Draco Malfoy sat beside a cut crystal decanter of firewhiskey. Every so often, he'd prize open the top and pour a healthy dose of the stuff over ice and sugar, garnished with mint leaves, and then carefully drip cold water over the whole thing. Then he'd throw it back, letting the cold heat burn down his throat and flame in his stomach for a moment. He was quite drunk. It was very pleasant.

He dimly heard a door opening. His father strode into view, and Draco had the eeriest feeling of déjà vu. He wondered whether if he were to look in a mirror, he'd see his eighteen year old face looking back, large eyed, very white.

Without meaning to, he gently pushed the decanter out of his father's line of sight. Through the haze of alcohol, he realized how stupid he was being. He was almost forty years old, for God's sake; what did he think Lucius would do, turn him over his knee? He chuckled a little and shook his head to clear it.

"Would you like some, Father?"

"Thank you." They drank in silence for a few moments, quietly letting the whiskey work its charms. Hands shaking slightly, Draco reached out to pour himself more, only to find the decanter floating away. Lucius tucked his wand back into his sleeve and shook his head.

"No, Draco. No more."

Lucius was amused to note his son, thirty eight years old, had a very slight pout on his face. "Really, Father…"

"You have an obligation to fulfill, do you not?"

Draco blinked. "Aunt Bellatrix is dead, Father. You spoke at her graveside, you should know."

"Your wife has lost her mother today. You must go to her."

Draco laughed softly. "Dear God."

Lucius arched a platinum brow. He was beginning to feel ever so slightly discommoded by his son's behavior. Really, it was scandalous. He'd have a word with the boy if this went on.

" "I must admit, I'm at a loss to understand her reactions. One would almost believe her sincere in her grief." Draco shivered slightly. Had the temperature in the room dropped?

"I should like to think, Draco, if I died tomorrow, they would say the same of you." Lucius drawled. His son could be surprisingly dense when it came to other people.

"Father! Don't even joke. It's hardly the same thing. I would think, after that business in Australia..." Draco looked his father in the eye. "Surprising what people can find out when they keep their ears open."

"Indeed." Lucius gave him the slightest nod, almost imperceptible. Draco sat very straight, letting the confirmation wash through him. He'd always known, of course but actually hearing it…well, not said, but at least strongly implied….

"Love tempers wisdom." Lucius was inclined, after all these years, to be generous to his daughter in law. If they would never enjoy the kind of affectionate, pseudo-paternal relationship Purebloods tended to expect in their in-laws, they had pleasantly intellectual conversations. And she had been, he admitted to himself, rather adequate in family things. All in all, a good move. He took another drink of the whiskey, feeling the heat drain down his gullet.

Draco nodded, slightly distracted. He fiddled with his glass, half wanting to ask for more, his pride refusing him the balm of strong drink. He called for some cold water instead, drained the glass. His hands were shaking very slightly. When the memory burst on him, it was with the force of a wave on rocks; that hard, that wild and uncontrolled.

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Draco Malfoy, eighteen and now a husband, sits in the study of Malfoy manor. His wife is upstairs, being prepared for their wedding night. He takes no pleasure in it; on the contrary, he wants to sick up. He's tempted to have a drink but after this morning's hellish hangover he's got a feeling Snape would refuse him a potion.

The door opens. His father, still dressed in his most formal robes. Lucius smiles at his son. " You are to be congratulated, Draco. It was the event of the season."

Draco nods. "Yes, Father. I'm glad everyone enjoyed it." He fights the urge to twist the hem of his robes in his fingers. Lucius sits down on the divan and relaxes. "Make sure you're decent by nine o'clock sharp. I assume you know what's expected of you." Draco colors and nods. Snape had pulled him aside and given him a quick, startling lecture about his…duties.

Suddenly his father reached over to put a hand on his shoulder. "Calm down, Draco. I'm sure it will be splendid, she's actually rather attractive." Compared to Parkinson's pinch faced get, Granger was an angel, no doubt about it.

Lucius feels the boy shaking. He's about to call for a potion when Draco takes a deep breath and bursts into tears. Hard. He buries his head in his hands and cries. Lucius is momentarily torn—should he scold him for his weakness or let him get it out? His body reacts for him, pulling the boy against his chest just as he would have when he was little.

"I take it something's wrong?" Sometimes Draco can be jollied out a bad mood but now he simply cries harder, flinging his arms around his father and burying his face in the man's shoulder. Lucius sighs softly and murmurs, rubbing his son's back.

"There now, ssshhh. Father is here. Calm down, dearest, there's the good boy."

"I'm s-sorry. I'm so sorry!"

"Sorry for what?" Lucius gently presses his son's shoulders back so they can talk face to face. "Sorry for what, Draco?"

"It's all my fault!"

"Hush. What nonsense is this?" Lucius eyes him as sternly as he can bear to, knowing the boy is legitimately upset and not wanting to make it worse. Draco takes a deep breath and forces himself to speak properly.

"I failed, Father. I failed to kill Dumbledore and this is our punishment. It's my fault the line will be tainted."

Lucius immediately puts a finger to Draco's lips. "Don't be absurd. This isn't a punishment, and it certainly isn't a matter of fault. Things happen, and all we can do it react to them as best we can." When his son looks as though he wishes to protest, Lucius, fixes him with a look.

"But Father, I--"

"It's rude to interrupt one's elders, Draco. I seem to remember teaching you that when you were six. Unless you've forgotten?" Draco blushes slightly and ducks his head. "No, Father."

"All things considered, it could be far worse. Your mother seems to believe the girl's been trained well by your aunt and uncle."

Not that Narcissa had much choice, but she had told him in private she thought the Lestranges had successfully cured the girl of her taste for rebellion.

Lucius reaches out and grasps the boy's chin in his hand. Draco cringes for a split second, which pierces his father to the bone. His voice is soft and gentle, soothing, like when Draco was small and had a nightmare. "You have been an exemplary heir. Never doubt, no matter what happens, that Mother and I are very proud of you."

The boy's eyes are shining, this time with pleasure and relief. Lucius wishes for a moment that he could have Draco as he was when he was small, just once more.

"Now, take a deep breath and it will all be over soon."

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Lucius watched his son's face. The boy was definitely up to something. He came back and gave his father a shy grin. "Remember my wedding night?"

"I certainly do. Avery got sick on Narcissa's rose bushes. I heard about it for weeks." He shuddered slightly at the memory. Narcissa Black Malfoy in a temper could terrify a full grown mountain troll, he was sure.

"I never thanked you for helping me feel better." If he hadn't been so drunk he would never have brought it up. Lucius said nothing. Purebloods didn't talk about emotions like this. If he was quiet, his son would go off to bed, hopefully with his wife. The boy was looking at him. He had to say something.

"Yes, well, you'd do the same for Aulus, I'm sure." Draco nodded. He loved his son but was often at loss to understand him. Secretly, he wished Segitta had been his son and Aulus his daughter, but he loved them both, loved them all, with a total devotion few would have thought him capable of. He stood a little unsteadily, preparing himself to brave his wife and what he was sure would be a storm of hysterical weeping or some other excessive female emotion.

"Sit back down. Lemmy' the ancient elf Apparated with a pop 'Master Draco requires something to sober him up. Quickly, if you please." The elf bowed and returned a moment later with a phial of potion. Dismissing the elf, Lucius uncorked the phial and handed it to his son.

Draco set it down. "Father, please…I simply can't do this sober."

Lucius sat up very straight and fixed Draco with an awful look. The boy gulped the potion without another word.

"Now go upstairs and Comfort. Your. Wife."

Draco stood. "Yes, Father. I'm sorry. She's just so…"

Lucius nodded. "Be that as it may, she is your wife.' His face softened very slightly 'I know you'll do the right thing."

Draco stopped. "Thank you. For everything." He turned and left silently.

Lucius watched him go. He felt slightly overwhelmed by his love for the boy, no less bright than when Draco was a chubby, babbling toddler. He smiled, unseen by anyone, and, draining his glass, slipped away, to find his own wife and thank her for the gift of his son.