Disclaimer: Not mine. Jo's. Love you, Jo.
Author's Note: Hi, folks. Apologies to the people who were hoping for a chapter of "HP and the Forty-Eleventh Fifth-Year Fic." I am working on it, but Narcissa Malfoy (the character, not the brilliant author on the Sugar Quill) invaded my head, and I had to write this to get her out. This will probably just be a one-shot. (There are some latent plot-bunnies for later chapters, but I'm trying to ignore them.) Hope you enjoy.
More Than a Malfoy
My son is a fool. I have known this for some time now, but I have seen little that I can do to remedy the situation. Today, that changes. Today, I will become the parent who calls the tune to which he dances. I will become the one who plays on his ill-controlled emotions and uses them to shape him into the man she wants to see. And the young puppet will become a better man, now that I am pulling his strings.
I am waiting for him in the study, previously the sole domain of the man that I must still call my husband. It is a tiresomely masculine room, all dark wood and drab colors, with one of those out-of-proportion desks meant to make the person on the other side feel small. I hate this room, but it will do Draco good to feel small. And even he, who misses so much, will be unable to miss the symbolism when he sees me seated in his father's chair.
I told the house-elf to send him as soon as he takes care of those hideous hex marks. These are even worse than last year's, and I shake my head at how little he learns. I had to board the train to fetch him again. Last year, I patted him and consoled him and helped him reverse the effects; this year, I refused to touch him when he had allowed himself to end up in such a condition. Instead, I simply brought him to consciousness and gave him a few moments to realize the state he was in. I did not speak to him as he struggled to extricate himself from the luggage rack into which he and his two minions had been stowed like so much baggage. When his attempts proved unsuccessful, I simply sighed and transfigured him. (Into a silver chess piece. A pawn. Again, even he could not miss the symbolism.) Then I Summoned him, put him into my pocket, and Apparated home. When we arrived, I removed him from my pocket, put him in the washroom, and returned him to his abysmal state. "Repair yourself," I said, and I closed the washroom door before he could reply.
That was nearly forty minutes ago. If I have to go and help him reverse the effects of those spells, I will be most displeased.
Finally, he arrives. He looks much better, but his hands are still oozing a bit. That hex is, I recall from my school days, quite difficult to reverse, particularly if it happens to be mixed with others. It was one of my sister's favorites.
"Hold out your hands," I say, by way of greeting. He does, and I finish reversing the spell. His hands stop oozing, and his fingers lose their slightly swollen appearance, which was so faint that I did not notice it until it was gone. He drops his hands to his sides and makes to sit in the visitor's chair.
"Do not sit," I tell him. Draco does not possess sufficient control of his emotions to keep his surprise from registering on his face. And well might he be surprised; making him stand is Lucius's trick, not mine. I have always coddled him. No more. As of this day, I must be both mother and father to him; if that requires adopting some of my still-husband's tactics, so be it.
Would you be proud of me, Lucius, if you could see that I can unbalance him, too? Or would you simply be disappointed in how easy he is to unbalance? You always did underestimate me, didn't you?
I don't speak; I simply look at him for a long moment. Another of Lucius's tricks. He bears the scrutiny without squirming too visibly, and my hopes for him rise slightly. (They are still in the sub-basement, but they are no longer lying prone on the floor.) Finally, I say, in my most neutral tone, "You dealt ... adequately ... with your hex marks." Praise so faint that it is almost an insult; Lucius would be proud of that.
Immediately, Draco begins to rave about Potter. I cut him off in mid-sentence. "I don't recall asking a question, Draco." He immediately falls silent—a fool, but at least a well-trained fool, in some respects—but his hands are shaking. "Since you mention Harry Potter, though, tell me this: Did he outwit you or overpower you?"
That was one of my father's favorite questions when I or one of my sisters tried to carry tales about another. "Father, Bella took my wand!" "Did she outwit you or overpower you?" "Father, Cissa stole my diary!" "Did she outwit you or overpower you?" If we eventually learned to settle our differences amongst ourselves, we learned it largely so that we would not have to face that horrible, mocking question. None of us could ever find a satisfactory answer.
And Draco cannot find one now. He stares at me. I can see that his shock and his fury are battling to find expression, but the battle is so fierce that he cannot manage to express anything at all. Finally, he says, "Potter—"
I cut him off again. "... is none of your concern, and is completely beside the point of this conversation. Do not mention him again."
"Yes, Mother." Good boy.
"Do you know what is the point of this conversation?" I ask him.
"No, Mother." When I do not reply after a few moments, he adds, "But I'm very interested to find out."
At this point, Lucius would reprimand him for impudence, but I am gratified to see a for-once-not-inappropriate display of spirit. I am so pleased with him that I almost tell him to sit. Almost. I must leave him standing, though, for I wish to see if he will prove able not to stagger when he hears what I have called him here to tell him.
"Your father is in Azkaban," I say. I see Draco's lips begin to form the "P" in "Potter." I raise one eyebrow, and he is silent, proving that he is not completely incapable of following directions. Excellent. "I had the solicitor here today. My solicitor." I pause to see if he can put things together for himself. He can't, so I continue. "Your father has brought shame to this family, and I will not have it." I pause again, but he is still in the dark. I enlighten him. "I have begun divorce proceedings."
As I suspected, he staggers. But he does not fall into the chair behind him; he remains standing. He opens and closes his mouth a few times—quite fish-like, and really most unattractive—and finally manages to ask, with suitable shock and anguish, "Why?"
"Do you know my family motto, Draco?" I half-expect him to quote the Malfoy motto, but he does not, and I am again pleased with him.
"Of course," he says. "'Toujours pur.' Always pure. But what does that have to do with why you're leaving Father? Purity's what he was fighting for!"
I scoff audibly. "Did you think purity only has to do with blood, stupid boy?" He looks confused and hurt. Of course that's what he thought. He has never been taught to think anything else. Lucius asked me to leave Draco's education to him. Since I did, it is, in part, my fault that Draco is so ignorant. I know that it is my fault, and I acknowledge it freely. Draco did not inherit his self-justifying attitude and blindness to his own faults from me.
"I'm sorry," I say. "I should not call you stupid. You are not stupid, merely young and ignorant." Unlike stupidity, youth and ignorance are curable; youth is always temporary, and ignorance sometimes is. "It isn't just blood that's to be kept pure. Reputation, honor, the good name of one's family ... those are to be kept pure as well. With his infamous behavior, your father has sullied our reputation. He has not lived up to his name. And, if I stayed with him after he has sullied his own reputation, the stain would carry over to my family's honor as well. I must leave him; a Black cannot remain tied to one who does what your father has done."
"But why now?" Draco asks. "He didn't do anything different from what he's been doing for years."
"Yes, he did. He got caught."
Again, my son looks baffled. "But Aunt Bellatrix was caught, and you didn't cut her off."
"It is different."
"What difference does it make whether it's your husband or your sister who's Dark?" He is angry, and he does not understand.
"'Dark'?" I repeat quizzically. "Blacks have engaged in Dark activity for years. I am not leaving your father because he was caught being Dark."
"Then why?" he asks.
"You really don't understand, do you?" He shakes his head, and his silver-blonde hair—my hair, the hair that marks him as a Black, as mine—glints in the firelight. "He was caught serving. He made himself a servant. He bowed his back to another man's will. He crawled on the ground like some lowly thing to kiss the hem of another man's robe. He did all of this, and he didn't even have the sense to keep it discreet. He got caught, and now everyone knows that my husband called another man 'master.' It is not to be borne."
I stare into his eyes (and silently curse them, for even if his hair marks him as mine, his eyes mark him as Lucius's) and say firmly, "Hear this, Draco, and hear it well: You may be a Malfoy, but you are also a Black, and Blacks bow to no one. Do you understand?"
He looks at me for a long moment, then unconsciously stands a bit straighter. "Yes, Mother," he says, with a firmness that is all too rare for him. "I understand."
For once, I think perhaps he does, and for this understanding, I reward him. "Sit down, Draco," I say. He sinks gratefully into the chair, but his back remains straight, and there is a proud light in his eyes, making them look less like his father's. "Can you see why it is different for Bellatrix?" I ask.
He bites his lip thoughtfully. The gesture reminds me of my former sister, and for a moment I could almost forgive her blood-treachery because my son's resemblance to her is further proof that he is a Black and therefore as much mine as Lucius's. Finally, he says, "She didn't have the reputation that he does." I nod, and he elaborates, "He is supposed to be powerful. In charge of things. A leader. And Aunt Bellatrix ... well, she was younger when she was caught, and she wasn't head of a family. Or of a fortune. It was acceptable for her to serve, so long as she was choosing to serve someone better and stronger. But for Father ... well, there wasn't supposed to be anyone better and stronger. And if someone turned out to be better and stronger, then Father should have improved himself. He should have become as strong and powerful as this other person. He should have made himself into an equal. If he couldn't make himself an equal, he should have stayed away instead of being content to be a servant. It's ... inappropriate." He has been thinking out loud, and, when he realizes what he has said, I can see that it shocks him. He has never been allowed to question Lucius—or never felt himself to be allowed.
"Very good," I tell him. "You are beginning to understand." I pause to arrange my thoughts, for there is much that I must discuss with my son. (My son, Lucius. I will see to it that he is no longer merely yours.) After a moment, I ask him, "Do you know why you were not sent to Durmstrang?"
A year ago—and even perhaps ten minutes ago—he would still have believed Lucius's explanation so unhesitatingly that he would have parroted it to me without a second thought. "Mother cannot stand to have her little boy so far away. Mother is weak. She is not strong like Father. That is why you must always listen to Father." But he is learning, and he does not mouth Lucius's lines. Instead, he thinks for a moment and then replies, "No, Mother. I do not know."
I know that Draco would face a Nundu before admitting to Lucius that he does not know something. "Ignorance is weakness, Draco, and weakness is shameful. Never admit that you do not know, for that is admitting that you are weak." What would you know of weakness, Lucius, you who spent your adult life bound in service to another? "It is wise, Draco, to admit when you do not know a thing. If you do not own up to your ignorances, you will never be able to cure them." His eyes widen a bit, making them look even less like Lucius's, for Lucius would never allow himself to show even that small sign of surprise.
"I would not allow you to be sent to Durmstrang because at Durmstrang—at least at Durmstrang as it was when that fool Igor Karkaroff was in charge—there are only two ways, and neither is an acceptable one. At Durmstrang, a student can either be a servant or an outsider. I would not have my son be either. At Hogwarts, there are other ways. When the time came to decide where to send you to school, Hogwarts was the only choice. It was the only place where I could see a suitable path for you.
"But you haven't chosen a suitable path. Thus far, you have chosen very badly." He makes an indignant sound, an angry sound, and I wave it away. "Don't worry, Draco, I don't blame you for choosing badly; it certainly isn't your fault that no one ever equipped you with the means to make a decent choice. There are adults who should have guided you better. Your father, of course, and myself. And Severus." I pause to consider my son's head of house for a moment, and then I muse aloud, "I am actually quite disappointed in Severus ... though I suppose it was ... overly optimistic of me to think he might put his skin on the line for anyone if there weren't something in it for him."
"What did you want him to do?" Draco asks.
"Show you a better path than your father's. Show you that one can be a Slytherin, and strong, and not be a Death Eater."
"But he's a Death Eater. Why wouldn't he want me...." He trails off, confused again—or perhaps still.
I sigh in frustration at my son's naivete. "Oh, do be your age, Draco. Everyone knows Severus turned spy for Dumbledore well before the end of the last war. Why your father believed Severus's ludicrous triple agent story, I can't imagine. No one else did." Actually, I can imagine: Accepting that Severus had turned spy would have meant admitting that you, Lucius, had been wrong. And you never could do that, could you?
Draco has gone rigid in his chair. He is reeling, and his mind refuses to process what I have just told him. "But ... Father said ... and Professor Snape has always treated me so...."
"Did you think, because he coddled you, that he liked you? Severus never does anything because he likes someone, Draco. If he's nice to you, it means he wants something from you.
"I sent you to Hogwarts certain that you'd be in his house and hoping that he would live up to his name. That he would be severe with you ... improve your deficiencies and curb your excesses. Instead, he has ignored your deficiencies and fed your excesses. He has done his best to turn you into the spoiled, blind, cosseted bully that he wishes he could have been at your age. I suppose he has decided that, if he must send the Dark Lord servants from his house, at least he won't send Him competent ones."
Draco is silent for several moments. At last, he says quietly, "Is that what you think of me? That I'm coddled and spoiled? And a bully? And incompetent?"
"I think that you have behaved exactly as I describe," I say. He looks like a man lost at sea who has just had his life-raft pulled from beneath him, and I continue with words meant as both a comfort and a challenge. "But I also think you can be better than you have been. You are a Black, after all, as much as you are a Malfoy."
He nods slowly, thoughtfully. Finally, he says, "What do you want me to do?"
"Many things," I tell him. "But for now I want you to go and make sure that the house elves have packed your things to your satisfaction. We are leaving tomorrow, and I do not plan to come back."
"Where will we go?" he asks.
"Summerskye House," I reply. The very name conjures up images of my family's light-filled, airy vacation home, left to me when Mother passed away. It is so different from the Malfoy family manor house where I have spent more years than I care to consider. Though spacious, Malfoy Manor is oppressive; the old stone walls seem to press in on one here. In Summerskye House, one can breathe.
Draco has never been to Summerskye. It will not be a homecoming for him as it is for me; it will be something new. Something different. And he will be different.
I study him for a moment, taking in the angles of his face. He looks a great deal too much like his father. That too-pointy chin, the petulance around the mouth, the arrogant tilt of the nose—with those features, it will be hard for him to remember that he is not merely a Malfoy. But these things cannot be helped. Other things, however, can.
"You may go now," I tell him. "We will talk more once we are settled into our new home."
There is one advantage to his resemblance to Lucius: It makes it easy for me to read him, even when the feelings on his pale, rather pinched face are not ones that Lucius would allow himself to show. Draco is apprehensive and uncertain; in the space of the mere few hours since we left King's Cross, his world and his loyalties have shifted irrevocably. His life is changing, and he is not yet certain whether he approves of the changes. But Lucius's training has not all been to the bad, and he accepts my dismissal with an obedient, "Yes, Mother." Then he goes. In a few minutes, I follow, for now is no time to sit brooding in my still-husband's over-furnished domain.
There is much to be done.