Most disclaimers mention something about how no profit shall be made from the following: all characters belong to the JK Rowling; this is merely a work of abject appreciation.

All that is true. However, in addition to this standard disclaimer, I would like to add another:

This story is strictly read-at-your-own risk.

I, as the author, strongly recommend that you do not read it.

I also recommended myself not to write it, but, as it happens, my judgment is poor and my willpower non-existent. One night I had too much coffee (possibly it was laced with other, more mind-altering substances than caffeine) and stayed up too late; this little piece of crack is the result. It's really not very good and I'm posting it mainly to get it out of my system…

If you choose to ignore me, and your retinas become scarred or your sensibilities outraged as a result, I commiserate. However, please do not then come and cry to me about it: you have been warned.


On Sunday morning, promptly at nine am, the fireplace in the large sitting room at Malfoy Manor burped. The burp was accompanied by a small, greenish-yellow cloud of smoke; and the smoke was accompanied by Draco Malfoy, who shook the ash from his robes as he emerged, stepping smartly over the grate.

Monday through Saturday, nothing short of the return of He-Who-Could-Not-Possibly-Return-A-Third-Time would get Draco Malfoy out of bed before twelve pm. Today, however, was Sunday, and on Sundays Draco was forced to make an exception to his policy of always sleeping in very late: Sundays, in place of religion, his mother Narcissa liked to have a family breakfast.

She was already sitting at the table in the breakfast room, and she smiled warmly at him as he entered.

"Mother." Draco forced back a yawn and kissed Narcissa dutifully on the cheek before sitting down himself. He noted as he did so that the house-elves had rather outdone themselves: the table was spread with all his favorite things, and the aroma of tea wafting from the pot was Earl Grey, which he himself enjoyed, although he knew his mother did not. That realization caused him to glance sharply at Narcissa for the first time: his mother caught his gaze and held it for a moment. She smiled at him, and Draco suddenly felt like the proverbial canary, held in place by a set of dangerous cat jaws. It seemed that his mother was up to something.

Of course that in itself meant nothing: his mother was always scheming. Most of the time it was harmless. Draco took a piece of toast, buttered it liberally, and then set it down in order to reach for the Earl Gray. His mother watched him and beamed, as mothers do when they see that their offspring are eating well. Draco glanced at her again and hoped silently to himself that whatever plot his mother was cooking up wouldn't require him to do anything illegal, and didn't involve his personal life.

"Draco, darling," Narcissa Malfoy cooed. "How was your week?"

Every week, his perverse imagination enjoyed supplying inappropriate answers to that question. "Just lovely, Mother, I went out to a muggle club three nights in a row and had wicked sex in the men's toilet,' or 'did you know that that little potions shop at the end of Knockturn Alley has begun selling a magical derivative of THC that's simply to die for?" As always, though, the temptation to shock his mother didn't outweigh Draco's distaste for the scene that would have followed, so he bit his lip.

"It was very nice, mother. I took Pansy to see Dean Thomas's latest exhibit on Friday, and we had a lovely dinner afterwards." He watched her carefully to see how the comment went over, and was disappointed when his mother's eyes narrowed.

"That's very nice, Draco. Pansy Parkinson is such a nice, sweet girl." She paused, and then, triumphantly, delivered her punch line. "I was just talking to Mrs. Zambini on Tuesday. You never told me Pansy and Blaise were engaged!"

"Er," said Draco, expressively. "Yes, she just broke the news to me herself."

"Oh," said Narcissa. "Well, Mrs. Zambini said it had been over three months. Odd that Pansy hadn't thought to inform you before now, Draco."

"Yes," Draco agreed, weakly. "How strange." Inwardly he cursed. Beginning when he had turned twenty-two, Narcissa Malfoy's efforts to convince her son to settle down and procreate had become more and more demanding. And family dinners with unexpected guests - guests that were always pure blooded, fabulously wealthy, and had a daughter just his age – had been the least of it. Narcissa had taken to flooing to his apartment at all hours of the day, to give Draco advice on how to approach the ladies – as if he needed it – and even gone so far as to arrange a few get-togethers for him. It was humiliating, and utterly pointless, as Draco would have told her, if he had thought that trying to explain about his sexual orientation to his mother would have had any effect other than a, 'no, darling, that's just a silly phase', speech out of her.

In a desperate attempt to get his life and his privacy back, Draco had begun to feed Narcissa little stories about Pansy Parkinson. He and Pansy were old friends, and she didn't mind in the least: it was easy to put a little spin onto any activity they naturally did together, as friends, to make it seem like a bit more. And it had been working perfectly, up until now.

Draco saw the glint in his mother's large, blue eyes and knew that she'd seen through the whole charade. Of course he knew his mother was going to find out about Pansy's engagement sooner or later: he had just hoped that her ignorance might last a little longer.

"Really, Draco." Narcissa voice was still soft and sweet, but her only son could hear the dangerous undertones. "One would almost think you didn't want to get married."

"Well," said Draco, reluctantly. He thought of all the excuses he might offer: hadn't met the right girl yet, didn't feel ready to settle down: and rejected them one by one. He'd tried them all before, anyway, and his mother wasn't easily satisfied. "To be honest…"

"To be honest," Narcissa Malfoy emphasized, "I've been doing a little looking into things myself."

"Looking into…" Draco's eyes narrowed. "You mean you've been spying on me!"

"Now dear, don't put it like that. Families ought to know everything about each other, oughtn't they? We shouldn't keep secrets."

Draco glared.

"Well, what I mean to say is, I'm surprised that you didn't want to tell me! I mean, I know you probably see me as a bit old-fashioned, but really. Homosexuality is nothing to be ashamed of. Even -Fawks' son Terry is homosexual, and he and his partner had a beautiful baby boy last year. They live in Kent," she added, helpfully.

Draco felt his jaw drop, which, unhappily, was probably just the kind of reaction his mother had been hoping for.

"They adopted?" He said, cautiously.

"Oh, no. Terry had the child himself, I believe. As long as both fathers are wizards, it can often be quite easy too…" She looked at Draco, startled, when Draco slammed his teacup down on the saucer with a little more force than was probably strictly necessary.

"Mother," He said. "I am glad that you are comfortable with my homosexuality, but I think I should warn you, in all fairness, that I am not a homosexual who is interested in entering into a long-term domestic partnership or," he shuddered, "having man-babies at any time in the foreseeable future."

Narcissa Malfoy looked put out. "I'm sorry to hear you say that, Draco. I thought you understood, in spite of everything, the importance of family, and maintaining the Malfoy line. But it seems you do not."

It was as close they had ever come, in the three years since Lucius had died, to having a real argument. Malfoys did not yell and scream like common people. They expressed their differences civilly.

In order to keep himself from saying too much – and again, it was all on the tip of his tongue, do you think our family name deserves to be carried on, anyway? Draco Malfoy bolted down his tea as quickly as possible, and, making his excuses, rushed for the floo.


The very next day, his mother's owl delivered a little note to him – a small scroll of the lavender-scented, pressed paper that Narcissa had long preferred. Draco unrolled it with a little trepidation, as his mother's Pygmy Golden – who must have been instructed to wait for a response – looked on.

Dearest Draco, the missive began.

Please say that you aren't too busy, and can escort me to the Windlings Pavilion Garden Show this Wednesday at eleven. If the truth is half the rumor, the orchids will be amazing – more importantly, your Godmother will in from Paris to show her new breed of Iris. She would dearly love to see you there.

With Love,

Your Mother.

Draco sighed, and crumpled the note into a ball in his fist. The Golden squawked indignantly. He paused, reconsidering, and then used a neat flick of the wand to re-straighten the page. His mother's carefully-worded summons mentioned nothing of their disagreement the previous day. Tellingly, she had asked him to come at eleven, although Draco was sure the flower show would begin at eight or nine – clear deference to his sleeping habits. Finally, she mentioned meeting his Godmother, Dorabella Lodestone – one of the few people left in the world for whom Draco had any real fondness, and, equally important, one who had neither daughters or sons on whom Draco might be foisted – unlike every other person Narcissa had insisted he meet in the past months.

Upon consideration, it was clearly a concillatory note. Draco knew his mother well –while she could be ruthlessly manipulative towards others, she hardly ever attempted such behavior against her own son – partially because she loved him to well, but partially, he thought, because she inevitably felt disquieted when there was tension between them. As was the case now – clearly, her note was an attempt to smooth things over.

So she wished to apologize, and perhaps temporarily at least put the issue behind them. It was the best Draco could have hoped for. So, he would accede to her request, and might even, by doing so, gain a favor in return. He could ask her not to question him about his private life again – while she would inevitably break down, but it would at least get her off his back for a few extra months.


He arrived at Malfoy Manor promptly on Wednesday morning to collect her.

In the same concillatory spirit, he had worn a good set of gray robes, youthful but still conservative, of just the type sure to please his mother and his friends. Narcissa was not down yet, when he arrived, and so he waited on the landing, gazing vaguely at the dragons on the Ming Vase before gentle rustling alerted him that she was on her way down. He looked up, and his breath caught. His mother floated down the stairs. She wore a robe of pale green, accented by a trim of live, delicate Queen Anne's Lace, which pooled in a corsage at her neck line. It was the kind of robe that Draco had sometimes seen in his mother's closet, growing up – that is, the kind of robe she bought for herself but never, ever wore, thinking them too frivolous for the wife of Lucius Malfoy. Now, however, she seemed ten years younger. There was some pink in her cheeks, some playfulness in her eyes, when she leant in to let Draco kiss her cheek.

"You look lovely," Draco said, finding to his surprise that he meant it.

His mother looked nearly shy. "It is a flower show," she said. "I thought it would be all right."

"It's perfect," Draco said, offering his mother his arm. "Shall we go?"

They apparated directly to Windlings Pavilion, a grand glass structure – half a greenhouse, half an exhibition hall – that had been constructed in the Hogsmead Common for the occasion of the show. It was, as Draco had expected, already bustling with people – quite a blend of types, really, from the serious scientific horticultural types to the witches and wizards with their families. Children were running everywhere, little whirlwinds in bright coats, shrieking with excitement as they eagerly went about seeing everything from the fearsome carnivorous Peruvian snapdragons to the darling little lion's mane daisies.

Although, outdoors, it had been a rather dismal March day, inside, the pavilion had been charmed so that warm, golden light streamed from the high ceiling. The air was damp and moist, filled with the scents of warm earth and perfumes too rich and numerous to elaborate. In spite of the noise and the crowds, which normally would have been enough to send him fleeing, Draco was surprised to find himself warming to the scene. His mother, too, seemed as happy as she had been in years, almost girlish as she perused the map that had been provided to them at the entrance, which pointed out the location of all the day's major events.

"Oh, Draco, do come look at this!" She gestured towards one of the very first stalls, where a riot of lilies in multiple colors and sizes fanned outward in all directions. "Look these white ones, and the size, how lovely!"

The woman showing the lilies beamed, and Narcissa smiled regally back. Draco had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing. To an outsider, Narcissa's remark sounded merely gracious, but knowing her well, it was the equivalent of a giddy outburst.

He escorted her obediently about, looking on with polite interest at all the rare species and varieties that were paraded out to them, and asked intelligent questions about cross-breeding and soil conditions. As his mother's son, he could at least do that much. Draco himself had no real interest in plants, but he had listened to Narcissa go on about her hobby since he was a boy in short-robes.

As he watched her stroke the small heads of the lion's mane daisies, still in kitten form, and coo over the purple morning glories that burst into song each dawn, he felt an oblique regret that she wouldn't consent to re-grow the Malfoy gardens. Before the war, Narcissa had always had some interesting creation to send to a flower show; though of course she had never displayed them herself. But since the Dark Lord had burnt dry all the land around the manor, Narcissa, in one of the small gestures of selfishness that nowadays she sometimes allowed herself, refused to touch the soil again. Draco was not sure precisely why. In those days, they had all been so tired and dried-up that even death could not faze them, and so the loss of the garden had meant nothing. It was only now, in times that afforded them the luxury of bitterness, that it became significant.

Narcissa touched his arm, pulling him away from his thoughts. "Oh my, the Fen Creeper has come out very well!"

Draco stiffened. They had stopped in front of none other than Neville Longbottom's table, which was piled high with undulating vines, all covered in the palest green soft fuzz. Draco set his teeth. Surely his mother knew that Longbottom was the sort of person Draco would rather avoid – but, ah, no, it appeared not, for she was approaching the table with great interest. Perhaps she had forgotten the name of Longbottom, appearing in the Prophet among the war heroes – or perhaps she hadn't realized this table was his,for, after all, how well could she know his face…

He cursed internally as he saw the man himself coming towards them with a welcoming smile. Draco felt his good mood drain away, and set his face to stone. Nothing to do but get through it, now. He bowed, slightly, feeling his awkwardness compounded by the contrast between his stiff formality and Longbottom's easy grace.

"Narcissa," Neville said. "It's very good to see you here."

Did he call her by her first name? Draco tensed, waiting for his mother's inevitable cold freeze, but was shocked instead to finding her smiling, and holding out a long, elegant hand to Longbottom. "Neville," she said. He took her hand politely. "How well these have grown. Did you take my advice about the fertilizer, in the end?"

"Yes, I did, as a matter of fact!" Longbottom was practically beaming, red-faced and cheery. Draco felt his stomach dropping lower. His mother and Longbottom were friends? How horrifying and bizarre. "You were quite right. They do much better when the soil is slightly more acidic, although one must be careful to vary the composition based on the desired product. Certain ingredients take much more from the plants than others, of course the plants deplete the soil very rapidly, and then if adjustments are not made they die. But the frequent re-potting is not good for them either. In fact," he looked shy, as if disclosing a great secret, "I have had a thought, to plant several vines, each bearing different fruits, in the same bed. If one vine that depletes more of a certain chemical can be counter-balanced by a second that produces an abundance of it…"

Narcissa clapped her hands together, so girlishly that Draco had a sudden, irrational, horrible image: that her choice of the green dress that morning had been for Neville Longbottom, that his mother would soon announce herself in love, that he would be cursed with a righteous Gryffindor classmate for a step-father. Luckily, in another instant, he saw that that was all fantasy – Narcissa and Neville's mutual love was for the plants, not each other.

"How intelligent!" She turned eagerly to Draco. "You see, Neville has been working on plants that can be – how do you call it again, Neville,"

"Bio-engineered," Neville put in, helpfully.

"Yes, bio-engineered, to make potion ingredients."

Neville gently took one of the soft vines, and pushed it aside, revealing a small, dark purple-brown pod underneath.

"This one is Owl's Dart," he said.

Draco nodded, politely trying to hide his disbelief. But some of it must have shown through anyway, for Longbottom continued hastily on, "well, not Owl's Dart per se, but rather one of the active ingredients of Owl's Dart – the magical component that one generally extracts from Owl's Dart…"

Draco felt himself growing interested in spite of himself. He remembered from school the days of extracting the component: a multi-stage process of pulverizing the dart, then removing the essential essence with several stages of washing.

"It won't work quite the same as the natural dart, of course," Longbottom was saying, "so I'm not sure how well potion-makers will like it. But it's purer, and more concentrated, than the natural version, so it may be that when they realize that…"

"Neville," Narcissa told him, "has developed vines that can grow a range of ingredients. You simply expose the seeds before planting to an extract of the substance you want…"

Draco nodded, perplexed.

"Narcissa very helpful in helping me to increase the versatility of the plants," Longbottom said. "It's a pity she won't consider horticulture as a career… although, maybe could help convince her…"

His mother's laugh was like the peal of small bells. "I'm much too old to begin again," she said, her voice growing sad at the end.

Draco busied himself looking at the ugly vines while his mother and Longbottom fussed over the correct soil, light, and air conditions, and other esoteric subjects he did not understand in the least. He chanced a dirty look at his mother. She had tricked him into coming, knowing full well that he wouldn't attend the flower show if she planned to meet Longbottom there. Although… he sighed. Perhaps it was not so horrible. Granger or Potter would have been insufferable to meet, but Longbottom was obviously enthralled by his scientific discoveries, and, equally, so patently oblivious to the gulf between them – he the war hero, Draco and his mother the fallen enemy – that much of the awkwardness between them was subsumed in his great enthusiasm for plants.

His mother, of course, was cannier – perhaps she had wanted to show Draco this, that there could be friendship between the two old sides, not based on pity or politics but mutual interest…

He shook his head, warding off the thought. Crazy Longbottom was an unusual case. Best let his mother finish her odd talk and then retreat as quickly as possible, for where one Gryffindor was located, there were sure to be….

"Oy, Neville!" The loud, cheerful voice froze Draco down to his socks. He scarcely dared look up, but finally did so, covertly. Coming towards them at an alarming pace was a tall man with untidy back hair – fashionable black-rimmed glasses perched comfortably on his nose, better-dressed and handsomer than Draco remembered him. Next to him was Looney Lovegood, a willowy, sylphlike figure in gossymer yellow robes.

"Harry… Luna!" Draco noted the odd little squeak in Neville's voice as said Luna's name, as well as the way she tinted, ever-so-slightly, as she curtsied. Well, at least that was proof that he was safe from a Longbottom step-father, Draco thought, wryly. Really, could this day get any worse?

He saw the moment Potter's eyes widen slightly, as he recognized Draco and Narcissa. He couldn't bare a public snub, so Draco bowed, preemptively, the absolute minimum that was necessary to form an acknowledgement, and moved away, pretending to interest himself in the – Merlin, what were they, anyway? Pollen-less Gnome Repelling Daffodils, according to the placard – that sat one table over. He saw, with relief, out of the corner of his eye, the moment Potter, still looking surprised, nodded back.

"Harry, how are you? Thanks for coming" Neville was saying, slapping Potter on the back and smiling shyly at Looney, who smiled vaguely back. Merlin, save him from the mating rituals of the chronically inept.

His heart was beating so loudly that he was sure the whole hall could hear it, but he willed himself to calm. In a moment, his mother would say her goodbyes, they would make a quick, if not totally graceful, escape. Being trapped with the hero they were so indebted to was excruciating.

But, to his horror, Narcissa seemed just as engrossed in Longbottom's vines, as he was pretending to be in the thrice-damned daffodils. What on earth was she playing at? Surely she didn't plan to ask Potter some favor…

"Where's, uh, Stewart?" Longbottom asked Potter. Draco's ears perked, in spite of the fact that, as he told himself, he could care less about the latest gossip. Speculation about Potter's love life was annoyingly omnipresent – in all the magazines, always the talk at the pub. It annoyed Draco to no end that something that had been agonizing and private for him, admitting his own sexuality, to Potter seemed nothing more than a lark. About a year and a half ago, the Boy Who Lived had announced he was gay, and the string of pretty witches always found beside him had given way to an equally decorative parade of young men. It was very irritating was how readily everyone had accepted it, as if Potter had nothing to do but snap his fingers to gain approval. Had it been anyone else, there would have been – well, more muttering, and less delighted clapping of hands over how wonderful the whole thing was.

"Stewart?" Potter was still looking at Draco, and it took him a moment to respond. Turning to Neville, he said, "we, er.. it wasn't working out." Curious how Potter seemed a little pained when he said that. Curious, too, how Neville touched his shoulder supportively and said, "Sorry, Harry."

How long was he going to have to keep fooling with the blasted daffodils? Malfoy wondered. The woman who sold them was beginning to look at him a bit oddly. If only his mother would quit her confounded games so they could get out of what was obviously turning into a private conversation. But no, thrice-damn it, she was still puttering around. What was she thinking, bring him here too…

"Er, Malfoy?" Potter stepped forward, alarmingly. "It's been a while, how are you?"

Draco stared at Potter. He felt all the air in his chest compress, and leave him. It was bad enough to be indebted to Potter, but what was infinitely worse was that he forgot what he meant to say when Potter was looking at him. He must be shaken indeed.

"Yes," he heard his voice saying, from a distance place. "It has been a while… Mother, perhaps we should visit Dorabella before it gets too late,"

"I forgot to tell you, dear, she cancelled," his mother said, cheerfully.

"Ah," Draco said. He stared at his mother, very intentionally, to make it clear that he was annoyed with her. Of course she blithely ignored it. Potter was still standing quite close to him and it was making him sweat.

"Well, perhaps I'll just pop over to see the lilies and then meet you in a bit…"

"The Etruscan Lilies?" Potter asked. He wet his lower lip. He seemed oddly nervous, though Merlin only knew why. "I haven't been over there yet, I could go with you."

"No!" Draco barked. No, he had to be polite to Potter. "What I mean is," he continued, more smoothly, "I don't know, they might not be so interesting. I think I'd rather just wander around."

"Oh." Potter looked disappointed. "Well, it's nice to run into you, anyway. What have you been up to, recently?"

Draco's eyes darted madly from side to side. Had he not just said he was going to leave? Was this some sort of bizarre version of a parole-session, in which Potter, who had freed them with his testimony after the war, asked to be updated on all his affairs?"

"I am quite well," he offered, finally, stiff. "My mother is also well, as you can see." He shrugged.

"I'm an auror now," Potter offered. "I finished training a few months ago."

Why was he being told this? Of course he knew. "Congratulations," Draco offered, stiffly. There was no rational reason why Potter should smiled so brightly in response. He must have been quite happy about the promotion. Draco grimaced.

Everyone around them was watching, watching Potter talk to him. Surely this was good – a few more drawing rooms his mother might enter, a few more stores in which Draco might buy his supplies without being charged double or told that things were out-of-stock. It was painful, not to be what they once were. But they were managing very well. It wasn't as if Potter needed to show them more charity. Draco felt himself growing angry; how dare he, really?

"Will you go to the Ministry Ball on Saturday?"

"No," Draco said, quite clearly. The Ministry Ball sounded like a miserable hash-up, and he wouldn't have gone for a thousand galleons, even if they had received an invitation.

"Ah. Would you like to, I mean, your mother too, of course, if she would be interested…" Potter's voice trailed off, perhaps as he realized that Draco's face was getting very red. Had he still been ten, it would have been warned of an impending temper-tantrum.

"No!" Draco said, very curtly. "Thank you, but I do not require your assistance to get an invitation to that stupid ball!"

Potter looked surprised. "That isn't what I meant…"

"Then what exactly did you mean?" Draco's voice raised enough that Neville and Luna glanced over, curious. "I am required to be grateful for your charity, Potter, but that doesn't mean I require any more…" he hissed.

Potter's face became blotchy in turn. "Merlin! No one's thinking about charity, anymore, Malfoy, except for you."

"That," Malfoy said, his voice very low and dangerous, fingering the top of his wand at his hip, "Is a lie. All you people think of is charity."

Potter stared at him, and then threw his hands up. "Forget it, Malfoy! Forget I ever said anything!" He turned abruptly and stalked off, pausing to stop and say, "That wasn't what I meant, anyway!"

"Go and die, Potter!" Perhaps that wasn't the wisest thing to call out, after him, for it sent half the flower show muttering. Draco clamped his mouth firmly shut, seething.

Neville, Luna, and Narcissa all looked at one another, and finally, finally, Narcissa chose her moment to take Draco's arm, offer her apologies, and apparate them away.


They appeared immediately in the manor breakfast-room. Narcissa merely looked at him, disapprovingly. Draco swore.

"Why were you hanging around there for so long, anyway?"

She narrowed her eyes. "I was interested in the vines."

Draco narrowed his eyes. "Are you sure you weren't playing some game?"

She gave a short, mocking laugh. "My dear, not everything revolves around you. I simply thought you could retain your temper, like an adult, for a few moments. I'm sorry to see that I was wrong. What is it about Harry Potter that always puts you in such a snit, anyway?"

Draco clamped his mouth shut. He would not embarrass himself again by going off on a rant against Potter –a move which always caused his mother smiling in an irritating, enigmatic way.

"I'm going," he said.

"Goodbye," she replied, coolly.

He apparated back to his apartment. He had behaved stupidly, lost his temper again, and now he was in too foul a mood to do anything but flop into an armchair, and have a bit of firewhiskey to calm his nerves.

It was with relief that he recalled that Pansy and Blaise were having some sort of a dinner that evening, for their interesting gatherings always helped to take his mind off whatever was bothering him. Only hours later, he was enveloped in the glow of Blaise's candlelit dining-room, surrounded by the light sounds of glassware and clever, bantering conversation, and feeling at ease again.


There were only a few close friends there: Blaise, Pansy, and Daphne Greengrass. He didn't know if they had heard yet about his embarrassing spat with Potter, but if they had, they at least decided to hold onto the information for some day when it would make better ammunition, for no one bothered him about it. Blaise regaled them with tales of his recent adventures in finance, and Pansy talked about her plans for the wedding. They showed their happiness far too much for a sensible Slytherin couple, for Draco caught the way Pansy's hand rested on Blaise's knee under the table as she leaned forward to mark some point in the conversation, as well as how he leaned into her to whisper some secret when everyone else was distracted by the conversation.

"Have you heard about the Echo?" Blaise asked, late in the evening after they had put away a very good dinner, several glasses of Firewhiskey, and a creme brulee that Pansy's house elf had somehow learned to cook to perfection – the house elf liked muggle cookbooks, Pansy explained in a confidential whisper, and although Blaise's mother didn't like them, the results were always so fabulous that Pansy had taken to smuggling them in for the creature – and were relaxing in the drawing room with more firewhiskey-laced coffee.

Draco shrugged. "The name sound sounds familiar…"

"It's a Wizarding Club," Pansy put in, helpfully. "The first ever. Seamus Finnegan's idea – but that doesn't matter - It's opening tomorrow. We're going to go, and you should join us. It's going to be packed."

Draco nodded. He did remember. On a Friday night, his other option was to go slumming with the muggles, but change was always good too.


The Echo was indeed full, for its opening. It seemed that every witch and wizard under thirty throughout the British Isles had been curious to see what a Wizarding Club would be like. Not much like a muggle one, in Draco's humble opinion. The mix of styles of clothing was riotous, of course – some had gone for formal dress robes, others for muggle outfits – others for muggle outfits that were, as wizards often made the mistake, entirely inappropriate. But where else could you find a man in a scuba-suit and top hat, dancing with half-centaur in a mini-dress?

Blaise finagled them past the line outside, secured them a table, and then pulled Pansy out onto the floor to dance. Draco was content for the moment to flag down a waitress, order a round of drinks, and watch the fun.

Really, if Seamus Finnegan was the closest thing his generation had to a trend setter, than they were really in trouble. The music was an odd mixture of Weird Sisters, and eighties pop. Although publically Draco would never, ever had admitted to knowing anything about muggle music, in the back of his mind he put a mental black mark next to whoever had made the selections – Merlin, how were they really going to try to dance to Aha! …he smiled, for someone came up with the idea of treating it like a wizard waltz, and soon everyone had fallen was mixing the steps up playfully.

After a few minutes he saw that a witch across the room was giving him the eye. Draco smirked. He might be gay, but that didn't mean he couldn't dance with her… he was just stand up to go over to invite her, when a collective murmur of the crowd caught his attention.

Harry Potter and his friends had arrived, and the crowd was parting like the Red Sea to let them pass. Draco pulled back, so that he wouldn't be seen. Potter led the short parade, a handsome boy with straight pale brown hair on his arm. Well, Draco thought, it certainly hadn't taken him long to get over Stewart, or whatever his name had been. Behind Potter were Granger and Weasley, smiling and greeting people as they went by – who did they think they were, the stupid muggle royal family? –and behind them Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood had their hands twined together, and eyes only for each other. My, wasn't that sweet. Draco felt the bile rising in his throat.

The arrival of the heroes cleared the floor for the moment, and Blaise and Pansy came back to the table to catch their breaths.

"I think I'm going to go," Draco told them.

Pansy gave him a stern look. "Don't be like that. Just because the Gryffindorks had descended," Draco smiled at her use of the childish nickname. "It doesn't concern us at all."

"Right," Draco snapped. "I know that. That's not why I was thinking of going."

Both Blaise and Pansy looked at him witheringly.

"Yes it is," Blaise said.

"Just ignore them, Draco," Pansy said. "Really."

He huffed, but to argue would just make things worse. He knew, of course, that she was right. The Gryffindorks didn't matter, and Draco would ignore them. He gulped down his drink, and then offered his hand to Pansy, winked extravagantly at Blaise, and led Pansy out onto the dance floor.

He managed to enjoy himself for a few minutes, dancing with Pans, and then when she grew tired and wanted to sit down again, he danced with the young witch from before. He didn't see Potter and his friends for some time, and the alcohol coursing through his system had helped him to nearly forget about them, which he caught from the back that head of messy black hair.

He was dancing with his date – that sandy-haired wizard from before. Draco hadn't recognized him, he hadn't been a Hogwarts student – unless he was more than a few years behind them. Draco scowled at the thought. Potter was dancing – Potter was dancing, well, like someone who actually knew what actually passed for dancing in London these days – and the boy was gamely following along. Who was that kid, anyway, Draco wondered. Just then, the boy looked up, and caught his eye, and gave him a very superior smirk. Draco had been caught staring.

He felt his face flush, and he excused himself to his partner, and went to the bar to have a drink. How aggravating.

To his surprise, he saw the young wizard, Potter's date, threading through the crowd a moment later. Draco scowled and finished his drink in a hurry, but it didn't stop the young man from leaning against the bar next to him.

"I saw you looking," the young man said, motioning the bartender over.

Draco didn't deign to answer.

"He's pretty hot, isn't he?"

Draco stared at the young man. It was a good Malfoy stare. He put all his distain into it, to let the wizard know that he was being irritating, and that Draco thought nothing of him, and that he should leave. But the young wizard was undeterred.

"Oh, don't be like that. It's clear you're dying of jealousy." He looked smug. "But he'd never be interested in a Death Eater like you, now would he?" The bartender brought two firewhiskeys, and the boy offered one to Draco. Draco eyed him with distaste, but then shrugged and accepted.

"Think I'll get lucky tonight?" The boy asked. "Maybe I'll let him pound me into the mattress, hm? I wonder how the Great Harry Potter fucks." He leant in, looked deep in Draco's eyes. "Or, maybe, he's the kind that likes to take it. Maybe he'll pant like a dog while I'm giving it to him." He leered at Potter, who was still dancing, at that moment, with Luna. "That would make a good story for the Prophet."

Draco felt a bit shocked. He sipped his drink quickly. "You're planning on going to the Prophet?"

The man shrugged, elegantly. It was actually just the littlest bit sexy. "Sure, why not? Skeeter pays big for all the salacious details. Plus, what's the point in banging the Boy-Who-Lived if no one knows about it?" He leaned forward, conspiratorially. "I was surprised: he's honestly a bit dull in person."

Draco felt the anger welling up inside of him. He thought of hexing the man, but of course all wands had been held at the door. What made it worse was that it was clear that the miserable bastard had come to Draco to crow. He seemed to think Draco would find the idea funny, and support it.

"Really," Draco said, smoothly, letting his voice freeze in the air. "I'll be surprised if he doesn't throw you to the curb when he hears about your little plan."

The boy looked up, surprised. So, he had actually thought that Draco would be his ally! He looked nervous for a minute, and then re-armed himself.

"Oh, please. You'd try and stop me?"

Draco shrugged his assent. The boy looked angry.

"Who's Potter going to believe, you, the enemy, or me, his date? Anyway," he said, sounding now a bit whiny. "Why are you being so boring, anyway?" He looked thoughtful. "I was just joking before, about you being jealous, but maybe I got it right, hmm? Maybe you've got a crush on Potter, isn't that precious, Draco Malfoy, wanting to save the Savior?" He taunted.

Draco signed, and looked away. "It's none of the above," he said, coolly. "I'm just not interested in playing games with a nasty little piece of work like you, that's all."

The boy shut his jaw. "Fine," he said. "I thought you'd be more interesting, but you're dull too! Tell you what. After I sell my story to the Prophet, I'll tell Harry that you put me up to it!" He stuck out his tongue like an unbelievable little child, and flounced off. Draco watched the renewed vigor with which he attached himself to Potter's arm, and how he batted his eyes when Potter looked down on him. He didn't miss, either, the sly glance back in Draco's direction.

"Hi!" Said Pansy, "Where have you been? I haven't seen you for a while. We're getting ready to move on, are you going to join us?"

Draco shrugged, and sipped his drink. Outwardly he looked calm, but inside, he was a burning ball of rage. The arrogance of that little twit! To think he could embarrass Potter, pull one over on Draco, the whole thing!

"No," he said, "I think I'll stay a little longer."

"Alright then," Pansy said. "Glad you're having fun."

She headed off to get her jacket. Draco finished his drink with a final gulp, and then rubbed his palms against his jeans. The kid was still dancing with Potter, practically grinding up against him. Draco noted with some relief that Potter looked a little uncertain.

Putting his empty glass down, he sauntered over to them on the dance floor. His footsteps were a little unsteady, he noted. All the better, he would need a bit of alcohol-induced confidence to get through this.

"Mind if I cut in?"

The kid shot daggers at him with his eyes, but Draco held out his hand, and, to his relief, Potter accepted, and allowed himself to be lead away. Draco allowed himself the luxury of a smirk at the boy. Serves you right for trying to play with the grown-ups.

"Draco!" Harry yelled, over the music, as they found a space on the floor. "It's great to see you here!"

Draco bit his lip and nodded.

"How were the lilies?"

"The what?"

Potter looked uncertain. "The lilies, at the show?"

Oh. Draco frowned. "They were great."

"Oh, good."

The conversation subsided. Potter continued gnawing at his lower lip, and looking at Draco as if he wondered what he was doing there. What in Merlin's name would he be thinking…? Draco had made it a point to speak to him as little as possible for almost two years, then insulted him at a flower show, and was now doing a very good impression of a teen-aged girl at the Yule Ball – even when he actually had been a teenager, he had done it better…

He tried to think, but it was as if all the fuses in his brain were short-circuited; for one thought slide away from him before it was completed, only to be replaced by another. He found himself staying at Potter's now well-bitten lower lip with confusion, it looked plump and…

"Well, that was nice," Potter said, as the music drew to a close. "Er – yeah. Listen, I don't suppose you'd-"

"Dance with me again," Draco commanded, desperately. He must have seemed like a bleeding idiot, but luckily Potter was used to that, what with his friends and all, so he merely nodded and looked oddly pleased. The next song began, and Draco was less than thrilled to realize that it was one of the only slower pieces that the Weird Sisters had ever written. Potter shrugged rather endearingly; so Draco settled his hands awkwardly at Potter's hips, and they swayed back and forth. Potter's hips were nice, he noticed distantly. His hands itched to explore them. Usually the idea would have upset him, but suddenly it seemed quite esoteric, rather vague…

Someone knocked into him, and he overbalanced, almost ending up in Potter's arms. He felt strange, he realized. That last drink had been strong.

"This is kind of weird," Potter said, helpfully righting Draco. "I didn't know the song was going to be like this. We can wait for the next one, and, uh…" the date was lurking in the shadows, Draco could see him from over Potter's shoulder. Waiting to slow-dance himself into Potter's back-pocket, Draco thought furiously, the little snake. No, that wasn't right – the boy hadn't been in Slytherin, Draco would have heard of him. Although, he did seem familiar, somehow…

"Potter," He said, authoritatively. "I am doing you a great favor by dancing with you. Do you mean to insult me saying that… that…" He swayed a bit, and felt relieved when Potter's strong arms caught him again.

"Draco, are you all right?" Potter sounded nervous. "You seem a little…"

"I'm just fine, thank you," But he allowed Potter to continue supporting his weight. It felt rather nice, for one thing, and for another, it was easier than holding himself upright. He suddenly felt very hot. Potter's hands were good, cooling, against his arms.

His hand fell to Potter's hip again, and he gave into the urge to stroke the fabric of Potter's shirt, gently, back and forth with the tip of his fingers.

"What are you doing," Potter said, groaning. Draco gazed up at him. Potter's eyes were dilated, the iris only a thin ribbon around the pupil. Perhaps he was drunk too.

"It feels nice," Draco explained.

"Yeah…" Potter agreed. Encouraged, Draco let his fingers slip under the shirt, just a bit. The skin there was cool, and he scraped it lightly with his fingernail. Potter sucked in air rapidly, and then repositioned himself, distributing his weight so as to hold them up better.

"This is nice," Draco said.

Potter's hand came down to stroke Draco's back. It was a bit like a massage, rather relaxing, and Draco leaned into it. Merlin, they were practically hugging, all tangled up in each other! The thought made him want to laugh. But then Potter's hand crept lower, towards his bottom, and Draco moaned encouragingly.

"Let's get out of here," Potter growled, and for a moment Draco was disoriented, because he had forgotten where "here" was. But he nodded enthusiastically anyway, because anywhere Potter wanted to take him was sure to be good.


He woke the next morning very, very early, with an absolutely splitting headache, and in a bed he did not recognize.

His was going to throw up, and he was going to throw up in the bed if he didn't move his ass to the loo immediately. So he pushed himself up, and stumbled in the dark until he made it round the side of the bed and towards a door that, luckily, turned out to be just the one he wanted. He sunk to his knees and barely had time to get the seat up before he was retching, throwing up all the green bile in his stomach.

He threw up three times, and then he sat for a moment, collecting himself. He knew he would feel better after a moment, he nearly always did, after being sick. Merlin, where was he…?

He remembered Finnegan's club, the night before – dancing; then talking to that boyfriend of Potter's – horrible kid with straight hair. What had they been saying? He remember drinking some, but not so much as he must have in the end, for after that everything became blurry.

Potter had been there. There had been dancing, or, rather, groping, and then they had apparated – Merlin, they were lucky not to have splitched themselves!

His breathing had rising to a ragged panic. He concentrated for a moment on evening it out, counting to three for each inhale and exhale. Alright, he could handle this.

He flushed the toilet, stood up, turned, slowly, and left the bathroom. The bedroom was dark, but there was enough early-morning light to go by.

It was a horribly Gryffindorish bedroom. The wallpaper was yellow, and the sheets were, mothers hold your children close, red satin.

In the middle of those sheets was the sprawling form of a naked man, asleep. His hair was messy and black and had shifted, in the night, to give a clear view of the lightening-bolt scar on his forehead.

Draco counted to ten. Then he searched around on the floor until he found his pants and his wand, and apparated swiftly away.

As soon as he hit the carpet in his own apartment, he hyperventilated. Potter. He had been with fucking Potter. He could feel, now that he was waking up, that he was a bit sore – he couldn't remember the details, but it was pretty clear what had happened.

Shit, shit, shit, he muttered to himself, and then the headache overtook him and he simply felt nauseous again. What had he been thinking?

It was a testament to how miserable he felt, though, that in the end he decided to best course of action was to drink a glass of water and then stumble heavily to bed. All problems could be dealt with in the morning.


He didn't wake again until past noon. When he arose, the headache that had plagued him earlier had faded to a dull, manageable throb. He felt sticky and confused and had to go through the unpleasant experience of re-remembering the last night all over again.

Sighing, he took a long, hot shower, and then threw on a robe to find coffee. He was startled to find that his mother, however, had already brewed it for him. She was sitting at his kitchen table, reading the newspaper.

She coughed apologetically as he came in.

"I hope you don't mind my flooing myself in," she said.

Draco grunted and accepted the cup that she poured him – with a lot of milk, which he didn't usually take, but which seemed safer for his stomach that particular morning. He wondered how she knew. She clapped her hands, and one of the Manor house-elves came in from the kitchen, bearing toast and marmalade.

Draco drank his coffee, and then felt well enough to chance some of the toast. He ate silently, without offer any information, and watched his mother grow more and more impatient.

Finally she spoke, her tone only a little sharp.

"Draco, were you out… visiting some muggle establishment?"

Draco looked at her and sighed. It was tempting to say yes, but not worth the fight. "I was with Blaise and Pansy," he said. "Things got a little out of hand, that's all."

"Well." She paused. "That's good. Draco, I came to ask you whether you might consent to moving back into the manor for a while."

He frowned. "I'm sorry, mother, but we've discussed this before."

She put up a hand. "Wait, and let me explain." She fell silent, and let her hands fall into her lap. "I visited the healer this morning."

Draco felt anxious.

"He said that I have a… ah… illness. Some sort of –ah – unpleasant thing."

Draco read between the lines. 'Unpleasant' meant something kind of non-magical illness – something that muggles got, too, perhaps. His mother would regard as a bit of an embarrassment.

Narcissa continued. "It can be cured with a full course of potions, but the potions are rather unpleasant, and the course takes several weeks to complete. He recommended that I check into St. Mungo's for the duration. However, if you were in the Manor with me, I think then they would then consent to allow me to complete the treatment at home."

Draco nodded, and bowed his head. What is it? He wanted to ask. How serious? But he looked into her cool, steady eyes, and saw that she had already said as much as she might be able to, at that moment. His personal problems, which had seemed insurmountable at the beginning of the day, had already ceased to carry any meaning.

He reached out one hand, covered hers with it.

"In that case, yes, of course," he said.


The house-elves moved all his essentials back within a matter of hours. The illness, whatever it was, must have been very severe indeed, for Narcissa's personal healer arrived before the end of the day to give her the first dose of the potion which, he said, would destroy the bad cells in her body, while leaving the healthy ones behind. After taking the potion, Narcissa said that she still felt fine, though. In fact, she paced around the Manor with a nervous energy.

"Maybe I should regrow the garden," She said, once, looking out the window. "If I'm to be trapped in the house I should have something to look at, I can set the elves to weeding it tomorrow morning."

Draco agreed, but he was surprised. Indeed, a moment later, Narcissa had turned away from the idea.

"Leave the garden as it is," She said. "Perhaps it won't be as bad as the healers said, I actually feel quite well. Let's have some dinner."

The house elves brought out a soup, and a salad, but by the time they had reached the entrée she was holding her head in her hands, and Draco knew the potion had begun to take effect. Gently, he helped her to bed, and then he went to his own room, and sat without doing anything, by the fire for a long time. He had not checked the gossip columns that day – not communicated with Pansy or anyone else, to see if his bad behavior at the club had caught the public notice. Not communicated with Potter, of course.

He ought to do at least one of those things, he supposed, idly, but he hadn't the energy, really. He hadn't the energy, at that moment, for anything but sitting in the dark – finally, he fell asleep that way.


Over the next few weeks Narcissa grew worse and worse, until she could no longer leave her bed except for the shortest trips to the bathroom. Even those exhausted her immeasurably, and finally Draco slipped the house-elves a bedpan to bring her. He pretended he didn't know about her using that. She slept a great deal, which was good, her healer told Draco, as that was the time during which the potion could function best.

"I wished she'd agreed to it a month earlier," he confided in Draco, one morning after checking her pulse and temperature and declaring everything to be on track. "But women like your mother seem to believe in their own indestructibility." Healer Robin was a steady man in his middle years, who had served the Malfoys for as long as Draco could remember.

Draco nodded. "Well, my grandmother did make it past a hundred and sixty," he admitted. "So I suppose she has some reason."

"Yes," said the Healer, shaking his head, "And witches like your mother tend not to take the diagnoses of a muggle illness like cancer very seriously, as well. But healing isn't a perfect art, you know! There are many non-magical maladies that we can really do nothing for."

"Wait," said Draco. "Do you mean she knew of her illness for some time before she began treatment?"

"More than a month and a half," Healer Robin said. "I urged her to begin right away, because it's the sort of diagnosis that –well, let's just say, if she was a muggle, you'd have buried her by now. But for a while, she seemed to think the whole thing would go away on its own."

Draco could imagine. Casting his mind back, a month before his mother had begun treatment was the time she had been having him spied on in nightclubs – around the time when she had told him that it was fine if he wanted to settle down with a nice wizard, instead of a witch, just so long as he thought about starting a family. Perhaps it had been the illness that had caused her to think that way?

With his mother's spirits so low he had little energy to go out – and when he wasn't going out, he spent less of his days sleeping. He found himself bored, pacing from room to room, until finally he ended up in the library, re-reading the stories of his childhood. When he had been young, he had dreamed of being like his father – or how he had believed his father then – a benevolent leader, someone who spent his days using the Malfoy money and the Malfoy power to help those around them.

Well, the Malfoy name was rotted out, but perhaps the money might still be of some good. He asked to look at the account-books, and the old house-elf who complied with the request was so moved that he burst into tears, and continued crying as it brought forth the heavy volume. Draco opened it across the breakfast table, for he couldn't bear to use his father's office – and saw Lucius' careful, spider handwriting, reporting all the expenses of the estate: all the money in, all the money out. A thousand gallons for "Narcissa, pin-money", another thousand for "Draco, toys".

When the war came, the handwriting grew finer, smaller, and more cramped, as if Lucius was attempting to exert control even through his penmanship. Ten thousand gallons, "expenses for the Cause"; another fifteen, "As his Master's request"; money flowed out at a profound rate, and finally, by the end of May, the ledgers simply stopped, and the page ended blank.

Draco bit back a sigh that could almost have become a cry. Then he turned the page again, and was surprised to find that a new writing had become to track the expenditures- not his mother's, for she had never once had the slightest interest in finances, but rather a scratched, rather illiterate one. At first, the numbers took up three or four lines together, but by the fifth or sixth page, they were as even and regular as a grade-school students'.

"Blinky!" He yelled. The sad old house elf reappeared. "Blinky," Draco asked, sternly, "What is this?"

Blinky looked at the ledger and burst into tears. "Blinky is sorry, master! Blinky will club himself with the fire-poker, Blinky will!"

"No," said Draco, "wait. Don't do that, I'm not angry."

Blinky looked up at him with large, hopeful eyes.

"Why did you do this?" Draco asked. He looked again at the numbers before him, each pitiful amount recorded, down to the knuts and sickles that Narcissa used to buy her quills. He had never realized what an expense his apartment had been – while the Malfoys were still far from broke, he saw, they were nothing near to as rich as he had still imagined.

Blinky quavered. "Blinky was thinking it was important, master. Master Lucius was always keeping the accounts so carefully, and… and…" he threw himself to the floor. "Blinky knows it is not his place to be touching something Master Lucius had touched. Blinky is sorry."

"No, no, Blinky," Draco said, absently, still running his hands along the silent figures. "You did the right thing."

Blinky looked up at him with round, loving eyes. "Really, Master Draco?"

"Yes, really." Draco touched the house elf's shoulder. "You did."


After two months of treatment, Healer Robin announced that most of the disease had been eliminated from Narcissa's body, and that she could begin with a new, weaker, series of potions – designed only to destroy any traces of the disease that might linger. She soon began feeling better again, and took to leaving her room for breakfast, and receiving occasional visitors for tea. She was still very pale, and Draco was anxious about how extremely thin she had grown, but it was comforting to see her cracking the shell of a soft-boiled egg each morning.

Soon, however, she was eating more than he was, for he developed a lingering flu that kept him nauseous at all hours of the day. Not wanted to make his mother ill – for, according to Healer Robin, her immune system was weak – Draco took a lot of flu potion, but it did little good.

It was only when the smell of coffee, which he loved, sent him running for the toilet one morning, that his mother noticed that something was wrong.

"Are you eating all right, my dear?" She asked, when he came back again.

Draco nodded. "Yes, fine." In a show of health, he poured himself the coffee – but it was a mistake, for the smell bothered him, and he could only sit in front of her, looking green, and without drinking.

"You should see Healer Robin, if it continues," she said, and he agreed. It was a lovely morning, and the sun streaming in was very warming. Draco looked out the window. A few green stalks of lilies, the descendants of those planted long ago, had managed to fight their way through the thicket of gray brambles that covered the garden, and were reaching up into the sky.

"Perhaps I should replant the garden," Narcissa said again. She watched him asked it. What was she waiting for, Draco wondered. My permission?

"I think that would be nice," he said, firmly. "It would be nice to have a garden again." With a grimace, he pushed the coffee away from him, and reached for the persimmon tea instead.

"I thought that you didn't like that," Narcissa said, smiling.

"I don't", Draco said. "But I'm in the mood for a change."

She laughed softly. "I remember, when I was pregnant with you, I used to want the strangest things – pumpkin juice all times of day, but actual pumpkin turned my stomach…" She frowned, and stared at Draco with a very strange expression. "Draco," she said, hesitantly.

He looked at her inquiringly.

"I don't mean to pry, but – I mean, when you, ah, see other men – you do use protection, don't you?"

Draco was horrified. "I'm twenty-two, mother, I think by now-"

"It's just that –ah –I should have mentioned it before now, but it hardly seemed relevant – and then what with this illness, it slipped from my mind. You do know that the Malfoy line has a tendency towards male pregnancy?" Draco felt his mouth drop open. Narcissa continued hastily onwards. "I mean, it only occurs when both partners are wizards, and fairly strong –but your second-cousin had a child, as did Lucius' father's brother…

Draco frowned. "I thought that only happened with potions, and things," he said.

"Well, for most wizards, that's what it takes, but the Malfoys are very fertile…" She looked at him carefully. "Draco, you couldn't be pregnant, could you?"

"Ha, ha, ha," Draco said, "No, of course not, that's… ridiculous." He calmed himself. He hadn't been with anyone since his mother's illness, and anyway, he had always been with muggles… except that one time when…"

Narcissa caught the exact moment when all the blood drained from his face. She stood, quite rapidly for someone as ill as she was, and drew her wand too quickly for him to counter it.

"Pater Ostendo!"

Draco reeled back, but it was too late. A fine thread of light shot from the tip of her wand, enveloped his stomach, and coiled itself into the shape of a sleeping baby. Besides it, spelled out in cursive, was the name Harry Potter.

"Oh, Draco!" His mother cried. The house elf, who had come to bring bacon, clapped its hands in delight.

Draco's suddenly felt very dizzy. He put his head between his hands, and counted to ten, but when he looked up, they both still staring at him, his mother and the elf.

"We should call Healer Robin," said Narcissa.

"An heir," whispered the elf, reverently.

Draco put his head back down, and counted to ten a second time.


It only grew more dreadful. Healer Robin was called, and cheerfully pronounced Draco ten weeks along. He gave Draco something that he promised would help with the nausea and recommended a specialist. Draco played with the card until Robin left and then threw it in the trash, but it re-appeared on his bedside table in the evening, and the next morning the specialist called herself, saying that she had heard he might require her services.

It was a most unfortunate situation. Had he caught the pregnancy on his own, he would have terminated it, quietly, but now his mother knew and all the elves and they were all terribly, terribly, excited about the whole thing. At less than three months of gestation, the house elves had already submitted to him a list of baby names (the result of a kitchen vote, he gathered, all were familial and ponderous). His mother woke from her long convalescence, the thought of a grandchild giving her energy that she threw into redecorating the nursery, as well as the garden, and while under other circumstances he would have been glad to have her so rejuvenated, this was not the change he was looking for.


At week thirteen, he came downstairs to the figure of Harry Potter, perched on the settee, taking tea with Narcissa.

He turned around and was heading back up again, when his mother's voice stopped him.

"I know how you feel, Draco, but, as the father, he has a right to know."

Draco whirled around and rushed at her in fury. "He has no right, and you have no right. I told you I didn't want him contacted, but you've gone ahead and done as you liked, haven't you?"

Narcissa stood him down. "It's a baby, Draco," she said. "You have to put your own issues aside, for its sake."

Potter stood up beside her. "I agree."

Draco turned, around, closed his eyes, and tried the counting-to-ten thing again. It never worked.

"I'm going back to bed," he informed them.

Narcissa narrowed her eyes. Potter stood up hastily.

"I'd like to talk," he said.

Draco rubbed his temples, and sighed.

"Fine," he said. He looked at Narcissa. "Let's go outside," he told Potter.

He took him into the back garden, where, in the past weeks, piles of weeds had been removed, and pounds of fresh soil brought in. The soil was, in fact, from various places around the world, and as such each pile had slightly different texture and color. Narcissa had chosen each one lovingly, weighing its various merits against others, and their current locations represented the sites of various parts of her future garden.

Potter looked around what must have seemed to him, a rather bizarre and barren wasteland. "Huh," he said.

"Oh, shut up," Draco groused. He took Potter further back. Once there had been a line of oak trees that had marked the boundary of the garden, seventeen in all. Voldemort's fire had burnt every one of them – had felled all but three, in fact, which now stood, like miserable black watchman, guarding the manor. But there was still a stone bench beneath them which was not too uncomfortable.

He sat down and looked up at Potter, who seemed to decide that pacing around a bit was preferable to sitting next to him. Draco waited. Potter looked pointedly at him, and waited too. Finally Draco sighed, and rolled his eyes.

"I don't know what you expect from me," he drawled. "The whole thing was a dreadful mistake and I hardly remember it, anyway."

Potter ground his teeth. "I should expect you to ever make things easier?" He stopped pacing and looked down at Draco. "Listen, I don't care. What happened – happened. If you're really pregnant – and it's really mine – then you are going to have to make certain concessions. My being a part of the baby's life is one of them. Merlin," he groaned, running his hands through his hair. "I can't believe this is happening."

Draco scowled, but didn't respond.

Potter said, hesitantly. "Can I cast a paternity spell?"

"No," Draco said, violently. "No, because it isn't yours, Potter. Whatever my mother might have told you - she's laboring under a misapprehension. Sorry for the misunderstanding, go home."

Potter laughed harshly. "Damn," he said, sinking to the bench beside Malfoy. "It really is mine, then?"

"No," Draco said shortly. "I'm not joking, it's a mistake. You can leave now."

Potter shook his head and cast the spell. Draco watched the hateful form of the infant hang for a moment in the air. He wished that by punching his hand through the image and dispelling the magic he could make the pregnancy disappear as well.

"It is mine," Potter said. His voice sounded small and awed. "Why is this happening with you?"


"I mean," Potter sat down on the bench next to him. He seemed to be trying to get his thoughts together. "I mean, I've always wanted, you know, kids." He shrugged. "It seems like I have a hard time meeting guys who want the same thing."

"Merlin, Potter!" Draco swore. "We're just twenty-two, that's still young. Think you might be rushing things, much?" He exhaled loudly. "You sound insane, just like my mother."

Potter looked at him curiously. "Would you have wanted kids, then, in a few more years?"

"No," Draco said, coldly. "No, are you an idiot? I don't want kids at all." He shuddered.

Pottered looked at him and snorted. "You're going to make a great mum."

"Fuck you," Draco responded, with great dignity.


Despite that less than auspicious beginning, Potter showed up the next evening for dinner, and then again for brunch on Sunday. Although Draco kept his opinions on the matter private, it was really the brunch that frightened him – for that had always been strictly a Malfoy family affair, to which even close family friends were generally unwelcome. That Narcissa had contrived to get Potter sitting at the table with them was, therefore, absolutely chilling… he found himself eyeing his mother more carefully. Her face was becoming less drawn, her cheeks a bit rosy. He wondered if she harbored delusions of him and Potter marrying, so that the baby would be a legitimate Malfoy heir instead of a bastard.

On Thursday Potter showed up just as Draco was putting on his robes to go out. "Where are you off too?" He asked, cheerfully.

"I have errands," Draco said, shortly.

"In Diagon Alley? I'll come along."

Draco was tempted to brush him off, but Potter had that look about him; as if he had something he wanted to say, and was prepared to be stubborn about making sure he said it.

"Fine," he agreed, shortly, throwing some floo powder into the fire. "Gringott's bank."

"What are we doing here?" Potter said, following Draco out a moment later. It amused Draco that even as an adult, Potter still hadn't managed to learn the trick of descending from a floo gracefully – although he did manage to avoid rolling on the floor at Gringott's, it was just barely, for he tripped spectacularly when he came out.

"I don't know what you are doing here," Draco said, patiently. "But I am here to see about a financial matter, which is personal and private." He made his way to the tall desk, behind which sat the goblin receptionist of Gringott's. Quite ridiculous, he thought, to put the short goblins at a desk so high. Perhaps it made them feel better about themselves. Nevertheless, he put on a polite face as the goblin looked down at him.

"Draco Malfoy, to see Gorling." He looked doubtfully at Potter for a moment. "And guest."

"Please wait." After a few moments, a goblin of middle aged appeared, and bowed slightly to Draco. Draco returned the bow.

"Come this way, please," said Gorling.

He led him into the bank, into a large elevator that carried them downward. Draco felt the air growing colder as they descending. Gorling was taciturn, but as the elevator ground to a stop and he opened the cage door, he offered one comment.

"We are… pleased, that you are taking an interest in the contents of the vault, Mr. Malfoy." He looked askance. "Auror Potter."

By then, Potter was like a dog sniffing after a lead. "What vault?" he said, interestedly.

Draco sighed.

"Two years before you finally defeated… Voldemort," he paused, carefully getting pronouncing the syllables of the name, "my father had some of the family's assets transferred to this vault. In the Gringott's ledgers, however, the vault it is recorded as empty. It seems my father had… some agreement with the goblins about it." He looked carefully at Gorling as he spoke, but the goblin offered no response. Draco shrugged.

"Anyway, I've been going over the family books, and our situation is actually- well, our fortune is nothing like what it once was. The ministry taxes and fines after the war were high, as was the cost of reconstructing the manor. Most of our vaults have been sold; but I found reference to this one among some papers and decided to contact Gorling here to learn a bit more about it.

"Here we are," Gorling announced, abruptly. "Mr. Malfoy, in your current state, I would highly recommend you not touch any of the items inside." His face looked sour.

"In his state..?" Echoed Harry. "You mean that you can tell he's…" his voice faded away as the vault doors opened.

Draco stepped inside. Blinky's notes on the subject had been sketchy at best, for Lucius himself had left no trace, written or otherwise, of the existence of the vault. But of course one never thought of the house-elves, who went everywhere, saw and heard everything. Blinky had been vaguely away of the transactions to set up the secret vault and had recorded them, faithfully, in the ledger.

It was dark, and the air was cold, but something about it thick and heavy and malevolent as well. So evil that Draco feared even to cast a lumos, which might interact with the magic in the room in some way, and elected to wait as Gorling brought a torch instead.

It was small. From wall to wall there were shelves, and on each of those shelves was stacked dark objects – some upon which Malfoy recognized the family crest, but others of which were unfamiliar too him. Some were, at a glance, extremely dangerous, and other he did not recognize. He felt Potter stiffening behind them.

"What is this?" Potter muttered.

Draco did not know, but he could guess. He felt disappointed. He had hoped for a hidden stash of money – perhaps riches that could be discreetly sold. But objects like this were too dangerous to pawn – too dangerous to do anything with, really.

He spoke slowly. "Seven years ago, when my father created this vault… he was already falling fast from favor with Voldemort. He must have known that his usefulness might be outlasted, at some point." He looked at Potter. "He never trusted you to win, either. In fact, he thought it impossible. That was one of the reasons why he sided so firmly with the Dark Lord…" He used the old name without thinking. He remembered, then, his father's face, pale and chiseled as marble. The Malfoys are always on the winning side. Draco spoke more to himself than to Harry. "I think he hid these things here, rather than turn them over to Voldemort – thinking, perhaps, that the damage that would be caused by them was too great."

Harry nodded, slowly. "Ok," he said. "So, what are we going to do about them?"

Draco shrugged. "Nothing. I don't know, I don't care. I hoped for money; I can't do anything with these."

Gorling coughed. "We, the goblins, do not want them. Such items are an abomination unto their creators. We recommend they be destroyed."

"That's fine," Potter said. "Let's destroy them."

Draco sighed. "It's not that simple, Potter. Unless one of us wants to wipe out this room with Fiendfyre." He shivered at the thought. "By law, such things should be handed over to the Ministry, for destruction. However…" he looked at Gorlings. "To hand so many items of power over, would it be wise? Many people might be tempted… there are so many opportunities for a few items to slip again into dangerous hands…"

"We will not have Fiendfyre in the bank," Gorling said,firmly. But, as he looked at the items, he seemed to deflate a little. "I hoped you were coming to remove them from our charge."

"Let me talk to my contacts," Potter said. "We won't go through the normal channels – I'll speak to someone I trust, about having the items removed and destroyed very quietly. That way no one will even know about them until they're gone."

He spoke with such simplicity, such easy confidence, that for a moment Draco believed that things really could be so simple. Potter had always had the air of a leader, and it annoyed him.

Still, he could not see a better option. He saw that Gorling agreed too.

"Fine," he said. "Please do see that it is taken care of with the utmost discretion. Perhaps you can contact Gorling here with the name of the person you choose to trust.

"Yes," said Potter. He looked firmly at Gorling. "I can do that.

They emerged from the depths of the caves silently. Draco did not know what Potter was thinking of – still less what went on in Gorling's twisted little brain – for he was lost only in his own disappointment.

When they came from the bank, blinking into the warm summer light, Potter looked at him and seemed to notice his depression.

"Let's go to eat somewhere," he said. "Let's go to the Leaky Cauldron."

Draco shook his head impatiently. "Someone might see us together."

Potter looked annoyed. "Malfoy, we just went into Gringott's together, and came out. People could have seen that."

Draco shrugged. It wasn't the same, but he didn't want to explain that to Potter. Fortunately, or unfortunately, however, Potter was not as dense as he appeared. "We're having a baby in another six months," he added. "People might as well get used to seeing us together now."

Draco shuddered, but the logic was inescapable, so he allowed Potter to escort him to a booth in the back of the Leaky. He noticed the way Potter's hand went to the small of his back, leading him, although he thought Potter did it unconsciously. The waitress came over to take their order, and Draco impatiently waved her off. He felt nauseaus.

"Don't do that," said Potter. "I'll have a pumpkin juice," he told her. "And a sandwich. He'll have, uh…" he looked doubtfully at Draco.

"Tea?" he tried.

Draco made a vague gesture with his hand that could have been taken for assent. The waitress smiled and nodded and headed off.

"You said before that you needed money," Potter said. He looked suspicious. "How bad is it?"

Draco shot him a filthy look, and debated how much to tell him. Finally, he shrugged.

"It's not like we're destitute," he said. "Only, between the Ministry taxes after the war and repairing the manor, all of our liquid capital is pretty much gone." He ran his hands through his hair. "I honestly didn't notice until a few weeks ago, when I started going over the house accounts… Mother doesn't pay any attention at all, of course, she never did. But now she wants to fix up the garden, and do a room for the, uh…" he gestured vaguely again, "and if I can't come up with a bit of cash from somewhere I'm going to have to sell some heirlooms or something – and that would mean explaining to her what's going on" He mulled things over. "I think I might get rid of my apartment. That would probably take care of things."

He felt a bit guilty about how grudgingly he thought of selling his flat. It was his only independence from Narcissa, and sometimes without that he thought he would go mad. But - he shrugged mentally. He didn't want to raise the baby alone in his flat either; it would be better to be at the manor with his mother and all the elves. Better, therefore, to bite the bullet and move back in permanently.

"Why not just explain it to.. ah.. Narcissa?" Potter said.

Draco frowned. "I don't want her to feel guilty about fixing the garden, or to stop doing it. It's…" he frowned, he couldn't explain. "I think it means a lot to her."

Harry nodded. "Ok," he said. He looked as though he wanted to say more, but was uncertain. "I wanted to ask you about something else." He said. He bit his lip. The waitress came with the sandwiches and the tea and the pumpkin juice, and he waited until she was gone before leaning over the table to look at Draco.

"Let's give things a try," he said.

"What do you mean?" Draco poured his tea carefully. The smell was nice, so far so good, it wasn't troubling his stomach. He poured about half a cup and then swirled it around gently, letting it cool.

"I mean us," Potter said, firmly. Draco sighed. Trust a Gryffindor to always want to have these kinds of conversations head-on. Draco much preferred the subtle approach – difficult topics could be avoided for ages, sometimes entirely. "Let's go out. Oh, come on, don't be like that." He groused, looking at Draco's expression. "It makes sense at least o try. Unless you… uh… hate me… though I was given to believe from that one night that perhaps you didn't."

It was on the tip of Draco's tongue to say that he did, in fact, hate Potter – he had said it enough times before, that surely once more made no difference – but he realized that Potter, sitting before him and suggesting they 'give it a try' was very different than a Slytherin who suggested to do the same thing. With most of the people he dealt with regularly, this would have been a trick, perhaps, trying to lure out of Draco a dangerous admission… but Potter, for better or worse, usually meant exactly what he said.

He didn't want to say, "yes", though, either. That seemed wrong, too, He looked at Potter doubtfully.

"I don't know," he said, finally.

"Why not?"

Draco shrugged. "Don't you have a boyfriend, or something?"

"Not just at the moment. Wait – do you?"

"No." Draco continued scowling.

"So what's the problem?" Potter gestured. He scowled, looking ready to fight. Draco felt his blood rising a little in response.

"Fine, then." He hoped it was too dark for Potter to see the blush that spread over his noise – stupid pale skin, had always blushed easily. "Let's give it a try."

He was unprepared for the large grin that spread across Potter's face. Unprepared, too, for the way his heart leapt up in response.


The weekend after, Potter insisted that they go on a date. Malfoy was revealed when they decided to go into muggle London for dinner, where there was less chance of being unexpectedly seen.

At dinner they got into a fight about the superiority of wizards versus muggles – really, Draco didn't even know where Potter got these crazy ideas, maybe Granger – and then sat eating their spaghetti in awkward silence for about half an hour before both of them cooled down. Then they talked about the baby –awkwardly, because half the time Draco refused to acknowledge the existence of the baby – and then Potter went on sort of a panegyric about how wonderful children were and how family brought meaning to everything.

Draco listened to this in stony silence. He was not impressed; having had one before, he already knew exactly what family meant.

Then Potter drank too much wine, possibly because he had been trying to lubricate his way through the evening, and although Draco was forced to remain stone-cold sober the wine played its trick, for Potter became more relaxed and took to laughing at everything Draco said and then tried to kiss him. Draco was surprised enough to let him.

"You know," Potter told him, while Draco was struggling to get him to a quiet place where he could apparate them back to the manor, "I wanted to ask you out for ages."

Draco frowned. "What?" He asked, trying to match his voice to Potter's, which was rather casual.

"You know. I wanted to ask you out – since before I saw you at the flower show, the time before that, where was it, at the stationary's. That time you pretended not to see me." He sounded sad. "I was just so sick of people dating me for who they thought I was, rather than, you know, who I am, and I thought, Malfoy wouldn't be like that. Plus, you're quite fit." He allowed his eyes to range up and down Draco's body appreciatively.

Draco considered this confession. So, Potter thought he was fit, did he? He looked at Potter speculatively. "Want to fuck?" He asked.

Potter looked at him. "What, now?"

"Yes," Said Draco said. "We're officially going out, and everything, and besides, I haven't gotten laid since… well, since." He finished, lamely.

Potter's skin might have darkened a shade, but it was probably hard to tell because he was already so flushed.

"It's probably not a good idea," he admitted.

"What?" Said Draco, hurt that he was being rejected. That practically never happened.

"I mean, uh, not tonight, maybe," Potter admitted. "I may have drunk a little more than I should have."

He flushed a bit more, and Draco apparated them both back to the manor in silence. He sent Potter to the guest room, and was just a little pleased, in the morning, to come downstairs to find him at the breakfast table, buttering his toast.


In the fourth month, the stone terraces were completed, the faux pond sunken and the waterfall put in. All the soil was distributed to its respective locations, ready to receive plants.

When they ran into some of Potter's friends on the street, Draco was surprised to find that they all knew about him already.

"We've been wanting to have you over for ages," Hermione explained, "But Harry keeps saying no. Are you free next week?"

So, he found himself wedged between Potter and Lavender Brown on a sofa, eating watercress salad and trying to avoid Granger – she had twice already tried to draw him aside, and Draco was unsure if it was in order to ask him about the embarrassing mechanics of male pregnancy or to attempt to helpful inform him on the subject. Either way, he was uninterested. He chewed on his watercress and kept his eyes steadfastly fixed on a point just behind her left ear.


In the fifth month, Narcissa oversaw an army of elves who planted one and two-year old seedlings about the property. She favored oak, and elm – small seedlings that would one day grow into huge, shady, ancient trees.

After a steadily increasing amount of snogging, groping, and foreplay, he and Potter had finally fallen back into bed together. It took long enough, in Draco's opinion, because the fifth month was also the period when his sex drive jumped way up. He let Potter shag him all over his bedroom, and then, when Narcissa went out shopping, they shagged all over the house.


In the sixth month, Narcissa planted all the bulb plants: crocuses and lilies, and even a patch of onions and leeks in an ornamental herb garden that had a few vegetables put in around the edges. She planted the narcissus with her own hand, delicately placing them along the corner of the house near her own bedroom. In the spring, she promised, they would emerge once the weather grew warm.

In the evening after planting, she removed her gardening gloves, which were not in the least bit delicate, and sat down on the couch beside where Potter and Draco were playing chess, and smiled.

"Why don't you two have a bonding ceremony?" She slyly suggested.

Draco caught the way Potter's eyes slide over to his face before Potter coughed.

"I don't know, Narcissa." Potter said softly. He was caught between a rock and a hard place, Draco could sympathize. "I don't know, we'll see."


By the seventh month, winter had set in and the garden was covered, waiting for the emergence of spring, when all the grasses would be laid, all the planting done. Narcissa's little greenhouse was full of greenery, all the plants she was preparing to put into the ground. It would be beautiful, Draco could already see it when he looked over the design of it – topiary and fountains in the front, and flowers and flowers behind, all connected by twisty paths. The herb garden was nestled in a corner at one side of the house and Narcissa's great trees would form a line to the west.

Draco was happy, but also tired all the time. He was physically tired, but not only that. It tired of the way that the house elves had moved all of Potter's things into his bedroom without telling him, and then claimed the guest bedrooms were full. It also tired him when all Potter's friends, and, worse, all his friends, had taken to automatically treating him and Potter like two halves of the same unit.

He realized that, just as he hadn't the energy to protest the single bedroom, he also didn't have the energy to stop the inevitable direction things seemed to be flowing: the birth of the baby, an eventual bonding, followed by a happy, comfortable married life.

In his heart of hearts, he admitted to himself: probably, he was ok with all of that. He didn't want to stop the way things were going.

And so, in the seventh month, he finally admitted to himself: he really loved Harry. It shouldn't have been a surprise, really. After all, they'd been obsessed with each other for ages. Draco was twenty-three by then, but he was pretty sure that, under other circumstances, it might have taken him until he was thirty to get over all the shit in their pasts and realize that they had, well – something - together. If, by thirty, Potter hadn't gone off and married some other bloke.


It was in the middle of his eighth month when he woke up very late when he woke with cramps, the kind that had been keeping him awake more and more frequently of late. Harry was sleeping heavily beside him, breathing so deeply that it was almost snoring. Draco sighed, and sat up. He swung his feet over the side of the bed and slipping them into his slippers.

The moonlight shining from the window was very lovely and bright. It guided his way down the hallway, towards his mother's bedroom at the north end of the Manor. A little walk always helped with those cramps.

When he reached his mother's door, he paused, for it was cracked open, ajar a few inches. She normally slept with it shut. Perhaps she's awake, too, Draco thought, for Narcissa was a perpetual insomniac. He knocked lightly, and, when there was no answer, slipped inside anyway.

His mother was fast asleep, sprawled on the left side of a bed far too big for one person – or even two, really – her golden hair still as yellow as when she was a girl, though by magic or nature Draco would never know. It was unbound and spread out all around her, like a halo on the bedspread.

Draco smiled. She was still so beautiful – as beautiful as when he had been a little boy, and had always bragged of having the prettiest mommy. His hand rubbed his belly unconsciously.

He did not want to wake her, but he didn't want to leave either. Silently, he padded over to the window, and raised the heavy curtain just a bit to see the moonlight illuminating her whole garden. All was in order, now, everything ready for spring, and in a few months they would see the first new shoots coming up, the first to come up on that land for many years.

Beside the window was Narcissa's vanity, and Draco looked down at that, too, with a hint of nostalgia. Once he had buried his face in her skirts while she powdered her nose and put on her glamours… something on the vanity glinted in the moonlight, and his hand reached for it, curiously.

It was a silver etui, finely filigreed. Narcissa did not sew herself, not even decorate needlework, so Draco was somewhat surprised. Carefully, he undid the top, and tipped the etui into his palm.

Out few three hairs, each short and fine. Had Draco not known better, he would have called them just the right length to be added to a vial of Polyjuice. Holding them up to the light, they appeared to be a light brownish color…

Just the shade, in fact, of the hair of that annoying boy who had come with Potter, that night, to Seamus Finnegan's club opening. The one who had goaded Draco so much, who had said such unpleasant things…

Doubtfully, Draco looked at the hairs, and then, over to his sleeping mother. He shook his head in disbelief. There was no way,he thought to himself. There was simply no way.


Eight and 1/2 months earlier...

Sun was streaming through the breakfast-room window, the cheerful picture it made belaying the tension of the scene inside.

…"I'm sorry to hear you say that, Draco." Narcissa said. "I thought you understood, in spite of everything, the importance of family, and maintaining the Malfoy line. But it seems you do not."

It was clear to her that Draco was burning up inside, full on angry things he wished to say. She noted the exact moment when he managed to rein in that emotion. Her son downed his tea as quickly as possible, and, making his excuses, rushed for the floo.

She, his mother, was left, sitting stiffly in her high-backed chair. She allowed him make his escape. Once she was alone again, she was free to her thoughts.

She already knew most of the things that Draco had only hinted at. The detective she had hired had followed her son for two full weeks already, during which time he had kept a detailed list of what places Draco was frequently, what he was doing, and even who he was doing with. Muggles. She would have preferred not to believe it, but the detective had provided photographs. It had been one of the less-pleasant moments of Narcissa's life, when she had slid open the manila envelope the detective had given her and found Draco grinding against some nasty muggle in an alleyway – the photo was grainy and the light poor, but there was a moment when her son turned his face towards the camera that she could clearly see that it was him.

She smiled grimly to herself. The realization had been bitter, but not hopeless. After all, the young always insisted on being wild for a few years, didn't they? Narcissa had been only seventeen herself when she had threatened to leave her family forever in order to run away with Helmut Hartz, a German wizard she had believed she was in love with. It had taken her father's strong hand – and Lucius Malfoy's good looks – to set her on the right track again.

Draco was getting a little old to still be so rebellious. But perhaps it was because he hadn't had a proper outlet while he was a teenager – that had been during the dark years, of course.

Quickly pushing that thought to the side, she reminded herself of the problem at hand. Children needed a parent to guide them, at times like this, when they were in danger of becoming lost. Narcissa looked, speculatively, into her bone-china teacup. Draco hadn't noticed, but hers was filled with plain orange pekoe – she'd had Nipsy brew it up separately in the kitchen.

Of course she hadn't wanted to drink the Earl Gray. All the potion she'd dumped into it would probably have made her ill. It wasn't meant for women, after all, and fertility draughts tended to be such finicky things.

It would only be potent for a fortnight, and it could only become activated if Draco's partner was a wizard of at least moderate ability. That was what the potions-seller had assured her: Narcissa didn't want grandchildren with weak magic, or, God forbid, any squibs. If it didn't work, she could always dose him again.

And if it did work… well, Draco would never know. If he did, he probably hate her, at least for a while, but that was a risk she was willing to accept. When he got older she was sure he would forgive her, understanding that it had been for the best.

Narcissa Malfoy took helped herself to an orange. Using a small knife, she divided it into eight precise pieces, and then ate the first thoughtfully. It was cool and sweet. She had sent Nipsy to Valencia to buy it just that morning.

She thought of Lucius, dead and buried in an unmarked grave, somewhere to the north, perhaps on the same island that housed Azkhaban. They had never told her the location of the grave, and never allowed her to visit. Dear Lucius, she thought. Draco never mentioned his father anymore. When she had asked him to petition the Ministry of Magic to allow them to take the body home, and rebury it in the Malfoy cemetery, he had grown annoyed, and told her it was impossible.

The young never did understand things properly. It took time, years, to appreciate true sacrifice, and to have the courage to do what needed to be done.

And there was still the question of making sure that Draco met a proper young wizard, before too much more time passed. It had surprised Narcissa – shocked her, really – that Draco seemed to have confined his sexual exploits largely to muggles, over the past few months. Inexplicable, and yet in a way she was thankful, because it was probably the only thing that had kept his name out of the press thus far: Rita Skeeter, for all her sly talents, was too much a witch to have any idea about gay clubs in the muggle world.

Still, at the rate Draco was going, it was only a matter of time before rumors of his behavior finally became common knowledge. Narcissa sighed, and refrained from rubbing the bridge of her nose, a gesture that she greatly would have liked to indulge in had she not considered it common. The Malfoys had little enough of their dignity left as it was, and in this difficult time it pained her that her son and heir seemed bent on making their situation worse, rather than working to improve their standing.

At such times, it was sometimes necessary to make sacrifices, or to cooperate with an enemy, or a less-favored party.

Narcissa Malfoy ate another piece of orange, looked out over her ruined garden, and smiled.