A/N: So for all you bollywood lovers, this story might sound familiar. Very familiar. ;D For the rest of you, enjoy this sappy fic! I wrote this while listening to Classical Gas on repeat, so if it gets a little too sweet and dreamy at times, well, you know why...
"It's a boy!"
Draco clapped a hand to his mouth as his eyes filled with tears. The nurse was holding a bundle of blue in her arms, beaming at the tall man.
"Go on," Narcissa urged her son forward.
Draco stumbled towards the child, heart hammering with fear and jubilation. His son. His firstborn. He reached out with shaking arms. The nurse placed the silent baby into them, helping Draco hold him steady. "He's as healthy as can be," she added, patting Draco's hand.
"Thank you," he whispered hoarsely against his tears. He stared down at his baby boy. As warm as the glowing sun and with unmarred innocence, the child had his eyes closed from the world. He wasn't ready to wake up from his amazing dreams just yet. Draco didn't mind. Let him sleep. Let him be peaceful for a moment longer. "I love you," the young father whispered. "Always."
"There were complications," the doctor murmured quietly. "She knew of the condition. But she wished for us to continue with the birth," the doctor continued. "She is not clotting properly."
Narcissa pressed a soft kiss on her daughter-in-law's forehead, sighing. Astoria nodded in response. She would hold back her tears and be as strong as Narcissa. "I needed to give you something," she said, holding out a stack of letters for the grandmother of her child. "I know I won't be able to tell him the things I want to. I know I… I know he will miss me. So these," she gestured to the envelopes, "are for him. Read it to him, Narcissa?"
"Of course," she promised.
"Let him know that I-I love him more than the world."
"I'll tell him everyday," Narcissa murmured.
The hospital room was silent but for the soft whirring of machines and beeps from the heart monitor. Draco was sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at his lap. Astoria was looking up at him with a guarded expression.
"Are you angry?" she asked, reaching out to clutch Draco's hand. Draco pulled away from the touch. "Please, don't be like that," she said.
"You are a horrible person," Draco muttered as he steadied his breath. "Horrible…" He brushed away his tears with vehemence.
Astoria smiled wryly. This was the reason she loved him, of course. He could make her smile at the oddest times. She placed a firm hand on his arm. "Draco…" she whispered.
He shook his head, shrugging away her hand. He was angry and he would make sure his wife knew it.
She tried again. "Look at me?"
He shook his head.
"Friends?" she asked, dragging her fingers down to Draco's hand and entwining fingers with him. She brought his hand up and kissed it gently.
Draco glanced at her, memorizing her blue eyes and youthful, albeit feverish, blush. Her curly locks of blond hair were matted with sweat, her make-up had long since faded and even her smile seemed to have lost its warmth. But she was still so beautiful. She had always been so beautiful. He shook his head, chin trembling.
She blinked, tears falling onto her cheeks. "And… promise me you won't cry," she choked out, squeezing his hand.
He shook his head again, clenching his jaw.
She sobbed as she pressed her lips against his hand again.
He nudged her chin up with his free hand and kissed her, their tears falling together now. He wanted to die with her. Right there, he just wanted to fall asleep in her arms and never wake up. Astoria was his life… His love. His everything. He was supposed to be with her forever. And if she's gone… "Besides," she whispered, drying his tears, "you look awful when you cry."
Draco sniffed, teeth playing into his lip as he dug in so he wouldn't make a sound.
She let out a heavy breath. "Make me one more promise?" she asked.
He shook his head as he brushed away the strands of gold hair from her wet face.
"Please, Draco?" she asked, pressing a hand to his jaw so he would keep his eyes on her.
He shook his head again, gasping because his fear took his breath away.
She slid her thumb against his cheek and said, "Name him James?" She saw recognition in his stormy grey eyes. "And make him amazing."
"Please," Draco begged voicelessly.
"I am so sorry," she cried, her words nearly incoherent now. "I am so sorry for leaving you."
"Don't go," Draco pleaded, sobbing without restraint now. He hugged her close, pulling his legs onto the bed so he could lie down next to her. "We love you… Always," he wept, willing Astoria to stay alive. "Please, d-don't leave us."
"I love you, Draco… Always," she whispered, crushing him in her desperate embrace. "Take care of James for me. I know you will."
8 years later…
James muttered to himself in frustration while dramatically pacing the length foyer. His arms were crossed and his march was becoming increasingly enraged. So, when the door clicked open, he was ready with his hands on his hips and a positively murderous expression on his face.
Draco opened the door sheepishly.
"You," James scorned, pointing at his father with a steady finger. "You are two hours LATE!" For a seven year old, James could be quite formidable with his stern blue eyes and pursed lips.
"I'm so sorry," Draco apologized, rushing towards his son and dropping to his knees. "I couldn't get off of work and there was this crazy-"
"Don't want to hear it," James interrupted, turning on his heel and stomping away to the kitchen.
"James," Draco whined and followed the boy. "I really am sorry. I got here as fast as I could." James shunned his father as he opened the refrigerator and pulled out the juice. "I swear I'll make it up to you," Draco said. James sniffed indifferently, pouring himself a glass. "How about we go out to dinner tonight instead?" Draco asked. James didn't deign to acknowledge this. "And some ice cream afterwards?" Draco added, knowing that bribery usually worked.
James sighed, turning around and shaking a disappointed head at his father. "You know," he said patronizingly, "sometimes it's like all you are trying to do is buy me off with presents."
Draco had to bite his cheek to keep from smiling. "Really?" he asked in all innocence. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
James didn't hear the sarcasm in that sentence since he was already onto his next scathing argument. "I didn't even watch TV after school," he said bitterly, as though that were a crime against humanity and Draco was going have to pay in kind for it.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," Draco said, trying to plant a kiss on James' cheek.
James stepped away with a sound of consternation. "Do you know why I didn't watch TV today?" he asked, jerking his chin up. "Because we were supposed to go shopping. And for who? For you!" he exclaimed. "I can't handle all this! I'm your son! Not your wife!" He let out a small squeak, clapping his hand to his mouth as he blinked up at Draco in horror.
Draco raised his brows, smiling faintly. "Why not?" he asked. "If I can be Mum and Dad, why can't you wait on me hand and foot?"
James stared down at his socked feet. Draco took the glass of juice from James and turned away. The boy looked up as his father drank from the cup nonchalantly. He tugged Draco's shirt. Draco clicked his tongue, ignoring his son. James jerked Draco's shirt again. Draco shook his head, finishing the juice with a refreshing breath. James grabbed onto Draco's elbow and pulled him down.
"What?" Draco sighed in mock exasperation, kneeling on the tiles so he could be in level with James.
"Did you feel bad, Daddy?" James asked, looking thoroughly disheartened.
"A little," Draco answered with an unaffected shrug.
"I'm sorry," James whispered.
"Okay," Draco said, nonchalant.
James hugged Draco furiously. Draco laughed, hugging him back. "Friends?" James asked.
"Always," Draco said, pressing an adoring kiss on James' cheek.
"And you know what else we might need?" Narcissa murmured, scanning her day-planner. "A couple caterers."
"Oh, it's not going to be that big of a deal," Mrs. Murray said, waving her hand without care.
Narcissa and her book club were gathered in the parlor of her house, talking about their next event. And it was at times like these when Narcissa wondered why she had even thought of chairing the club. "I assure you, Emily, it is a very 'big deal'. We are trying to educate the masses here!" Narcissa insisted.
"You make such a mountain out of a molehill," Mrs. Notting bristled.
"Might I remind you exactly why we are doing this?" Narcissa said, getting up from her perch on the straight-backed chair to give her famous speech on literacy and the importance of teaching the public about appropriate reading material. Her club rolled their eyes in unison, preparing for the inevitable.
It never arrived because, at that moment, James came bounding into the room with a big grin on his face. "I'm here!" he said with a flourish, skidding to a halt in the middle of the circle of chairs and bowing to the older ladies.
"James," Narcissa smiled proudly. She glanced down at her book club with a slight condescending air. "This is my grandson, James."
James nodded eagerly and nudged his grandmother with a wicked smile. "Hey, sexy," he said, winking at her.
Narcissa's eyes went wide with horror while Draco, who had entered the room after James, covered his laugh with a cough and walked away, cool as a cucumber. James laughed villainously, running after his father before Narcissa's reproachful words could get to him.
A hurriedly conducted meeting later, Narcissa was boxing James' ear while Draco tried to appear to be a model parent.
"I have no idea what came over him," he said.
Narcissa scowled at her son and then at her grandson. "I'm sure you don't," she muttered, fuming.
"I thought it was funny," Draco said, ruffling James' hair.
"Of course you did," Narcissa huffed.
"It was funny, Grandma," James argued, rubbing his sore ear sadly.
"Not another word out of you," Narcissa scolded.
James stuck his tongue out at her before curling up against her lap. The two were very close, Narcissa being the only female figure in their very small family. His grandmother kept coddling James to death as well, giving him countless gifts that he had started to take for granted. "Grandma," he said with as much charm as he could muster. He must have learnt that from his father because the child's smile could charm a lion into giving up its food.
"What?" she all but snapped, hugging him close nonetheless.
"The letter?" James said sweetly, looking at her through his pale lashes and pasting an innocent smile on his lips.
Narcissa had already been through this before – with Draco and his constant manipulation. "When's your birthday?" she asked, trying not to be fazed by her grandson's adorable mug.
"Tomorrow," he answered, feeling a rejection coming along.
"Oh," he said glumly. The letter wasn't going to be his until tomorrow. He slumped into Narcissa's arms, sulking. He loved getting his mother's letters. They were all so delicate and perfect. He imagined Astoria was just like her letters, delicate and perfect. He cherished them with all his heart.
"Oh, indeed," Narcissa said, kissing the crown on his head.
An hour later, James was knocked out cold and sleeping in Draco's arms. Draco was sipping on his coffee as he stared into the fire. Narcissa finished cleaning up the kitchen before joining her son on the couch.
"How are you doing, Draco?" she asked, brushing back the ruffled platinum blond hair.
"Couldn't be better," Draco smiled, feeling James' breath rise and fall against his chest.
"Oh, that's great," she nodded absently. Then there was pregnant silence. Draco knew exactly what his mother had wanted to talk about. In fact, it was all she talked about these days. "You remember Mrs. Carner?" she asked casually, picking at the invisible lint on her prim dress.
"Not really," Draco answered, shaking his head.
"Well, she says she knows of a perfect girl," Narcissa said.
"For who?" Draco asked, playing dumb.
"For me," Narcissa fumed.
"Oh, that's so great!" Draco exclaimed, grinning at his mother.
"That's enough out of you," she muttered. "She is pretty and intelligent and sweet. Mrs. Carner wanted you to meet this girl. But I flat out refused. I did the right thing, didn't I?" she asked.
"Of course you did the right thing," Draco answered.
"I did?" Narcissa said helplessly.
"Yes," he repeated, trying not to laugh at his mother's despair.
"I did, didn't I?" Narcissa said, slumping against the back of the couch.
Draco looked at her with a disapproving expression and said, "Yes, Mother."
She shook out of her reverie. "Of course I did," she said firmly. "I can never do any wrong… Besides, it's not like you need someone else in your life. So what if this girl is pretty and intelligent and sweet?"
Draco rolled his eyes. He always knew James had learnt all his drama from Narcissa.
"Everyone is pretty and intelligent and sweet these days," Narcissa continued. "I don't know what the matter is with Mrs. Carner. She's always coming to me with these kinds of news, asking if you would be interested. And even after I refuse to-"
"Mother," Draco interrupted, resting his head against her shoulder. Narcissa didn't speak. "What's wrong?" he asked.
She stroked Draco's cheek. "I don't know," she sighed. "I just-I feel like… James is missing something."
Draco closed his eyes, swallowing hard. "Why?" he asked, keeping his voice level. "He has me and you. What more would he need?"
Narcissa hummed in acknowledgment. They sat in each other's company for a few minutes. In the past eight years, Draco had grown so much closer to his mother. He was glad for her. Even if she drove him crazy with hidden messages and smug parenting tips, he didn't know what he would do without her. "When I go out with my friends," she said, "they have daughter-in-laws to complain about. And all I can do is sit there and listen."
Draco raised his brows in derision. That was straight to the point, even for Narcissa. "So… you want me to remarry so you can have someone to complain about?" he asked glibly.
Narcissa didn't smile at this. "No," she answered. "I just… want to see you happy."
"I am happy," Draco insisted, raising his head to look at her. "I am happy."
She saw the masked sorrow in his eyes. "You won't remarry?" she asked.
Draco smiled, shaking his head. "Why didn't you remarry?" he asked her in turn. She glanced away from her son. He pressed his hand against hers. "We get one life, Mum. We live once, die once… and love once. I found love in Stori. That's all I need…"
Narcissa had to consciously stop herself from arguing with her son about that. "So you are fine. But what about James?" she asked. "Are you sure you are all he needs?"
Draco appeared hurt at this question. He looked down at his sleeping child. "He's fine, Mum. He'll be fine with me," he murmured. Narcissa felt tears in her eyes. She blinked them away quickly. Draco took a calming breath, looking up at his mother again. "He'll be fine because he has something even I don't have," he whispered, hugging James close. "His mother's letters…"
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!" James screamed the moment he bounced out of bed.
Draco gasped in terror, clutching his chest. He blinked at the barely visible touch of sun floating through the white curtains. "James," he groaned as he fell back onto his bed.
"BUT IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!" James yelled, running into Draco's bedroom and jumping on top of his father. "It's my birthday! It's my birthday! It's my birthday! It's my-"
"Go away," Draco groaned.
James struggled under the covers and cuddled against his father. "I love you! I want my letter!" he crowed, tickling Draco's sides.
Draco whimpered as he writhed under James' expert tickling fingers. "Stop," he grumbled, snuggling with his eight-year-old son. "I love you too."
Draco cracked open an eye. "On the bedside table," he whispered.
"YES!" James laughed gleefully, rolling out of bed and throwing open the drawer. Sure enough, the letter sat there, waiting for James. The boy snatched it up and raced back to his room. He slammed the door shut and jumped onto his bed, lying on his stomach. "Good morning, Mummy," he whispered, hugging the letter to his heart. He kissed the letter with a smile before opening it reverently. He turned around onto his back and held the stapled pages up so he could read it.
My dearest James,
Happy birthday! I can't believe you are 8 already! I bet you look just like your father, don't you? Those same eyes, same smile, same hair. I'm right, aren't I?
James giggled, nodding.
Tell me, does your dad still grumble when he sleeps?
"All the time!" James exclaimed, his eyes wide.
I don't think he will ever stop doing that.
James shrugged, wondering if he wanted his father to stop doing that.
So, you're such a big boy today! That's why I am about to tell you something very important. And I want you to read it and understand it as best as you can. It's a wonderful story that isn't over yet. I'll tell you the beginning of it and you can finish it for me. You would do that, won't you?
"A story?" James murmured, frowning in confusion.
It's a story about Draco. Draco and his best friend.
He raced through the hall, weaving past the students and bowling more than a few over in his hurry. He pushed past the milling group outside the dismissed classrooms, almost getting sidetracked as a group of cheerleaders batted their eyelashes at him. He shook his head, grinning dashingly at them as he sprinted towards the gym. Once he neared the basketball court, he slowed down and caught his breath. He brushed his hair back and jerked his clothes straight, looking nonchalantly lazy. Then he sauntered into the gym and pushed the door open.
He smiled languidly, raising his brows in contempt.
"You are late."
Draco waved his hand to silence the accusatory voice and said, "Well, I wasn't even planning on showing up." He dropped his gym bag on the bench.
"Didn't want to bother or… got scared?" Harry asked, passing the basketball with a hard snap of his arms.
"Whoa," Draco said, catching the ball. "Draco Malfoy is not scared of anyone."
"Draco Malfoy is not scared of anyone," Harry mocked, pulling a face. "Pfft. I manage to beat you every single time."
"Oh?" Draco asked. "Don't want to play today?"
"Why bother?" Harry smirked as Draco dribbled the ball, closing in on his opponent. "You lose everyday."
Draco looked disgruntled as he stopped, glaring at Harry. "I won't lose today," he muttered.
"You say that everyday," Harry taunted.
Draco jerked the ball at Harry, causing him to flinch. "We'll see," the fair-haired man said, walking towards center court.
"We'll see," Harry smiled, following Draco.
Draco passed the ball to Harry. Harry passed it back. The game began. Draco blocked Harry's arms by shielding the ball with his body. He ran towards the hoop, spinning past Harry to do a layup. Harry blocked the arching ball with a slap of his hand, beating Draco to it. He flew past the swearing man, bringing the ball back to center court and then dribbling towards the net. Before Draco could catch up, Harry shot the ball into the basket from the three-point line. It went in. "Hah!" Harry mocked, sticking his tongue out.
"Lucky shot!" Draco exclaimed, grabbing the ball furiously.
"I can make that shot twenty times over. Nothing lucky about it!"
"All talk," Draco muttered, deking Harry with a step to the right before spinning around him and moving left. Harry stumbled over his feet, leaving Draco open to take a shot. Draco lobbed the ball. Harry lunged for it, slapping it away again. This earned a frustrated growl from Draco. Harry laughed, grabbing the ball before it could bounce out of bounds. He took another three-point shot. Nothing but net.
"Whoosh! See that? I'm sweeping the floor with your sorry arse," he chortled.
"Sod off," Draco muttered, bringing the ball back to center. Harry jogged up to him, starting the game. Draco shuffled past Harry while dribbling. Harry wound his arm around Draco and scooped the ball up effortlessly. "Damn it!" Draco nearly shouted in rage as Harry spun around and planted the ball in the net.
"What was that? Begging for mercy?" Harry asked, cupping a hand to his ear.
"Oi! Enough out of you!" Draco snapped, quick to move back to center court before rushing towards the basket. Harry was already in position, blocking Draco with bent knees and outstretched arms.
"You never get past me," Harry said. "So, just give up already."
"Don't you ever shut up?" Draco asked, fed up.
Draco muttered profanities under his breath as he tried to push past Harry. Harry snagged the ball mid-dribble, winding around Draco and running back to the center. Then he moved up to the basket and jumped for a shot. Draco shoved him to the side. Harry fell to the ground, landing awkwardly on his shoulder. Draco grabbed the errant ball and shot it in for his first points in the game. Harry was on his feet in an instant, looking hellish. "CHEATER!" he shouted, pointing an accusatory finger at Draco.
"Don't call me a cheater, cheater!" Draco scowled, striding towards Harry and slapping his finger away.
"But that's what you are!" Harry hissed. "Cheater, cheater, cheater!"
"Potter, don't call me a cheater," Draco threatened.
"Malfoy is a cheater. He is a cheater," Harry said in a singsong voice, arms crossed against his chest and a bitter smile on his face.
"Shut up!" Draco snarled, shoving Harry back angrily.
"CHEATER!" Harry shouted, nose-to-nose with Draco. Draco heaved with fury, staring at the unblinking emerald eyes in front of him. Before Harry could move, Draco had twisted his arm behind his back painfully. "Ah!" he gasped. "Let go!"
Draco responded by twisting even harder. "No," he snapped.
"It hurts!" Harry cried out, trying to get away from the strong grip. But the more his pulled, the more it twisted. "Stooooop," he whined.
"Ugh!" Draco said, pushing Harry away as his ears rang. "You're such a girl."
Harry brought his fists up. "Don't call me a girl," he snarled.
Draco tapped his chin. "Oh, you're right. Girls have more balls than you do. Sorry," he said, narrowing his eyes at Harry.
"Admit it. You're just peeved because I don't throw myself at your feet in worship like those girls you chase after all day, everyday," Harry sneered.
"Hey!" Draco said, snapping his finger at Harry to quiet him down. "I don't run after girls. Girls run after me. Just because none of them want you doesn't mean you need to get jealous. Get it right."
"Wow! Look at Draco Malfoy," Harry said in a high-pitched voice, fiddling with his fingers shyly as he impersonated the girls of the university. "He's so cute! Look at his hair," he flicked his hand at Draco's hair, wrenching it painfully. "And his amazing ten-pack," he punched Draco's stomach.
"You know what your problem is?" Draco coughed, pushing Harry back. "It's that time of the month again."
Harry was affronted, hands clenched and teeth gritting. "Was that a joke?" he asked threateningly, stepping towards Draco.
Draco didn't back down. "So what if it was?" he asked, jerking his chin up in audacity.
"I don't like jokes," Harry muttered, bunching Draco's shirt in his hand and pulling back a fist.
Draco grabbed Harry's wrist before the fist could fly forward. "I don't like you," Draco retorted.
They pushed each other away, stomping off towards opposite ends of the gym. Then they turned around and stalked back towards center court. "SHUT UP!" they shouted at each other.