If we should fail?
But screw your courage to the sticking place,
And we'll not fail.
Macbeth Act 1, scene 7, 59–61
It would be easier to kill his father than reason with him. Not that Draco felt murderously inclined or was capable of harming Lucius even if he did. He'd learned long ago that he wasn't a killer. He smiled wryly in the darkness. Too bad Professor Snape wasn't around to step in once again and get the job done. If only there were a way to borrow his portrait from Hogwarts.
"What are you chuckling over?" The sheets rustled as Astoria shifted onto her side.
"Facing my father at breakfast. Gallows humour."
Soft lips kissed his cheek. "I'm sure death isn't impending, so let's call it black humour."
"Same difference," he said, "since most Blacks are beyond the veil."
"You're a Malfoy. You live."
"Yes," he drawled, self-mocking. "We take self-preservation to unparalleled heights."
"You pick your battles."
"And you always see the best in me." He tried to lighten the mood. "Was that part of the marriage contract?"
"One of the amendments added by your father, along with a stipulation to bear a fine son." Draco could hear the smile in her voice. "I was happy to agree."
"You fulfilled all requirements brilliantly," he said, reaching out to touch her face and cup her cheek.
She kissed his palm. "You're a brilliant father."
Draco was glad his wife couldn't see his expression. In his mind, he was merely an adequate father, well intentioned and caring. He had zealously safeguarded his son from physical danger over the years, never wavering in his dedication. Now he faced a greater threat than fire-crabs brought home from the beach and falls off brooms.
All his life, it had been easier to go along and find ways to negotiate when necessary rather than out-and-out defy Lucius' expectations.
Following his marriage to Astoria, Draco didn't contradict his father's assumption they would live at the Manor. Instead, he persuaded his wife that they would create a home within a home as she redecorated their private wing. He Flooed to the London office twice a week to assist Lucius in managing business interests in order to spend the other days in his private lab without dissent. He and Astoria created fragrances for international perfume houses, yet most of the family was unaware they travelled on anything other than holiday excursions. Lucius considered their business a hobby.
"I compromise at every turn," Draco said. "Value peace at any price."
Astoria snuggled closer, resting her head on his shoulder, her hand on his chest. "If that was true you wouldn't be awake worrying. You'd let Lucius leave for Hogsmeade without saying a word."
"I have to stop him." He laughed mirthlessly. "I just don't know the right words to say."
"They're in here, waiting to come out."
"I hope so," Draco said, as gentle fingers caressed the skin over his heart.
The next morning he dressed carefully, choosing a shirt that buttoned to the throat. His scar from Potter's curse, although faded to a thin silvery line, offended Father.
He combed his hair and scowled at his reflection. "I look like scared sixth-year."
Astoria slid her arms around his waist. She cooed, "If you die down there you can share my toilet."
Her ash-blonde hair and delicate oval face looked nothing like Moaning Myrtle, but her breathy impression was spot-on. Draco pretended to sneer. "You say that to all the boys."
"Only the sexy ones who make me wish I could do more than float in and out of their bodies."
He grinned. "Still jealous, are you?"
"On occasion, when my inner schoolgirl reminds me how much I wanted to be your friend and you didn't even know I existed." Her lips curved. "It was worse last week when I ran into Pansy Bletchley in Diagon Alley."
"How so?" His family's role in the Battle of Hogwarts turned Pansy against him—one of the reasons he could be civil to Harry Potter.
"She asked if you still liked to have your hair stroked."
He did and had since infancy according to his mother. "What did you say?"
"Among other things."
Draco laughed. "Thank you. I needed that this morning."
"You'll do fine," Astoria said, "and if he doesn't listen, there's always Petrificus Totalus."
He kissed her for luck.
In the breakfast room, at the end of the small, intimate table for twelve, Lucius Malfoy sat reading the Prophet. Elegant and dignified, he intimidated with a lift of an eyebrow. "Don't hover in the doorway like a servant," he said, folding the paper and setting it aside.
"I need to speak with you about Scorpius." Draco strode into the room. "He's a seventh-year. Of age. You should respect his decisions."
"I take it this . . . outburst . . . is related to my upcoming trip to Hogsmeade?"
"I'm asking you not to go."
Lucius made a steeple of his fingers. "Scorpius expects me for tea."
"Send an owl."
End of discussion. The master has spoken. Frustration churned Draco's stomach. He said, "Scorpius remained at school over Easter holiday because he doesn't want to become a Knight of Walpurgis. Why can't you accept that?"
His father rose to his feet. "I promised my grandson I will always do what's best for his welfare." His smile was a warning. "Nothing will stop me from keeping my word."
A cold sweat broke out on Draco's brow.
Moments later, he trudged upstairs.
Astoria dropped her hairbrush onto the floor when she saw him. "What's wrong? Did he refuse?"
He slowly nodded.
She rushed to his side. "It's all right. We'll deal with this together. Tell me what I can do."
"Help me look up Memory Charms," Draco raked a hand through his hair. "If Father remembers I stunned him he'll murder me."
Ten hours later . . .
Draco sat beside Astoria on a sofa in the drawing room, listening to his mother describe Lucius' sudden illness.
"All he wants to do is sleep," she said, so blandly Draco wondered if she knew the cause.
The housekeeper entered with a letter. "For you, Mr. Malfoy."
"Thank you, Mrs. Stevens." Draco read the letter and handed it to Astoria.
Narcissa said, "I recognise Scorpius' handwriting. He's such a thoughtful boy to enquire after his grandfather's health."
"He isn't at Hogwarts," Astoria said. "He's spending the holiday with a friend."
"Which friend?" Narcissa asked. "Edgar Goyle?"
"Rose Weasley." Draco almost expected security wards to strike him down for uttering the name.
"Oh dear." After a minute's silence, Narcissa said, "We'd best look up a spell to go along with whatever you cast earlier. A variation of Cheering Charm, perhaps? Nothing too overt, just enough to keep Lucius' blood pressure down."
Draco looked at Astoria.
He said, "Yes, Mother," and escorted them to the library.
A/N: I tried my best to give this one shot legs for anyone who isn't a reader of the Scorpius and Rose story Our Little Secret that inspired it. As always, I'd be delighted for anyone interested to go read what they didn't know they've been missing. :D
I have a hippogriff-sized soft spot for Malfoys (even Lucius!) so I had a great time exploring their personalities and family dynamics. In case anyone was wondering, the Knights of Walpurgis is what JKR said the Death Eaters were once called, and yes, Astoria quoted Myrtle's invitation to Harry, and Pansy does indeed have a daughter named Orna. The former Miss Parkinson eventually regretted her break-up with Draco (after his father kept his status with the Knights of Walpurgis and the Malfoys retained their wealth), but when she tried to get back with him, he was (sadly for her, happily for Astoria) no longer interested in her affections.
As a writer extremely interested in the opinions of readers, I will deeply appreciate all reviews and hold them in the highest affection. :)