"How can the past and future be, when the past no longer is, and the future is not yet?"
~ Augustine's Confessions.
Astoria passed the time-turner from one hand to the other, the chain sliding through her fingers. It was a terrible idea, of course. But every month when she felt blood begin to seep out she'd wept, first with frustration and then in rage. She'd made Draco go to a Muggle clinic to get checked and it was a sign of just how worried he was that he'd done it. Sterile, the doctor had said. The man had sat in a white coat across an oak desk and she'd stared at the gouge that marred the dull wood as he'd explained this wasn't a case of infertility. He didn't know what had happened to cause the problem, but Mr. Malfoy would never father a child. Never. They'd left with a Muggle pamphlet about adoption, carefully selected adorable moppets beaming out at them from still photographs, clutched in their fingers.
The time-turner felt cool; the inert metal seemed to almost taunt her. Astoria had befriended that horrible Hermione Weasley just to drill her about time-turners. She'd jumped back and forward spans of three and four hours to test the functionality of a device that, in theory, didn't exist anymore. It worked in ways Hermione didn't even know about. So rule abiding, Astoria thought with disdain, that the wretched woman had never tested the thing's capabilities.
She began to turn the circles. One flip after another. And another. And another. She counted with the mental discipline born of fury and want and when at last she was done she felt the world shimmer and twist and spin and she thought with a wild surge of hope that it had worked before she felt herself get faint and drop to her knees as the present was torn from her and she was strewn across time.
"We found her in a spare room," Abraxas Malfoy said. He twisted his hands in a motion Tom found more irritating than he cared to express, and went on about how they didn't know how the mystery girl had gotten into the Manor, she was just there. Quite unconscious, showed no signs of reviving. Did his Lord want him to just do away with the poor thing?
Tom rubbed at his face. They weren't subtle, his followers. They were power-hungry, and brutal, and occasionally even clever, but the best among them wasn't subtle. She's confusing, should I kill her was about the extent of their logic.
"Put her in my suite," Tom said. "Confiscate her wand, assuming she has one, and see if a Healer can revive her. I'd like to find out how she managed to appear in what's supposed to be a warded Manor."
He managed to imply that Abraxas had surely mucked up the warding and the man went paler than usual and Tom admired the almost translucent hair before he waved the man away and went back to his research. He'd question the girl after dinner.
Dinner turned to an argument about a specific spell, and that led to several hours spent kidnapping a test subject and determining whether the spell even worked, much less did what the ancient books claimed, and three dead Muggles later and all Tom had was a headache. It left him in a miserable mood, Death Eaters scattered away lest they attract his attention in this state, and he walked into his suite with a precision that was far more frightening than stomping or storming would have been.
He'd forgotten about the girl until he saw her. She'd managed to revive herself, or the Healer had been more competent than whichever scribe had written down what had been supposed to be a Dark Arts spell of impressive magnitude, and she'd settled onto a sofa, feet crossed under her, snarling book in her hands.
Tom stopped to admire her. She was a pretty little thing, and he'd bet that air of fragility was deceptive. The women who looked like a strong word would shatter them were, in his experience, the hardest to kill. She reached up to tuck an errant strand of pale hair behind one ear and the giant diamond on her finger caught the light. Married, then.
He tipped his head to see the title of what she'd picked to read to pass the time. Arts Moste Fowle. It wasn't really the most interesting Dark Arts book in the room, and the arts it described were more moderately foul, but it was not the choice he would have predicted. Curiouser and curiouser.
He cleared his throat and pointed his wand at her.
She looked up.
"Perhaps you'd care to explain who you are and why you have appeared here," Tom said.
The tone alone would have made most of his followers blanch and look for a hole to scuttle into. She marked her place in the book, set it aside, and smiled. "I would like you to have sex with me," she said.
He almost dropped the wand.
"I beg your pardon," he said.
"Well, more precisely, I would like you to impregnate me," she said. "However, as that generally involves sex, such will be necessary. I've been told I'm quite talented at - "
"Please stop," Tom said. He rubbed at his forehead and wondered if the spell they had been working on included hallucinations as a side effect for the caster. It wouldn't be the first time. "Where are you from?"
"Here," she said. She glanced around at the room, clearly cataloguing things. "That painting has been removed, though, and the bedding is new, of course."
Tom looked at the painting. Flowers sprang upright out of a vase with stiff misery, and a misshapen ball of yarn sat next to it. The lighting was bad, the technique worse, and he'd managed to stop seeing it long ago. "An improvement," he said. "I think Abraxas' mother painted that."
"These Malfoys and their pretensions," she said. She smiled at him which made one dimple appear. Her eyes twinkled as though she were inviting him to share in a private joke which might have been more effective if Tom didn't remember teaching himself to look just as engaging. It had taken hours of studying his expression in the mirror until he could produce charm on command.
"Indeed," he said. "I didn't catch your name. Or how you are from here."
"Astoria Malfoy," she said. "I am married to your Abraxas' grandson."
"Time travel." Tom said the words as flatly as he could, smothering the excitement that threatened to rise up into his throat until he couldn't breath. She was from the future. She knew things.
"You lose," she said, an answer to the question he hadn't even asked. "But I am willing to trade. Information for insemination."
"You're a powerful wizard," she said. "I'm married into a Dark family. I want a powerful child."
"And we all know the Malfoys can barely get it up," Tom said. The crudity made her mouth tighten and he realized that, whatever else her motivations were, she loved this husband of hers, this grandson of Abraxas'. He stripped off the jacket he'd been wearing and tossed it onto a chair and bent to untie his shoes. The implied yes made her sink into the sofa and, now that he'd decided, he looked at her and realized she was beautiful.
Well, he would hardly want a woman who wasn't. He wanted only the best, and anything he desired became, by definition, the best.
"Start talking," he ordered as he undid his trousers.
"How do you know it will take," he asked afterward. She'd never even pulled off her robes, just pushed off her shoes and kicked her knickers to the side. "I understand pregnancy doesn't happen every time." He tucked a strand of her hair away, and ran a thumb over her cheek. Her skin looked like porcelain, like she was a thing could be shattered unless everyone around her took care all the time. She didn't look like a woman who'd traveled back in time and told him everything he needed to know to fix it, to do it right, to win.
She laughed a little bitterly. "When infertility comes knocking, you learn all the tricks," she said. "I know every legal potion and quite a few that aren't. I took them all. Give me a viable sperm and I'll end up pregnant."
She lifted the chain around her neck and gazed at the time turner on it. "There's a limit," she said. "How long I stay in the past. I never tested it for so many years. I don't know when I'll get whisked home."
"Back to your own time," Tom said. He pressed his thumb into her mouth hard enough she wrenched her face to the side to be free of him. "I don't like the idea of another man raising my son."
"I doubt he'll be wholly thrilled with the idea of being cuckolded," she said. She smiled at him with enough warmth Tom could feel himself stirring again. Men did wild things for love. He'd read the books, he had made a point of intellectually understanding the motivations. It was necessary to know how people worked if you wanted to use them in the same way a good clock-maker understood the way the wheels and hands of their work moved and interacted. It was interesting to feel the forces that moved ordinary men push at him. It was interesting to want.
What he wanted looked slightly regretful as she added, "You are the past, however," and began to fade away.
"And you are the future," he said to the place where she had been. He glanced over at the knickers still hanging on a chair. "And time means nothing to an immortal."
Astoria coughed and gasped as the magic deposited her back in her room, back in her own time. The miserable painting of stiff flowers was gone, thanks be to Narcissa's impeccable taste. The landscape that had replaced it, however, was gone.
Well, Astoria supposed you couldn't go back into the past and expect to leave no marks on the present. As long as she had her baby, as long as she had Draco, she would not quibble about any other changes the butterflies spawned by her journey had wrought. She could feel it had taken. A hand over her abdomen and she knew. Oh, the Healers and Medi-witches would tell her it was too early to know but some ineffable shift told her it had worked.
She changed - it seemed rude to go to breakfast in the clothes you'd worn to fuck another man - and made her way down to the small, sun-lit dining room where the Malfoys usually gathered for coffee, tea and whatever melons or berries the kitchen sent up. As she walked through the halls she noted more little things that her journey had shifted. A vase sat on a pedestal where a dull bust of some ancient Malfoy had once stood. She stopped to look at it. The waves of dark magic that radiated off the thing surprised her. This was the sort of artifact you hid away, or sold to Borgin and Burkes in advance of a Ministry raid. Not quite illegal, but so close it would get confiscated as evidence if anyone in power came calling.
She wondered what it did.
It seemed unwise to touch it, so she moved on, past a painting of people writhing in what was probably the Muggle hell, and though the doorway into the breakfast room. This, at least, seemed the same. A lace cloth draped over the small table laden with melon slices and, she was pleased to see, oranges.
Narcissa was quietly pouring herself tea. Lucius, as usual, wasn't up this early. Draco sat with more confidence than she was used to seeing in a man she loved, but a man who had been defeated by a war and his own sterility. Instead of the usual slump to his shoulders his back was straight, his mien untroubled. He turned to welcome her and his eyes shone with an untroubled delight she'd never seen in them.
The third person at the table turned to smile at her and she stopped where she stood. "You didn't really think I'd let you go, did you?" Tom Riddle asked her with a far too gentle smile. "You didn't really think that, did you Astoria?"
~ finis ~
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A/N - Beta love to Lydia~, moonlightmasquerade, and disillusionist9. Thank you all for looking this over for me.