Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction, based on the Harry Potter books written by J.K. Rowling. No claim is made or implied by the author of this work.
Author's Notes: This was written for ceirdwenfc for the rarepair_shorts winter 2009/2010 fic exchange. Super mega thank-you to Totoffle for the fabulous beta and Britpick! This takes place in the summer of 2015. It may seem at first that it is not epilogue-compliant, but if you do the math, it all works out! Yay! Also, Caelum is in fact the Latin name of a constellation. Fun how it sounds Celtic, though. ^_^
It's French, Finnigan
Seamus wasn't entirely surprised when she turned up in the middle of his pub one afternoon: Miss Pansy Parkinson – correction: Mrs Pansy Malfoy – her pale face set off by the dark fur collar on her shimmering robes and the glint of steel in her eyes.
"Finnigan," she said shortly.
"Parkinson—Oh, excuse me: Madam Malfoy," he returned.
"I'm here about Caelum." So that was their kid's name. Seamus had had to throw him out of the bar a couple of times for being underage. The last time, he'd gotten fed up and put him directly in the Floo to Malfoy Manor. And now, apparently, was payback.
"My office?" he suggested, mindful of Phil's curious gawk. Not that he wanted to protect Pansy from gossip; it was in case he came out on the wrong end of a hex.
The cosy, friendly office suddenly felt like a poor relation with Pansy in it. It seemed she felt the same way, as she glanced around once and sniffed dismissively. The look on her face stirred up something in Seamus' gut, a fire that he'd all but forgotten about.
Pansy loosened the neck of her robes, revealing creamy smooth skin with a very attractive – and no doubt very expensive – pendant resting on it. "Caelum told me you threw him out," she announced, with no further preamble.
"He's underage, for Chrissake!"
The corners of Pansy's lips turned up, ever so slightly. "I agree with you completely. However..." She leaned forward, confidentially. "I would like you to... Should you find Caelum here again, before he turns seventeen... I should like it very much if you sent him to my place. Instead of the manor."
Seamus frowned. "Sorry, I don't follow."
Pansy leaned forward a bit more, resting one arm on Seamus' desk. The pendant caught the light and glittered, drawing attention to her soft cleavage. "Surely you know that Draco and I were separated... several years ago, in fact. I maintain my own residence in Hampstead. The Cache."
"Cash? As in, money?"
Pansy looked irritated. "Cache, Finnigan, it's French."
"Draco got custody of Caelum, of course," Pansy continued. "My son finds the atmosphere at the Manor stifling, however, especially since that cow—Since Draco remarried. That's one reason he's wandering the streets at night, where anything could happen—He's only sixteen, for Circe's sake, do you understand?"
Pansy's cool, controlled demeanour was starting to crack, and Seamus felt stirred again... to help, stupid as that most certainly was. This was probably all an act, appealing to his sense of Gryffindorish chivalry (well, and anti-Malfoy sentiment). There was one obvious hole in her story, however:
"Why doesn't he just go to your place, then? If he wants a bit of peace?"
Pansy's eyes narrowed dangerously. "The courts put a Tongue-Tie Charm on my son. He's not able to say the name of my house."
Seamus' sense of righteous indignation was inflamed. That would prevent Caelum from going to Pansy's by Floo or even the Knight Bus. And Draco probably kept his brooms locked up tight.
"But if an unsuspecting landlord," Pansy continued innocently, "were to send him home – believing, of course, that his mother is just as capable of disciplining her son as his father..." Pansy left the implication dangling.
Seamus considered. It would be a simple thing for him, if Caelum ever came back. What was it to Seamus? And the Tongue-Tying Charm was just playing dirty.
"That's all you want? Send him to ... the Cash, you said?"
Pansy rolled her eyes. "Cache, Finnigan, Cache. You'd think someone had tied iyour/i tongue. Just make sure you say it right. I don't want my son ending up in a vault at Gringotts."
Seamus grinned. "Sure thing. Hey, I bet this'll piss Malfoy off, eh?"
Pansy raised an eyebrow. "Think you can handle it?"
"Do banshees scream?"
Seeing Pansy again brought back memories of that last year at Hogwarts. After the Battle, Seamus had found her, fawning over Draco; Seamus would never forget the look on her face when she saw him. It was like she'd boxed up everything that had happened between them and sealed it away. Because now Draco was free, and he was on the right side after all. Seamus had turned right around, hoping she didn't see his socked-in-the-gut expression.
He knew she'd married Draco, of course. That had been hard. He'd avoided any further news relating to Pansy Parkinson Malfoy after that. Seamus wondered whether she had been counting on their past, in asking this favour of him. No, she'd probably blocked the whole sordid episode from her mind. Better he should, too.
Caelum didn't stay away. The boy would simply show up in the evening, skulking, and Seamus would pass him on to Pansy. A couple of hours later, Caelum would return and duck back out into the alley.
Finally, the last week of August, Caelum came in about an hour after lunch, when business was at an ebb. Seamus was surprised, but Banished the dirty glasses he was carrying and took a pinch of Floo powder from the jar.
"Mum says you should come, too," Caelum mumbled.
"Mum wants to see you. To pay you for all the... you know. Floo powder and stuff." It was the longest statement Seamus had ever heard out of him.
"She can owl it," Seamus retorted. He didn't actually want Pansy to pay him. It had felt good, being able to do something for the kid, whom he'd taken a strange liking to.
Caelum raised his eyes to the other wizard; they were Pansy's deep brown ones, not Malfoy's fishy grey. Seamus got the old socked-in-the-gut feeling. "She wants to see you," Caelum repeated, half-pleading. Curiosity won out.
'The Cache' was a modern townhouse in a posh area. Seamus felt immediately awkward, as if he should bob his head and tug his forelock.
Pansy had been waiting for them, and embraced and fussed over Caelum until Seamus' embarrassment nearly equalled the boy's. Her casual robes were low-cut and open, and Seamus had to remind himself why he'd quashed all thoughts of her for the past decade and a half.
"Finnigan," she finally greeted him, once she'd dismissed Caelum to another room.
"Madam Malfoy," he forced out.
"Call me Parkinson, Finnigan... like you used to." She settled herself, in perfect pose, on the settee, and indicated that Seamus should sit in the chair opposite. "I wanted to thank you for your help this summer."
"No problem," Seamus said gruffly. "Although I was a little disappointed that Malfoy didn't come raging in and turn me place upside-down," he added with a grin.
Pansy smirked. "He doesn't really care what Caelum gets up to, as long as he stays away from me. I know for a fact that he's followed him, more than once, but all he sees is Caelum going in, and coming out again at closing time."
"You're lucky he never came in to check on him," Seamus pointed out.
Pansy laughed. "Have you forgotten what Draco's like? Do you think he would ever set foot in a place like yours, even if it weren't run by a Gryffindor, and one of Potter's right guard at that?"
"Hopefully it bothered him some, thinking his kid likes it."
"It killed him!" Pansy giggled. As her carefully controlled facade cracked a bit – this time in mirth – Seamus felt that fire stirring, begging to be fed. He kicked dirt over it. This was Pansy Parkinson, scheming Slytherin.
"You had this planned from the beginning, didn't you?" he asked shrewdly.
Pansy looked amused. "Accusations, Finnigan!"
Far from feeling used, Seamus felt smug. "You should have let me in on it. I could have played it up, made it look like me and Caelum were tight. Next time."
"Term starts this Monday," Pansy said quietly, sounding almost regretful.
"Oh. Right." That meant of course the end of any visits. "What year is he, anyway?" Seamus asked.
Pansy's eyes flitted away from Seamus'. "Sixth. He's sixteen. His birthday's in January." She pressed her lips together, silently daring him to do the math.
"So he was born in '99," Seamus concluded. "That's..." The calendar flipped backwards in his head. "So he was..." A sudden heat rose in his gut.
Pansy stood up abruptly. "Would you like a drink? I'm sorry, I'm such a terrible hostess. I don't know where my head is." She sounded nervous.
Seamus was at her side in an instant, grabbing her shoulders. "Is he mine, Pansy? You burnt— Tell me, is he mine?" He was teetering between excitement and fury.
Pansy's pushed at him. "Let me go, Finnigan! You have no right—"
"The hell I don't!" he roared. "I have a right to know if Caelum is my son!"
"No! All right? No, he isn't!" she screeched. "Did you ever take a look at him? He's a Malfoy, isn't that obvious? Do you think Draco would have gone to such lengths to tie him to himself if there were any doubt in his mind?"
Seamus released her, although his hands were still shaking. "But he was... We were... together then..." Seamus felt a rising revulsion, at her, and at himself.
"I had to keep myself covered," she hissed. "You don't know how it was."
"You disgust me," he growled.
"That's fine," she said coldly. "As long as we know where we stand." She was suddenly pressing something into Seamus' hands: a small, soft pouch. He could feel the weight of the coins inside. "Thank you for helping me this summer," she said dully.
Seamus dropped the bag onto the floor. "I won't take your money. I never did it for the money."
Pansy clenched her hands at her sides. "This probably won't mean anything, but I hated myself. I was scared when I found out, and stupid. I didn't know whose it was. And then just a couple of days later, Potter came back. Afterwards, I knew what I had to do. The Malfoys had the clout and the money. How do you think that would have looked, me and a dirt poor Irish half-blood? That's how I saw it then. When Caelum was born, and the paternity charm turned out positive for Draco, I was over the moon. Finally, I thought, things were going my way. And now look how it ended up."
"You made your bed," Seamus said.
"You're right," Pansy returned tightly. "I deserve that. I deserve everything I got. Except for one thing." Her face softened as her gaze flickered down the hall. "Caelum. He's nothing like his father. He's kind and thoughtful. He's in Hufflepuff." She laughed, short and nasty. "That was delicious. Draco blamed it on my influence. It's what brought on the Tongue-Tying. Well. Now you know. The whole sordid affair. I won't be bothering you again."
Although Seamus knew that he should agree with her—that this woman was poison, and would use him and throw him away as often as it suited her fancy-- he found himself rubbing the back of his neck and saying, "You .... don't have to go that far, Parkinson. I like the kid. Even knowing he's Malfoy's. I mean, I thought he was before, and I still wanted to help him. What I'm saying is... tell him he can drop by any time. He can even hang out a bit before I send him over, once he turns seventeen, I mean. January, you said?"
"The charm will also expire when he comes of age," Pansy told him, somewhat apologetically.
"Oh. Right." Seamus felt deflated. "Well, my offer of a free drink on his birthday still stands. Pass that on to him?"
"I will," Pansy agreed.
The next day, Seamus found that Phil had taken delivery of an entire crate of Floo powder that they hadn't ordered. He was in the middle of chewing him out – a crate was an extravagant amount to have to pay for all at once – when Phil thrust the receipt at him. It had 'PAID IN FULL' stamped across it, and in handwriting along the side: 'Remember, Finnigan: It's French.'
"Stupid Slytherin," Seamus grumbled. But he told Phil to stow the powder in the safe – you could never be too careful.