I got the idea for this fic from Poseida Lunar's excellent oneshot "If Horses Were Wishes." I wondered what a Part Two would look like, and after a while of wondering, came up with this. If you want to read the original, I'd highly recommend it.
Behind the charred shell of Malfoy Manor, there is a stable.
In that stable once lived seventeen horses, each with an unusual name. Their names are inscribed on gold placards on each stall, but few know why such common creatures would have such uncommon names.
Draco Malfoy knows, as well he should. He named them.
Seventeen horses were purchased in all, one for each birthday. Seventeen wishes were made, one for each horse. Seventeen horses died, one for each wish.
The war is over now; it has been for years. Not a living soul has set foot in Malfoy Manor since its sole heir burned it down. But the stable has remained all this time, the horses cared for until they passed on.
It is in that stable Draco stands.
He folds his arms, closes his eyes, and breathes deep. The house-elves kept the place clean, even after the Manor was abandoned, but he can still smell the mingling fragrances of horse manure and hay. Intoxicating and sweet, the scent fills him with sorrow. His childhood wishes are dead, like the horses that once lived here.
Draco turns to leave, but something holds him back. On a whim, he turns and makes his way down the line of stalls, reading the names inscribed there.
Hope. Color. Purity. Things he lost.
Victory. Acceptance. Forgiving. Things he craved.
Warmth. Courage. Freedom. Things he never had.
Draco pauses at Freedom's stall and mulls this over. Of course he never had freedom—not as long as he lived with his parents, that is. When he took the Mark, the graceful Manor became a cage. But he fled that cage the moment Potter defeated the Dark Lord, fled the cage and never looked back until he razed it.
It's true that he never had freedom before, but he certainly has it now. Beautiful, delicious freedom. For twenty years he has savored the taste.
Draco raises his head, smiling at the place Freedom once stood. He has an idea.
In Hope's stall, he hangs a picture of a flower garden. Daffodils, petunias, tulips and a host of other flowers whose names he can't remember sway in the breeze. It is the same garden where he met his wife, years ago—the garden behind her childhood home. She smiled and drew him out into the sunshine, laughing and chatting as though they were old friends. That he was a former Death Eater and she was the half-blood daughter of a formerly imprisoned journalist never seemed to cross her mind.
Freedom is easy. He unfolds a copy of the Daily Prophet, dated May 3, 1998. "Boy Who Lived Defeats He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," the headline screams in two-inch letters. A half-page story follows. The editor didn't think such a headline required a picture.
Forgiving's stall brings him to a halt. He stares at the gold placard bearing the name and turns the word over in his mind. What does it mean? Did he ever find it?
He remembers the day he made his decision on the Manor. The home loomed before him, like the Dark Lord demanding an answer Draco didn't have. It was late July, the hottest summer on record, and still Draco shivered in its shadow. He hadn't set foot in it for over a year, but he knew it was there. Like the boogeyman of his childhood, it lurked at the edge of his mind, allowing him no peace.
His decision nagged at him for a week, even before he acted on it. Finally, he paid a visit to Astoria. When he told her of his plan, she smiled. "Shouldn't you ask your mother first?"
Draco blinked, her suggestion like a slap. "But…why? You know what she'll say."
"No, I don't. And you don't, either." Her eyes softened. "Go ask her, Draco. I think she'll surprise you."
When he found her, he didn't waste time with greetings. "Mum, I want to burn the Manor down."
She just stared at him. He plunged ahead, words tumbling over each other in their rush out of his mouth. "You never go there, and I'm not going to live there. Dad might, but since he's in Azkaban, he won't really have much of a chance, and since it's just a waste of space, really, I thought I'd just—"
Narcissa held up her hand, and he stopped. "Don't give me excuses. I know why you want to burn it."
Draco looked at the ground. Here came the insults, the taunts, and finally, the "No." But when she took his hand and pressed something into it, he had to look at her face. A tiny smile tugged at her lips, and her eyes sparkled.
"If you're going to destroy that old place," she whispered, "you'd better do it right."
The Manor went up in flames the very next day, aided by the explosive powder his mother provided. As he watched the Dark Lord's headquarters burn, he thought of his mother's smile. She looked so nice when she smiled. Had his visit—the first since the war ended—caused it?
Draco knew the answer before his mind finished forming the question.
Smoke filled his nostrils, and he laughed. He'd visit her again. And again. As often as it took to see her smile, he'd visit her.
Draco places a picture of his mother in Forgiving's stall. Unlike the pictures taken during his childhood, in this one she is smiling.
Ordinary's stall gives him pause; then he hangs a picture of the home he and Astoria bought together. It is a pleasant-looking home, painted a soft shade of yellow, according to his wife. She lined the front path with petunias, and planted tulips in the front beds. The home's number is printed in plain script. Even in the picture he can see the simple curtains Astoria hung in each window. At the end of each day, the sight greets him pleasantly and offers no surprises.
He stands where Family once stood and shuffles through a stack of photographs. A picture of him with his parents is quickly discarded. A picture of him leading the Slytherin Quidditch team is dismissed as well. Those people were never his family, no matter how much he may have wished it so.
Eventually, he settles on a picture of him and the rest of St. Mungo's Dark Arts Department. In it, he presses his palms together, wearing an expression of such grave dignity that it's almost a smile. Samara runs into the frame, tries to slow her momentum, and falls flat on her face. Josiah grins, raising two fingers behind Draco's head. Lillian tosses her hair and howls at the ceiling, while Klaus wanders into the frame, looks both ways, waves at the camera, and walks out again.
Victory's stall receives a copy of his medical license. The hospital's training program was the toughest five years of his life.
For Acceptance, he considers a picture of his wife, but the thought doesn't excite him. He sits on the floor and ponders this for a moment. Quiet strains of music filter into his mind, and he laughs. Of course.
It was fairly obvious to anyone with eyes that Astoria was a Muggle sympathizer. She smiled at them on the street. She refused to use the word 'Mudblood.' She shook her head at their achievements, wondering aloud what they'd think of next.
Despite all this, Draco never expected to find Muggle records among his wife's possessions.
She was out the day he found them, having tea with a friend. He was looking for a book on atypical cases of Dark Arts contamination when he found it. The instant he saw the record, he knew it was Muggle: The four long-haired, scruffy-looking men on the cover weren't moving. They stood frozen, forever in place as they crossed the street. There was no name, no title, just the same four men crossing a street lined with cars and trees. He frowned, vowing to speak with his wife the minute she came home.
Draco thought he'd speak with her the next day. And the next. Each time, he planned what he would say: "Astoria, I know you like the Muggles, but owning their records is a bit overboard. Besides, doesn't it violate the Statute of Secrecy?" And each time he planned it, he anticipated her response: "No, Draco, it does not violate the Statute of Secrecy. And I won't get rid of them until you give them a listen."
After a few days of frustration, Draco removed the record from its case and put it on the phonograph. The sounds that poured forth—strange, foreign-sounding melodies—intrigued him. The Muggle's voice was like a siren, beckoning him to hear just one more song. He let the record play as he flipped through his notes.
When the record was half over, he broke down and cried.
The song began with soft, delicate guitar chords. The Muggle sang gently, as if soothing a child: "Here comes the sun….and I say, it's all right..." The voice patted him on the shoulder, reassuring him. The winter is over. The nightmare is gone. Here comes the sun.
When his wife found him, his cheeks were still wet with tears. She smiled, seeing the record case, and left him to the music.
Draco sings to himself as he hangs the record case in Acceptance's stall. "Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter…" The Beatles were not the only Muggle band to gain him as a fan, but they were the first.
When he reaches Comfort's stall, he stops. He knows what belongs here; the nightmare is always the same. He dreams he is back at Malfoy Manor, arms and legs pinned to the floor, with the Dark Lord standing over him, punishing him for his latest mistake. Mercifully, he wakes before the pain of the first curse hits, but not before the terror has him in its grasp.
If Astoria wakes, she wraps her arms around him, lays her head on his bare chest, and strokes his shoulder. His heart races for a minute or two before his breathing calms and he can feel the brush of her hair and the softness of her skin, hear her murmuring or just inhaling, smell her scent filling his nostrils.
If she sleeps on, the terror takes longer to abate. He lies awake for a few minutes, panting, sweat soaking his skin. He stares at the ceiling, allowing the familiarity to bring him back—waiting for the realization that he is a grown man, safe in his own home, rather than a frightened teenager at the mercy of a cruel master. When he has this knowledge, he remembers his wife. His eyes trace her sleeping form, and he reaches for her hand. Soft and smooth, maybe a bit cold, he presses her palm to his cheek and closes his eyes. Her scent embraces him, even if she doesn't.
Every time, the nightmare flees.
The only question is: how to put that into a single picture?
Draco ponders this for some time before the answer comes. He Apparates for home and returns with a half-filled bottle of his wife's perfume. He places it on a small shelf, pokes and prods it until it is perfectly centered, and moves on to the next stall.
In Friend's stall, he hangs a picture of Astoria. She stands in the backyard, laughing at something Josiah said. The Healer laughs with her, then clinks his wine glass against hers. Draco smiles. That summer day was the first of many times Josiah was invited to their home.
Trust requires more thought than the others. Not because he trusts no one; those days died with the Dark Lord. But how does one represent trust in an image?
The more he thinks about it, the more his smile grows. And the answer comes, slowly and sweetly, as though it was simply waiting for him to discover it.
Draco Apparates for home again, returning with a picture of two wedding rings together—his and Astoria's. He hangs it in the stall and moves on.
Draco pauses in Color's stall. Not because he doesn't know what to put in it, but because the memory always makes him smile.
When Astoria entered the small chapel on their wedding day, half the guests caught their breath. As she drew closer, he saw his bride was arrayed not in simple white, but also with shades of grey. A stab of envy cut through his joy—envy for the guests, who could see the colors he missed. By the time she reached the altar, envy had turned to hurt. He smiled bravely as he said his vows, and hoped to forget during the reception. But dozens of well-wishers came forward to comment on her lovely gown, and the wound remained raw. He didn't expect her to notice.
"I'll bet you were wondering what color my gown is," she said a few hours later. They had finally managed to escape the festivities and claim their room at the inn. She faced herself in the mirror and pretended to fix her hair.
Draco watched her from the bed. "No, not really."
Astoria turned and teased him with a smile. "Really? Because I caught you staring at it more than once."
"I was just thinking how lovely you looked."
She blushed, a faint grey against white, and pulled a few pins from her hair. The curls fell free, loose against her shoulders. "You said you remembered the colors. From before the storm."
Draco paused, looking away. "Yes."
"And if someone tells you what color an object is, you can imagine what it looks like."
"What are you getting at, Astoria?"
She smiled, pulling the rest of her pins free, and turned from the mirror. "I could give you the colors of my gown," she said. "You could see it then, couldn't you?"
The offer made him sit up straight. For years he had starved on black and white monotony, occasionally snatching at a color from his memories. To have an entire gown—and a lovely one at that—given to him in all its multihued glory would be a feast. For the first time in hours, his smile was genuine. "That'll take some time, won't it?" He rolled onto his stomach, resting his chin in his hands. "I think I'd rather see it on the floor."
Astoria laughed. "Let's compromise, then, shall we?" She removed her veil. "The embroidery on this—the leaves around the edges—is green."
"Light green, isn't it?"
"Yes. Like jade." She dropped it to the floor.
She went through every article of clothing she wore, from her sash (a brilliant, startling blue, like a robin's egg) to her slippers (warm yellow, like daffodils) to the embroidery ringing her sleeves (pale pink and jade green). Her white gown held little interest for him. When he had slipped his own robes over his head, he noticed her underwear were two shades of grey. He sauntered forward.
"And what color are these?"
Astoria grinned. "Well, this—" she indicated her bra—"is pink."
"What kind of pink?"
"Pale, like a blush." She took his hand and brushed his fingers lightly against her panties. The lace felt pleasantly rough beneath his fingers, sending shivers down his spine. "And these are purple. Bright purple."
Fifteen years later, the memory still makes him smile. He hangs a copy of their wedding picture in the stall and admires it a moment. If he closes his eyes, he can impose the memory of the colors onto his memory of the photograph. The colors may not be exact, but they never lose their brilliance.
Laughter's stall is the only one to receive a picture of an animal. Sadie, the family's collie, prances through a field of tall grass. She stops, panting, and chases a squirrel. The squirrel leads her to a tree, scampers up the trunk, and leaves her at the bottom, barking at her would-be prey. Draco has seen the picture a dozen times and it still makes him laugh.
His father-in-law's likeness occupies Purity's stall. A former journalist for the Daily Prophet, he was best known for his balanced and straightforward reporting. When the Ministry fell, he refused to comply with the new reporting standards and promptly lost his job. After he published a few stories in the Quibbler, Samuel Greengrass was imprisoned until the end of the war, when he was released and quickly rose to become Editor in Chief of the Daily Prophet.
As a journalist, he lives by a single rule: "Call 'em as you see 'em." Astoria told him she does her best to live by it as well. Draco thought on this, then asked a question:
"Did you do that with me?"
"If I may….what did you see?"
Astoria stared at the wall, hands still covered in soap suds. "I saw someone broken," she whispered at last. "Someone who needed me to see him that way—through eyes that weren't tainted by rumors."
Ten years later, his eyes still smart at the memory. He touches Samuel Greengrass's photograph. The man taught his daughter well.
Draco almost passes Courage's stall altogether. Courage is for Gryffindors, he thinks, but even as he does he knows it's just something Gryffindors say. He pauses there and wonders about it for a moment; then, as realization dawns, he hangs a photograph of Lillian Wayne.
The Dark Arts Department was still fairly young when she applied. Her resume was hardly astounding (six of her twenty-five years had been spent at a smattering of minimum-wage jobs, and only the latest had lasted more than a few months) but when he met her, he knew he'd found the one. Her dark hair was cut short, and she wore her tattered robes with a dignity atypical of her station. She gestured broadly when she spoke, and when she did, Draco glimpsed deep, angry scars. After a bit of cajoling (and not a few threats) she finally agreed to pull up her sleeve.
"Just scratches? Is that all?"
Lillian looked at her lap; then, slowly, her hands moved to the hem of her robes and pulled it up to her knee. Draco scooted his chair to her side of his desk and leaned in for a closer look. Deeper scratches marred her legs, along with puncture wounds where the beast had sank its claws through her skin. And there, in the middle of her calf, was the deepest wound of all. The bite marks were unmistakable. He looked up, but she didn't meet his gaze.
"How old were you?"
"Seven," she whispered, fingering the bite. "Just seven."
He spoke with the hospital director immediately after the interview, who denied his request. "I don't have a problem with hiring werewolves, but not everyone feels the way I do," he explained.
"She's completely qualified. Nearly full marks on all her NEWTs." Draco stopped, forcing the director to stop with him and meet his gaze. "We need an expert on lycanthropy."
The director sighed, running his fingers through his thinning hair. "Let me think about it."
Two days later, there was a knock at his office door. "Hire her," the director said. "I trust your judgment."
Local and foreign newspapers and magazines carried the headline for weeks. "St. Mungo's Hires Werewolf"; "British Hospital Adds Lycanthrope to Staff"; and so on. Radio hosts seized on any stray word of "Lily the Lycan" and parroted the rumors to their listeners. On her first day of training, a team of Aurors (led by Harry Potter, no less) had to escort her through the mob gathered outside the hospital. Draco met them at the entrance, gave a dismissive wave to the crowd, and closed the door behind them.
"Get upstairs," he told Lillian. "Fifth floor café. We'll discuss your schedule and get you a uniform." He watched her hurry up the stairs.
Potter's voice made him jump. "Hm? Oh, yes. I…I guess it was."
"Never would have thought you'd hire a werewolf."
"She's more than qualified."
Potter smiled. "I think she'll do fine here."
He nodded and turned toward the door. "If she receives any threats, send us an owl right away."
In Warmth's stall, he hangs another picture of his wife. She sits in front of the window, wearing one of his sweaters, watching rain hammer against the glass. She hugs herself, dips her head and sniffs. A smile spreads across her face. Immediately following the taking of this picture, Draco spoke.
"There are other ways of telling me to do laundry, you know."
Astoria jumped, then grinned. "If I thought it smelled bad, I wouldn't sniff it." She dipped her chin and breathed deep. "It smells like you."
Affection's stall receives another picture of Astoria. Five-year-old Scorpius zooms across the backyard on a toy broom. Astoria, knowing their Muggle neighbors are home, chases him down on a real one, scooping him up in her arms as she passes by. Draco can almost hear her laughter through the frame. After the picture was taken, she landed the broom and carried their son into the house, kicking and screaming as she kissed his hair.
The last stall has stood vacant the longest. Love was the first horse purchased; as the eldest, she was first to die. Draco was not surprised when she did; in all honesty, he had expected her to die sooner. She lived until a few days after he bought Hope. Love was the only horse whose death brought tears.
Draco slows his pace as he enters her stall. He closes the half-door gently. The soft creak of the hinges and the quiet thump of the door make him cringe. The silence of the stable fills his ears, and the faint smell of horses and hay fills his lungs. He closes his eyes, remembering the day he made the wish. He made it again and again, staring up at the stars; rubbing every stray lamp he found and hoping for a genie. Each time, his wish was denied. Love is not for Malfoys. They command. They defend. They fight. But they do not love.
Or so he'd been told.
Draco reaches into his bag and removes the picture. It is twelve years old, almost to the day. He's seen it a hundred times, in the photo album and in his mind's eye, but here in this shrine to his wishes it sends chills down his spine. A lump forms in his throat.
A much younger Draco stands in the frame. In the background, he can just see his wife's hospital bed and nightstand.
His days-old son rests in his arms.
When the picture was taken, Draco didn't notice the photographer. He doesn't remember who took the picture. He remembers taking Scorpius from his mother-in-law, who insisted the boy needed his father. He expected the baby to be much heavier, but Scorpius was hardly any weight at all. Just under eight pounds, the Healer said.
Draco ran his finger down his son's chubby cheek, watching the tiny mouth open and close. He stroked the pale, wispy hair and twirled his finger through it. When he lifted his son's tiny hand, the fingers closed around his. Scorpius had such tiny, perfect fingernails, like drops of candle wax. His skin was like warm silk.
"He's beautiful," Draco whispered. His throat closed around the words.
Draco fastens the picture to the wall and takes a step back. Small though it is, the photograph seems to fill the enclosure, drawing his eye to that single moment in time.
He exits the stall and sends another glance down the line. The stable no longer seems desolate, a smelly barn filled with empty promises. He knows he'll come here again.
As he walks out of the stable, Draco can almost hear the faint nickering of seventeen horses.