I wanted you to know," said Draco, "that Edmund Fairchild and I are dating." He paused.
Narcissa blinked. Then she said, "Will that affect your studies?"
"No," Draco said, too quickly. Then he paused again, staring at her expectantly. Narcissa looked back with blankness that she didn't have to feign. She really wasn't sure what Draco wanted from her.
"I want you to inform Potter," he said.
Narcissa could hear the motives behind that gesture as if he had spoken them aloud for her. Draco had never been as good at concealing his emotions as he liked to think, and they were there, in the deliberately poised beauty, in the mirror-like eyes, in the slightly flushed cheeks.
I want to hurt Potter. I want to fling his generous gesture back in his face, and show him that, even if I accepted his help, I don't need it.
And I want you to help me.
Of them all, it was the last that Narcissa objected to. The others were his decisions to make, even if she thought them stupid. But this was hers.
"No," she said, and turned back to her reading.
"I won't tell him," Narcissa said, not looking up. "You can tell him, or you can flaunt Fairchild in front of him. But I won't be party to your reckless childishness, Draco."
"And I thought someone loved me," Draco said bitterly.
Narcissa didn't react. The words that had devastated Potter were ones Draco had spoken to her before, whether she was refusing him a sweet, a new broom, or her help on something like this.
He stomped out of the room, and she was drawn again into Muggle French history, which was amusing in some respects, accurate in others, and totally and completely blind to wizarding involvement in such events as the Reign of Terror and the diminishment of the French Empire.
Narcissa had taken to walking in the rose garden at night. It was a sanctuary by moonlight, at least since she lashed the Century Rose's vines to the ground with the help of house-elves once a week. Even planting couldn't tame the flower completely, it seemed.
She came around one corner between high stone walls, which were meant to give a sense of privacy you couldn't get on the paths, and stopped when she saw Draco pacing before a fountain. His steps were rapid, his movements jerky; every few moments he spun around again and paced back. His face was tight-drawn and pale even in the moonlight.
Narcissa withdrew around the corner again. She meant to leave Draco by himself, but he began to speak aloud, and if she would do nothing to influence him, she might at least listen, so that she knew why and how he was miserable.
"How can I make him understand?" Draco whispered. "I want to be with him, but I can't stand the way he treats me like I'm just anyone else. I want to be special to him. I want to be unique. I want him to do things for me that he wouldn't do for anyone else."
Narcissa bit her tongue. She was tempted to tell Draco that perhaps Potter was the kind to make special romantic gestures instead of showing his love by helping Draco cheat; she thought the offer of a tutor was kind, at least. But this was Draco's life. She leaned a shoulder on the wall and stood there, listening unabashedly.
"I want him to treat me like he loves me," Draco told the fountain, his voice almost lost under the splashing of the waters. "Is that so hard? But it seems to be." His voice was growing flat. "Maybe I should have let him know about Fairchild, after all. But it only lasted a week…"
His voice trailed off. Narcissa found herself inexplicably relieved that Draco hadn't used Potter's kindness to wound him, and then told herself that she had no right to feel relieved. It was Draco's choice to make.
"I'll tell him about this," Draco told the darkness and the roses. "He has to know how much he hurt me." And then he whirled and strode towards the house as if he thought it would run away from him.
Narcissa paused for long minutes, contemplatively. Then she resigned herself to knowing about Draco's plan only when it failed. It was only luck that she had been about to hear him confirm he was going to do it.
In the meantime, she resumed her interrupted walk and calmed her mind with the fact that the water and the roses, the darkness and the moon, would remain themselves, no matter what her son did.
"I couldn't just make you an Auror! But I gave you a chance to take your NEWTS! I think that's bloody enough to prove that I love you!"
Narcissa blinked and sat up. She had been trying to take a nap, but instead, arguing voices had appeared underneath her window.
"You would have done that for anyone," Draco said, snarling and proud and angry and hurt. "Anyone. What proves that you love me? What proves I'm anything more to you than your little friends?"
"Because you're not more important and more valuable than them, the way you pretended to be by the way you insulted Ron and Hermione!" Potter was bellowing now. "You're important, but in a different way. But you can't be more, Draco." His voice sank pleadingly. "I won't abandon you for them, but I can't abandon them for you, either."
"They wanted you to!"
"That's not the point. I didn't." Potter's voice began to rise again. Narcissa imagined him standing with arms crossed. "I 'abandoned' you because you told me that violating my principles—"
"Fuck your principles. What about my future?"
"If you really loved me," Potter said, and now his voice was sharp with the deadly dart, "you wouldn't have asked me to do that. You would have known the time I spent with you and the gifts I gave you and the jokes I made with you and the way I made love to you were the proof. But you don't love me, and never did—"
"See?" Potter's voice was sullen with triumph. "You want something from me you're never going to get. You've built your ideal lover in your head, and he treasures you above anyone else and never stops putting you first, even when it breaks the rules, even when it would mean abandoning his friends, even when it's wrong. I can't compete with him, Draco."
"I never wanted you to! I want you!" Someone would have to know Draco, Narcissa thought, to hear what depths of pain his anger concealed.
"You have a bloody stupid way of showing it, then." Narcissa heard the sound of footsteps cracking on crushed stone. Potter was walking away, she knew.
Her hand clenched around her wand, and she breathed quick and fast. It would be a simple matter to bring up the manor's Anti-Apparition wards around the garden, or cast a spell that would twine the soil and stone around Potter's foot, long enough to hold him still; after a summer of working with it, Narcissa knew the garden very well.
But should I interfere?
She struggled fiercely with the past and future in her head, between the ideal she had tried to build of herself as a loving mother, who knew when to let her son go and when he had to act on his own, and the mother she had been, who would do anything to protect Draco's happiness.
The balance quivered and tipped in her. Narcissa swallowed. She reached out with her wand again, wondering what in the world she meant to do with it, if she would lower or raise it.
And then Draco's footsteps were pounding the stone, and the moment was past, and Narcissa lowered her wand and put her head in her hands. Her faith had been justified. Draco had made the choice himself, and now he understood, to judge from the flood of his next words.
At least, partially.
"I'm sorry," Draco was choking. "I just—I never took enough notice of what you did for me because I was always wanting more, and I wanted you to turn against your friends and your stupid rules, and that's not going to happen now, I know, but I would rather have something of you than nothing at all."
"Oh, Draco," Potter said, his voice tender. Narcissa couldn't stand the suspense any longer; she had to look out the window and see Potter's face. He was cupping Draco's chin in his hands, staring at him with a devouring look of love. Narcissa almost wished she hadn't looked out at all, because the moment was incredibly private. "Everything I can give is yours. Just because I won't abandon my friends or do something horrible for you doesn't mean I love you less. Would you turn against your family for me?"
"Of course not!" Draco sounded scandalized.
And then, a moment later, he laughed in understanding, and Potter laughed, too, and bent to kiss him.
This, Narcissa was sure, was the part where she could gracefully draw back inside the window and cast certain privacy spells on the garden.
And where she could close her eyes and stand there with cooling hands on her flushed cheeks, her heart beating in rapid delight.
Narcissa lifted her lips to receive Lucius's kiss. His lips were no longer clammy, but reminded her of, well, lips. She slid into his arms and embraced him firmly, her eyes shutting as her head rested on his shoulder.
"How are Potter and Draco, then?" Lucius asked, in what had become his usual question, as he led her to sit on the bed. He had a set of three rooms at the top of this particular prison house, painted a dull blue Narcissa would not have chosen, but which Lucius claimed to have selected. One enchanted window looked out on an imaginary forest scene. His bedroom and his sitting room both contained shelves stuffed with books, and Narcissa wasn't entirely certain that he didn't read books in the loo, too.
"Well," Narcissa said. "Draco has passed the initial exams to become an Auror, and Potter is there beside him." She considered for a moment, then added, "And Draco seems steadier, too. Less prone to do childish things for childishness's sake."
Lucius sighed. "That's reassuring. I must confess, there were times I wasn't sure he would ever grow up."
"It took him a shorter time than it took you," Narcissa murmured, remembering some of the exploits a young adult Lucius had got up to.
Lucius looked at her measuringly instead of taking offense, and then smiled. "Do you remember that time I stole Nott's Abraxan to visit you?" he whispered. "That was a magnificent horse. I appeared outside your window and waited until you had the courage to climb out to me."
"Courage was never wanting, on either of our parts," Narcissa reminded him. "Restraint sometimes was."
"I am tired of exercising that." Lucius's arms closed more firmly around her waist. "Will you do me the pleasure of flinging yours to the winds, my lady?"
Narcissa lifted her lips to his in answer, and this time what caused her heart to beat rapidly was pleasure as Lucius bent her back towards the middle of the bed.
Draco is not the only one to have found his beauty.