The next morning, Draco noticed an owl pecking a bit on the ledge outside his parlor window. The owl bore a note in parchment and Draco immediately slid the window up in order to receive the feathered messenger.

Draco –

The Greengrasses were over for dinner recently, and incredibly enough, my son, Astoria still inquires after you. This is tantamount to forgiveness and reconciliation. If you would simply consider again all of the vast benefits of marrying the girl, I'm sure you would agree it is in your best interest. I understand your need for freedom and independence, and I feel as though I've let you have your way for long enough. I want you to come home before the summer ends.

Draco felt an icy rage travel through his veins. He remembered his wedding day and how his father had been so smug in his own convictions. Draco's life, it seemed, resembled nothing more than negotiating a simple pawn on a chessboard. But Lucius had Draco convinced that it was all for his own good.

Somewhere deep inside he remembered why he had agreed to marry Astoria, and it had everything to with the safety of Davis and her family. But fear had ruled his life for so long that he couldn't even comprehend a life without it.

With only ten minutes before the wedding was slated to begin, Draco entered the bridal room where Astoria was adjusting her veil and beaming radiantly in the mirror. It was one of the hardest conversations he'd ever had, but he told Astoria that he wasn't ready to be married.

Astoria, though crushed and in tears, tried to smile bravely. She really wasn't a bad sort of woman. She was actually a very solid, lovely girl. But she didn't keep him up at night, haunting him with her smile.

Draco had walked into the congregation and announced that there would be no wedding. And with his heart beating wildly in fear that his father would try to stop him, Draco left the church and headed straight for London.

His mother was waiting for him on the street near the Christie House and at first he was fearful that she was going to guilt him into coming back to the fold.

Instead of lecturing him or manipulating him, however, Narcissa explained that Davis was studying abroad and would no longer be living at the Christie House.

Draco felt like the wind had vanished from underneath his sails.

His former wife and beloved had been driven away from her home by his cruelty. It made Draco sick to his chest to feel the weight of responsibility squarely on his shoulders.

With only a few short weeks left before the Fall term at Hogwarts began, Draco had contemplated a leave of absence, but realized that without the Malfoy Family funds, his foray into independence would be short-lived without his teaching income.

It was a terrible situation, but Draco understood this to be his punishment. To be tortured for the year by an urge to find Davis that was constantly denied. And he had hoped that the year apart would soften Davis as well, though he had a strong fear that the longer he waited, the worse she would feel about him.

Draco crumpled the note and turned it into a burning ball in midair that vanished in a puff of smoke. He could hardly give a damn anymore about his father. But he did feel remorseful over leaving things open with Astoria, as though there might have been a chance that he'd come back to her.

Draco began to compose a long, thoughtful letter to Astoria, admiring her for all of her wonderful qualities and setting her free from the love she still carried for him. It was the very least he could do after all he'd put her through.

But composing such a letter was rather difficult. Draco's instincts were, by nature, rather mean-spirited, and though he had learned to temper these instincts, he felt rather foolish writing something so flowery and emotional in content. It felt odd and strange.

Draco knew this was all a part of his extended repentance for past misdeeds.

"Oh, let me see him!" Julianna cooed, reaching for Altais. She scooped him up in her arms and held him close, kissing his soft little head. Julianna had finally come home from Beauxbatons as a full-fledged graduate. She had discussed moving permanently to America with Father and me, but we weren't going to stay forever.

As scary as the thought was beginning to seem. The last place I wanted to go was somewhere that I could hear about Draco in everyday conversation, or somewhere I'd have to send Altais to school in a place where he'd learn his potions from his ashamed father.

"He's grown so much in just a short while." Julianna murmured. She bobbed him up and down against her chest and Altais reached for her long, dark tresses. I smiled and took hold of his hands and pressed them to my lips.

"Not so fast, young man." I said. I laughed and kissed his palms. He always smelled so delightfully fresh and clean and sweet. Nothing was really ever wrong with the world when I held him close and kissed his plump, smooth cheeks.

"Altais has been giving your sister a bit of a time lately. He's not taking to stewed peas as well as we'd like." Father said, taking his turn kissing the baby's head. I gave a smug glance at my little one.

"He hasn't been taking to anything I've fed him lately. But he needs more solid food than formula." I shared a look with my sister that explained just how much I didn't use my wand at home. Otherwise Altais would probably have a full stomach and fewer baths.

Aside from potions classes during the day, I did not practice magic at all. My father had gotten a job with a local newspaper writing editorials that allowed him freedom and a sense purpose that reinforced his instincts to live as a full muggle. I hardly ever talked about school and we somehow learned to make do as regular people living a regular, albeit quirky, lifestyle.

While Julianna and my father caught up with each other, taking turns bouncing Altais, I retired to my room and sprawled across my bed. I had hoped sleep would claim me before unwanted thoughts did, but Draco crossed my mind and once I thought of him it was awfully hard to stop.

He was probably married and expecting another baby with Astoria by now. I could see the two of them, proud parents, with Lucius standing by all proud and dignified. That was the marriage he had wanted from the beginning, and only offspring from that marriage were worthy of being related to him.

It felt like a punch in the stomach to think of Draco sleeping with another woman. Creating a child inside another woman. It was almost unbearable. I tossed and turned against the thoughts but they haunted me and every time I closed my eyes it was the same thing.

I could never really express the shame I felt. Altais was an unplanned blessing of a little boy, but he was still the product of my severe lapse in judgment. And he was also a constant reminder of the man I had trusted to love me and care for me. For that trust I was rewarded with betrayal.

Draco was no doubt living the life of Riley, with a beautiful wife, a solid career, the acceptance of his father, and the assurance that his pureblood progeny would remain as such. Altais had not shown any magic as yet and I wondered whether he would become a wizard at all. If not, it certainly would not have fazed me, as he was my son and that was all that mattered. But Draco, Draco would probably have disowned a son without any magical abilities.

Despite all of that, however, all I could think about was our last night together. The very last time I had seen him. He told me he loved me no matter what. He told me never to forget it.

I always wondered if he knew then that he was going to leave me, or if it came later after he'd gone back home. Lucius was a frightening man with a persuasive nature, and it wouldn't be strange to think that he'd been instructed to do away with me. But this always led me to the question of why? Why wasn't I enough? Why was I so expendable?

The only reason I could come up with is that he didn't really love me enough. Not nearly as much as I'd grown to love him.

I remembered Pansy back in school and how completely doe-eyed she'd been around Draco, how utterly ridiculous and devoid of all sense. And Astoria that fateful night of the party, how she'd loved Draco so much that it pained her to know he didn't really love her back. She loved him so much she was willing to be his obedient wife in a loveless marriage.

The few people who had really tried to look into Draco's heart were well-rewarded for their trouble, it seemed. We were all given glimpses so tremulous, brief, and beautiful that we resigned ourselves to expecting hardly anything more.

I suppose it was that typical "reformation of the bad boy" thing. The kind of relationship that lures women in with the hope of trying to tame the wild beast that is man, only to be thrown in the dirt as the beast runs far, far away.

Draco was a beast I probably would never ever stop loving. Unfortunately I would never stop hating him either.