A/N: Love to reviewers, and many thanks to my new Beta, Visitkarte.
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Draco Malfoy was having an excellent day. Time had been kind to him; if he had never achieved Lucius' superior height, he was still a handsome man at nearly forty years of age. Supple, blonde and grey eyed, he exuded power and influence. His children proved his lavish virility and his wife his skill at managing others; she'd gone from being the mud blood leader of a lost rebellion to a model Pureblood wife while married to him, hadn't she?.
He strode along the echoey corridors of the Ministry, cape whipping behind him. From all sides sycophants bowed and whispered
His boots clacked on the fine floors and even the portraits were quiet. The only sounds came from the balcony which was his destination.
As he pushed aside the heavy door a wave of cheering met his ears. The sun was cold and watery. The Dark Lord stood at the front of the balcony, smiling paternally on his people. Beside him Lucius, older now but even handsomer, was chatting softly to Uncle Rudolphus.
At the Dark Lord's other hand a pensive Harry Potter watched things without comment. He wore a sober ash grey robe and cloak, with a sterling clasp. Very elegant, thought Draco detachedly, very austere. He himself preferred blacks and greens, which emphasized his fair coloring and unique eyes.
The ladies sat to one side. His mother was chatting with his wife, occasionally patting her arm for emphasis. On Hermione's other side his mother-in-law was giving him a look of undisguised hostility. She'd never forgiven him for failing to kill Dumbledore, and the fact he was the next Minister undoubtedly ate away at her. He flashed a charming smile and went to greet the Dark Lord.
The Dark Lord's glamour was in full use; his face was that of a fatherly older man, everyone's ideal uncle. He smiled brightly at the younger Malfoy. Potter said nothing. Draco sometimes wondered if the Dark Lord had broken his mind and put him back together this way, a silent figurehead.
" How goes the interrogation, Draco?"
"Well, my Lord. The prisoners have been reluctant to speak but I have every confidence they will break soon."
The Dark Lord nodded. "Excellent." He smiled and gestured to Potter, who in turn gestured to a house elf. The elf left for a moment and returned with a veritable herd of children. Draco's six and Potter's five intermingled which, he mused, was fitting, considering that most of his children were engaged to Potter's.
His son was escorting the oldest Potter girl, despite the fact they were engaged to siblings and not to one another. Aulus would marry Emilene Nott in August; her brother and Iris Potter would wed at the same time, a double wedding to be remembered.
His next oldest child was talking animatedly to her intended, Potter's heir Jamie. Segitta was a pretty girl, Draco's favorite, witty and perceptive if slightly too serious, no doubt Hermione's genes asserting themselves. That his favorite child would someday bear a child that had part of Potter in it galled him far less than it would have; Potter was the second in command of the whole country. Segitta, who missed nothing, would make a good first lady, given time.
Pyxis ran over and gave her father a big hug. She was a sweet girl that reminded him of his mother; not an intellect, but pretty and lighthearted enough to make up for it. If Jamie Potter was getting a wise and serious owl, Robert Potter had netted himself a butterfly.
The youngest made a bee-line for Hermione and their grandmothers. Narcissa reached out and pulled Antlia into her lap, while Delphinia climbed uninvited into Bellatrix's and little Ara, hardly out of nappies, toddled up to Lucius, clamouring to be picked up. One could almost hear the middle aged witches in the crowd below sighing with pleasure at the homey image; the Minister of Magic, platinum hair now a handsome silver, cuddling his curly headed grandchild.
Draco was surprised by how much his parents enjoyed their grandchildren. He remembered they never seemed that keen on him when he was young; he lost no sleep over it. They had more than prepared a future for him.
The Dark Lord called him over. Ara squealed for Daddy at once and put her arms out, laughing. Draco went and retrieved his youngest, marveling at how he and Granger, of all people, could have produced such a perfect little person. He buried his face in her neck. "There's my girl. Were you good for Mummy and Grandmother today?"
She nodded enthusiastically. " Uh-huh. Look, Mummy made it!" She showed him the wreath of daisies in her hair and he exclaimed over it. "How wonderful, darling. Go and see Grandmother now, like a good girl." He put her down but instead of going to Narcissa, she wrapped her sturdy little arms about the Dark Lord's leg and commanded "Up!"
There was a moment of frozen silence. No one touched the Supreme Wizard. No one. Hermione had gone a dreadful cheesy white and Draco's mother was on the verge of bursting into tears.
The Dark Lord laughed and picked the child up. She waved her little arms, giggling, and even dared kiss the Dark Lord's cheek in a spontaneous display of exuberance. The crowd rustled with approval. The Dark Lord looked at Rudolphus and he came forward at once to claim the renegade toddler. The little girl waved 'bye-bye' to her Daddy and her new friend, quite the celebrity of the hour.
Hermione's color was back. She took her daughter from her foster-father's arms and sagged with relief. Rudolphus gave her a comforting squeeze on the arm and took up his place again.
The audience ended and Draco took a moment with his family before he descended into the dungeons again. " I should be home in ample time for the fete, dearest. Are the children--"
"Going to Cardiff. Tibby and Lemmy are going to watch them." He nodded. His older children would be attending. The girls were visibly excited, Aulus less so.
'All right, darlings, Father is very busy. You look exquisite in yellow, by the way, my love." Hermione smiled tiredly and Draco could see the fatigue that wreathed her eyes and mouth. She'd be having bad dreams again, like she did every year. He made a mental note to ask Rudolphus if Hermione could stay with them for a few weeks. That always seemed to help.
Draco went again into the bowels of the Ministry. He had no need to attend the interrogations anymore, of course. Ordinarily he would have left it to his underlings but this was pleasure as well as business. The dungeons swallowed him.
The sounds coming from beyond the door would have chilled another man. Draco was used to them by now; as the sounds of machinery are unnoticed by factory workers after a while, so Draco was used to screams and pleas for mercy.
The prisoners were chained to the walls. Draco went to one and lifted the head. Eyes opening, the prisoner regarded Draco with lively hate. Draco smiled as lovingly as he had with his daughter not twenty minutes earlier.
" Hello, Weasley. It's good to see you again."
Ron Weasley smiled back. The once handsome face was aged almost beyond recognition, and most of the teeth were gone, but it was he. Then, with great effort, he reared back and spat, right on the crest at Draco's heart.
"I ought to give you to the werewolves, you know."
" Fuck yourself."
Draco smiled. " You did a good job of that with my wife, wouldn't you say?"
Weasley's face went blank for a second. " What are you talking about? Hermione and I never--"
Draco put up a hand. "I know that. My point is, she's never let go of you. That vexes me, Weasley, it really does. A Malfoy, mooning after the likes of you. What in the world did you do that made her devoted?"
Weasley considered. "We love one another."
Draco shook his head. "That can't be it. Too simple."
"That's my answer, mate. Take it or leave it."
Draco rocked on his heels for a moment, toyed with the clasp on his robe. " I have a proposal for you, Weasley."
" Admit I'm the better man and I'll kill you here."
Weasley laughed. "What kind of benefit is that?"
Draco shrugged. " A quick Avada is better than a slow death at the hands of those things, Weasley. Don't be stupid about it."
"How's my sister?"
Draco blinked. "All right, I suppose. Alive. She and Goyle have a son together."
"She married Goyle?"
Draco allowed himself a nasty grin. " It's all for the best, really; Goyle isn't going to be the brains of that operation any time soon."
Weasley laughed too. " And Hermione?"
Draco shifted. " Make up your mind, would you? It smells down here."
Weasley seemed to consider. "Can I make a final request of you?"
"Depends." Draco wanted to go home and have a bath before the fete. He had a lot to arrange and not much time to arrange it in.
" Tell her."
"That you love her? No. Will you take my deal or not?"
"You're a better man than me, Draco."
Draco smiled. "Thank you, Weasley." He raised his wand and looked the man in the eye. There was no fear there, no terror of the dark. Draco felt his stomach drop for no reason; the man was helpless, at his mercy. "Avada Kadavra."
Weasley slumped, dead. The other prisoners entreated the same mercy but Draco ignored them. Bread and circuses, after all. He wondered what he could inveigle from Mulciber to keep this quiet. And then, of course, he'd have to do his patriotic duty and turn him in, wouldn't he? He'd net a fat return from that as well. He chuckled slightly, thinking of the Mulciber family estates added to his vast holdings. The Dark Lord rewarded his faithful elite well.
He found the jailer, obliviated him. He had probably just condemned an innocent man to a grisly death but, well, one does what must be done.
The fete went off without a hitch. The showcase was the parade of newly minted Death Eaters, among them his son and future sons in law. Draco was swelled with pride and pleasure at them all, at the wonder of it.
That night he went to his wife and she received him, if not with enthusiasm than with dutiful politeness and a reasonable amount of mutual enjoyment. At thirty eight she was still desirable, hair still dark and skin still as smooth as a girl's.
After they lay together in the dark. Her head was on his chest, his arm over her back. They rarely spoke in these moments, but when they did they spoke with more affection than at any other time.
"What did Ginevra Goyle say became of her brother?"
" He died trying to escape." Draco could hear a quaver in her voice and surprised himself by lightly stroking her back. After twenty years, he supposed, one could be forgiven for a little familiarity.
"I'm sorry, my dear. I would have thought, after all these years…"
Draco never felt guilty but he did feel a dull kind of …misfortune when these things happened. She sighed and said nothing.
" Shall I call Tinky to bring Dreamless Sleep?"
"Yes, please." The elf was duly called and the draught brought forth. She downed it.
She was asleep almost before her head hit the pillow. Her carefully arranged her limbs and covered her with a blanket.
No response. "He died thinking of you."
No response. "He loved you."
She never moved. Draco left, feeling as though he had done them both a very good turn.