AN: Thank you to Kim for his help checking the work :)
"Father?" Draco said opening his Father's study door. "Are you busy at all?"
Lucius looked up at his son.
"No, Draco, come in." Draco walked into the office, shutting the door behind him. "You missed breakfast. It's a strangely late hour for you to rise."
"Yes, I must have overslept." he said, sitting down in front of his Father's desk, unable to meet his eye.
"You must have returned home late, your dinner with Miss Greengrass, I assume, was indeed been enjoyable."
"It was alright ... she's insufferable though." Draco lied, he could not quite bring himself to admit to his Father he had been stood up and made a mockery of. Draco could tell his Father was suspicious so he changed the subject swiftly. "I was hoping we could use this time for you to show me the accounts; how it all works and so on."
Lucius Malfoy nodded in acquiescence. He stood up and walked over to one of his book shelves, pulling out a very large tome.
"Your Mother and Andromeda are in the grounds with Theo ... Bellatrix is out somewhere – so we won't be interrupted. I suppose this would indeed be a good time to start your lessons."
His Father was rather stoic about the matter; Draco looked at his Father and wondered what he was really thinking. Surely, there was something painful about handing over his responsibility to his son, however, as expected, his Father showed no hint of his emotions in his expression. He wore his mask like the perfect English gentlemen he was. He opened the large book on the desk;
"Revelio" Lucius said tapping the book with his wand.
Draco watched as black ink appeared on the great stiff pages, threading out like a great spider web, but finally presenting a collection of number charts all in Lucius Malfoy's handwriting.
"This book contains the family accounts and the accounts of the estate." he explained running his finger across the great pages, highlighting the various columns on the charts. "Incoming, outgoing, tax, the upkeep of the estate ... it's all written down here."
Draco looked at the charts and frowned.
"It seems there's a lot more outgoing than incoming, as I expected."
"It's not only your Mother's spending habits. The upkeep of an estate of this proportion is never cheap. The land once used for farmland is worthless and no one is employed on it."
"Didn't the muggles used to be tenants on the furthest outskirts of it?"
"Yes and the muggle money was converted at Gringrotts. The Malfoys have had muggle tenants since the land was bestowed on us all those centuries ago ... until now of course. It was a solid, reliable income."
"Did you know that the Dark Lord expelling the muggles would affect us like that?" Draco asked without thinking.
"I suppose one does not think about the consequences of such things. However, we can't blame the expelling of the muggles to be the root of all our financial issues. As you see we are heavily taxed ..."
"Because we're a wealthy family."
"Yes ... and because there are less people now to pay taxes ... everyone has to pay more – it's inevitable."
"We can't be the only family who are suffering then?"
"No ... you're right." Lucius nodded. "But ... we are also paying compensation, due to our behaviour in the war."
Draco looked down the charts again. Sure enough every month Lucius had written 'recompense' followed by figures of large quantities of gold. He felt a sudden surge of anger;
"We did what we were told during the war ... we weren't perfect but we did everything that was asked of us."
"Draco. We don't speak of it. It is safer for us to pay it – it cannot be helped." Lucius said calmly.
"Why can't it be helped?"
"Are you going to confront the Ministry on this subject? This has been ordained by the Dark Lord, Draco."
"It is safer to do all we can, and hope that someday we will be rewarded for our loyalty in this matter. However, Draco, that is only my advice – this is your choice from now on."
Draco understood from that, that he could confront the Dark Lord and the Ministry on the subject of the compensation if he so chose to, but with that right, came his responsibility to care for the safety of his parents and also Theodore and Andromeda's residence with them.
"What income do we have then?" Draco asked.
"Ah well-" Lucius began to turn the pages back when there was a knock at the study door. "Yes?"
The door opened and Dizzy appeared.
"Dizzy is very sorry to disturb Master and Young Master, but there is a visitor for Young Master."
"Is it Blaise?" Draco asked,
"No, Sir. It is the Young Miss Greengrass."
"Back to see you already, Draco? My, my, you must have had quite an effect on her."
"Tell her I'm busy." Draco ordered; astounded that Astoria had the cheek to turn up at his house after her behaviour the previous night.
"Draco." Lucius snapped. "I raised you better than that. You do not turn a lady away!"
Arsenius used this moment to return to his portrait in the office and give his two pennies' worth.
"I'll say! Draco Malfoy you should be ashamed of yourself."
"Fine, fine ..." Draco rolled his eyes. "Dizzy, tell her to wait in the parlour, I'll be with her in a moment."
"Merlin's beard ... young people these days ... the manners ..." Arsenius muttered, wandering out of his portrait. Dizzy bowed and left the office too.
"Father, I'd like to study the accounts in more detail if I may."
"You may indeed, in fact ... you may also have my study. It's your right to inherit it after I give you the responsibility. You may use it as you wish to study from the account books at your leisure."
Draco looked at the beautiful office with its dark wood panelling, tapestries, old books and beautiful ornaments. It was a room he associated purely with his Father; often enough he had imagined himself using this office for his own work, but never while his Father was still alive. No, the idea of banishing his Father to some other room in the house was simply unacceptable.
"No Father," Draco shook his head. "You love this study; it's your own space. There are plenty of rooms for me to set up my own study."
"... Thank you, Draco." Lucius smiled gently. "That is kind of you."
"Think nothing of it, Father. I rather believe I will enjoy it." He rose from his chair. "I'll greet Astoria now ... we'll continue later."
"As you wish." Lucius said softly, he was looking at Draco with appreciation Draco could not remember his Father bestowing upon on him since he was a young child.
Astoria was a mess. Her hair looked frazzled, it was half loose and falling out of her pony tail, her face was covered in soot, as were her jade green robes. She had a worn, leather brown bag hanging from her shoulder with sheets and rolls of parchment sticking out haphazardly.
"Let me guess," Draco began. "Your appearance has something to do with your absence yesterday evening."
"Yes ..." she grimaced. "Oh, may I sit down? I'm exhausted."
Draco raised his eyebrows and signalled to one of the upright armchairs. She sat down, slumping the bag onto the floor.
"Dizzy," Draco said, the elf appeared. "Bring Miss Greengrass some refreshment, some ..."
"I could murder a cup of tea." Astoria whined – Draco nodded and the elf disapparated immediately.
"I'm so sorry, Draco. I can't apologise enough for last night." she said quickly as he sat down in the chair opposite her.
"Cancellations are often inevitable. However, I would have appreciated it if it had arrived before I waited over an hour and a half." Draco said icily.
"You're absolutely right ..."
Dizzy appeared with a rather fancy display of tea and placed it on the side table and expertly poured the tea into the bone china crockery.
"Can Dizzy bring Young Master and his guest anything else."
"No, get out!" he ordered. The elf ran out the room with a squeak. Astoria poured the milk into her tea and added two spoonfuls of sugar. Draco was strangely surprised; he would not have guessed Astoria would take her tea sweet, the same way his Mother did. She took her first sip and seemed to visibly relax, leaning back in the arm chair with a blissful expression on her face.
"That's better." she sighed.
"Well. Now you have a cup of tea, are you able to explain yourself?"
Astoria took another swig of tea, in a rather unladylike fashion before placing it back on the table.
"Yes. I can tell you what happened, whether you accept my apology is another thing. May I?" she pointed to a selection of biscuits on the tea tray. Draco nodded impatiently and she immediately took one and ate it. "I'm so hungry."she said as she finished it quickly.
"Yes, you must be ... you missed dinner."
Astoria let out a short laugh and blush.
"I know ... alright ... well ... something big happened, something dreadful." her expression becoming much more serious. "I was completely distracted by it and I forgot our dinner until it was too late. I was still working through it and I literally only stopped before coming here. I've not even slept."
"You ... forgot?"
"You confirmed only the day before, but you forgot?" Draco deadpanned. Astoria did not laugh, nor did she make any jokes.
"Yesterday I was informed that three Undesirables were-"
"Ah of course, I should have known ..."
"Three Undesirables ..." she continued sternly "Were arrested on the grounds of trespassing on Respectable Wizarding land without valid permits. The foreman they were employed by had been busy and said he'd stamp their permits at the end of the day, but the Law Enforcement officials arrested them anyway."
"Too bad, they should have made sure their papers were stamped first."
"Yes, but the foreman is not in trouble at all, nor will he speak up against the three Undesirables. They had been working for him for two years! Now they've been arrested, their employment rights have been rebuked and all of it unfairly!" she emphasised. "So we're lobbying to have them represented at court in an appeal to-"
"What? Astoria, are you mad?" Draco could not believe his ears but Astoria looked surprised at his interruption.
"You are looking for trouble. It is one thing to help them out from time to time but now you're trying to fight the law?"
"Oh Draco, it's very important. If they can't work they lose rations; they're human beings, doing honest work, not House Elves!"
"So while I was waiting you were distracted by lobbying for Undesirable rights."
"I was flooing up and down throughout the country trying to get in touch with people who could help. I've got petition forms, I've been talking to officials trying to find a representative, I've been looking for similar cases ... I had so much to do, I lost track of the time and day!"
"So by the magnitude of your responsibilities I take it you're doing this alone?"
"Not all alone," she sniffed. "We've a few people on board, but were all doing our best to gather support equally. Those Law Enforcement agents were looking for trouble – it would have been easy for them to speak to the foreman. They were just bullies."
"They were doing their job. The point of segregation is so Undesirables and Respectables don't mix, you support that don't you? So, stop crossing the boundaries."
Astoria shook her head.
"You just don't understand. I believe in Segregation, not cruelty." she shook her head. "Many of them are Half-bloods and Purebloods, if we help them they are more likely to sign up to the rehabilitation programme. Our society is far too small and the Undesirable communes are overcrowded; we need to win back our kind. I believe we can bring them over through kindness and support. No one wants to befriend their oppressors, and they definitely won't befriend their enemies."
Draco leant in towards her "Astoria ... what you are doing is dangerous. If you take this further ... you will be watched."
He was not sure why he was warning her, it was none of his business, but he doubted very much that he would have the stomach to report her to the Death Eaters. It would be better for her to take care of herself.
"I know... I know how far I can push it and remain safe. Thank you." she smiled, maybe at his concern, perhaps she was laughing; as usual Draco could not really tell. "I really would like to repeat our dinner though."
"That ship has indeed sailed."
"One date you said."
"Yes and you missed it."
"One dinner ... please, I insist ... I like you, Draco."
Draco looked at her surprised.
"You don't know me, you silly girl."
"That's very true ... I don't, but you've got a very sweet side to you. I can tell ..."
Draco's cheeks burned, and he immediately reached out for his cup of tea, feeling Astoria's gaze on him all the time. He drank his tea, and caught sight of the rolls of parchment in her leather bag.
"Did you have any luck then?" he asked, in a less accusatory tone than previously. She lifted the bag onto her lap and began sorting out the rolls of parchment – some were a little scrunched up. She reminded Draco of a scruffy school girl – perhaps a remnant of her old, Hogwarts-self.
"Not much ... bits here and there, I need to do a little more research, I haven't got much of a brain for law, so I'm teaching myself." she said sadly. "I wasn't very lucky with getting names for the petitions. Most people weren't interested. People with Undesirables living under their roofs, like yourself, were sympathetic but too scared to get involved. A few people were interested but most were unwilling to put their name on anything – and businesses certainly won't get involved."
She unravelled a scroll and handed it to him; it was the petition, and Draco could see that with all of Astoria's efforts,they had indeed had little luck.
"People won't take such a risk; three unknown Undesirables aren't worth the loss of a precious family member."
"Understandably." Astoria agreed, taking back the parchment. "Enough about me, how about you? Apart from having being stood up by me, how've you been?"
Draco thought of telling her about the family finances coming under his control, but refrained, it was too personal.
"Not much ... I'm still looking for work," he lied.
"Are you looking for something else in journalism?"
"No ... I don't know ... perhaps."
"Funny ... I'd have thought businesses would be hiring at the moment," she pondered.
Suddenly there was a rumpus from the hallway.
"Theo watch the carpet, my Darling. Watch the carpet!" his Mother's voice sounded. "I can't believe I left my wand in the house ... what a day to do it."
Draco excused himself from the room to see what was going on.
Narcissa and Andromeda were crowded around Theo who was dripping from head to toe, his turned-up nose rather pink and running terribly; he was shivering and his skin was so pale it was blue-ish.
"What happened?" Draco asked. Theodore sniffed.
"F-fell off the broom ... f-fell in the l-lake." he explained.
"Thank goodness it was the lake, I'd hate to think what would have happened if it had been land." Narcissa pulled the sopping wet Theodore to her chest, ignoring the wet stain that appeared on her pale blue robes. "I forgot my wand, I could never have saved him, Draco, dry him off will you?"
Draco pulled out his wand and waved a quick drying charm on Theodore, who stopped dripping but was still noticeably shivering.
"My Tornado III's in the lake." he whined.
"What's going on?" said a drawling voice; Lucius joined them, looking concerned.
"Theo fell in the lake and ..."
"I was silly and forgot my wand," Narcissa blushed.
"How long have you had a wand, Narcissa?"
"Since I was eleven ..."
"Indeed, forty-three years. How can you forget it?"
"I don't know ... I'm sorry Lucius." she said blushing. Andromeda put her arm around Theodore.
"I'm going to take him up." the older witch said leading her grandson up the stairs.
"Draco, is Miss Greengrass still here?" Lucius asked. Narcissa's head whipped around to her son, her expression was that of shock.
"Mother, she arrived this morning! And yes she is, she's in the par-"
Narcissa rushed from the hallway into the next room to greet Astoria. Lucius rolled his eyes and returned to his study while Draco followed his Mother.
"Astoria, dear. I had no idea you were here, I'd have come back sooner." Narcissa said kissing the younger witch on both cheeks. "My... you look ..."
"A mess I know... I'm sorry. I arrived unannounced only to apologise to Draco for ... uh ... not thanking him for dinner last night ..." she caught Draco's glare over Narcissa's shoulder, caught on and quickly altered her story. "I was very tired and distracted."
"Oh ... well ... isn't that thoughtful of you. Come. Why not freshen up here? You can join us for lunch."
"Well I don't want to intrude."
"Nonsense, we're eating light. And you don't want to return home looking ... well without freshening up ..." she said looking down at Astoria's appearance.
Astoria looked at Draco for approval, he shrugged lazily.
"Alright ... that would be lovely, Mrs Malfoy."
"Come ... I too look quite a mess." she said taking Astoria's arm and leading her out of the room.
Draco was asked to go look for the broomstick which had fallen in the lake but no matter how many summoning charms he cast the broom did not stir.
"Bloody anti-theft charms." Draco grumbled staring out at the grey, cold looking lake. "It's July, you're supposed to look inviting." he shouted at the lake.
By the looks of the grounds it may as well have been deep winter, save for the lack of snow. The tree over the lake was bare as were most of the trees in the estate's woodland. He looked back at the Manor behind him, the whole expanse of the scenery seemed to have been covered in a hazy mist. Even when he strained his memory he could barely recall the beautiful summers of his childhood with blue skies and sunshine. He would fly his broomstick across the grounds in short sleeves, and he could remember, when he was a very young boy, paddling in the lake with his Mother holding his hand. He recalled the sun hidden behind her lace parasol and every so often gleaming brightly at the edge at as she turned. The water was clear and refreshing and he watched the fish swim around their bare ankles. He suddenly felt overwhelmingly sorry for Theodore, who had never experienced that; in fact it was unlikely that Theo had many recollections of fine warm weather at all. The Dementors breeding overhead had cast a literal grey shadow across the country with very few fine intervals between. On top of that it sent a feeling of cold despair amongst most people; it took great will to fight it or even get out of bed sometimes. It was amazing that Theodore was such a happy and positive boy; perhaps it was because he knew no different.
The broom couldn't stay in the lake, it was expensive. It would have to come out sooner or later; sooner hopefully to avoid any further damage. He certainly did not fancy diving into the cold abyss. He thought about ordering Dizzy to retrieve it – but he was unsure if elves could even swim; he played with the idea of tying a rope to her and sending her in, but he was sure she would drown. Draco fancied the idea of telling his parents they needed to find a new house elf even less than retrieving the broomstick himself. With a sigh, Draco began to remove his robes, right down to his underwear. He cast the bubble head charm over his face. Then, holding his wand tight in one hand, he walked gingerly into the water. He swore loudly as the painfully cold water reached his knee caps and nearly ran out when it got to his waist. Finally he braved it and plunged his head under the water. As he submerged himself in the bitter cold water, and felt it licking at his ear drums he vowed never to do a favour for anyone again, at least not such a demanding one. He waved a non-verbalLumos to light his way in the dark depths as he swam forward. He had never been a strong swimmer, particularly not with one hand clasping his wand, but he could manage well enough with the bubble head charm providing oxygen. As he swam further, something whipped across his vision, in the corner of his eye. Draco's heart stopped. He'd forgotten the possible presence of any creatures living in the lake. As a child he had stayed on the row boat, or paddled near the edge. He heard his Mother's voice in his head 'Draco darling, be careful of the grindylow!'
Grindylow ... grindylow ... They learned about grindylow in their third year. Lupin taught them. Suddenly Draco wished he had listened more in the class and not spent the entire time making comments about Lupin's tattered robes. How bizarre, Draco was in Lupin's class all those years ago ... never would he have guessed that Lupin's son would one day live in his house. It was an odd thought really, to dawn on him under the lake as he looked around anxiously for the water demon. However, strangely, things he never dared recall seemed safe to remember while he was in the lake, below the surface. It was as if he was hiding, and no one would ever guess his thoughts. He could think about whatever taboo subject he wanted to down here. His daydream soon depleted as he caught another sight of the grindylow and swam away quickly, hoping the creature would ignore him.
With his wand outstretched he scoured the bottom of the lake but even with the light from the wand, the lake was dim and murky. There was no sign of the wretched broom anywhere. Then a small commotion ahead attracted his attention. There were clouds of dirt emanating from the floor of the lake, something was disturbing the mud. He kicked the bottom of the ground and pushed himself further, squinting as he passed through the clouds, which thickened as he swam forwards. There were three grindylow dragging something along the ground; with the first sight of the silver handle, there was no mistake that it was the Tornado III. Kicking his legs, he sped through the water until he was swimming just above the grindylow.
"Relashio!" he fired the jinx at the grindylow, a jet of boiling water surged through the water and one of the grindylow was knocked away from the broom but the others held on tighter. He fired three more shots with more certainty until each grindylow fell away from the broom. Then, as quickly as he could, he swam down, grabbed the broom and kicked back off the ground towards the surface. It was now much harder to swim, with the broom in one hand and his wand in the other. The grindylows were chasing him, desperate for the broom, perhaps to keep as trophy in their colony. Their spindly fingers were grabbing his arms and shoulders, and the broom; they seemed to have called reinforcements as there were now about seven pairs of spindly grindylow fingers grabbing his limbs. He tried to fire jinxes from his wand again, but the grindylow held his wand arm back making it difficult to get any aim. He broke the surface of the lake, but was instantly dragged back down. He felt the broom slipping from his fingers, but with as much force as he could muster, he pulled back his wand hand and fired another revulsion jinx at the grindylow attached to the broom. They shot backwards through the water, their brittle, spindly fingers outstretched. With about four grindylow still attached to him he kicked his way back to the surface.
The cold air bit at his face as he swam across the surface, he could see all the way up to the Manor, and saw two figures running across the grounds towards the lake. The grindylow were doing their best to pull at his ears and hair, trying to pull him back down under the water; he was not much of a swimmer and several times he did find himself splashing under the surface. He finally reached the surface and as he tried to pull himself up the slippery bank, two pairs of hands gripped at his arms and helped pull him up.
'Relashio! Relashio! Relashio! Relashio!" a woman's voice yelled, freeing him from the remaining, clinging grindylows. As Draco lay on his back on the bank of the lake, shivering and blinking the water out of his eyes he realised it was his Mother and Astoria.
"Oh my darling." Narcissa gasped waving a drying charm that greatly helped. Draco caught sight of Astoria's smiling face and suddenly felt very self-conscious about his lack of clothing; he tried to cover himself. Narcissa, had already grabbed his robes and was wrapping them around him, while Astoria cast a bluebell flame (into a jar she had transfigured out of a rock) and thrust it into Dracos hands.
"To think you went through all that for Theo's silly broomstick." Narcissa said wrapping her arms around her son. Draco blushed.
"Mother ... really ... they were only grindylows. I just couldn't swim holding a broomstick and a wand and fight them off ..." he felt Astoria's gaze bearing on him; he was so embarrassed, he did not need the woman to see him being smothered by his Mother because he could not fight of a third-year-level water demon.
"Astoria saw you from my dressing room window, she saw you get into the lake and alerted me. I'm glad she did ... I've been telling your Father to sort out those grindylows for years," she said rubbing his arms. She stood up, and attempted to pull him into a standing position. "Come ..."
"I'm fine, Mother." he said feeling idiotic as he stood up, with his robes draped haphazardly around him. Astoria picked up the Tornado III.
"I'll carry this for you." she said looking at the broomstick with admiration, as if Draco's appearance was quite ordinary and unremarkable.
"Thank you." he said, diverting his eyes.
Draco took a hot bath, changed his clothes and, against his Mother's better advice, refused to go to bed. He did however, accept a glass of brandy for the shock. Theodore, who was in bed, under order of both his Grandmother and his Great Aunt, was delighted to see his Tornado returned safely. Sitting upright in bed, the boy instantly began to tend to it – however, the expensive broom was repellent against such minor damage and remained unscathed.
He returned downstairs, feeling still rather weak and tired, to find his Father talking to Astoria in the drawing room. The door was slightly ajar and he could see them from the staircase, without being seen himself. Astoria was seated, and sipping a cup of tea while his Father explained something about the house, her eyes were following his gestures to certain features of the room and she was nodding with apparent interest. He noticed, for the first time – seeing as he was rather distracted down by the lake, that she had tidied up her appearance. She was no longer covered in soot and her wavy brown hair hung neatly loose down to the middle of her back. He also saw that she was wearing one of his Mother's robes, a little too old for her perhaps but his Mother's taste was so classic and thus, the appearance was not. Draco could admit that from this particular angle and without hearing her talking, she was very attractive. Although he usually disagreed with his family on the opinion that she was 'a charming girl,' putting the opinion down to the fact that she put on a sweet and polite act to their faces; right now, her expression appeared very genuine and there was no hint of any act at all. It was evident that Astoria had been raised well, with all her faults; her politics and her general strangeness, she had a regard for etiquette based on years of teaching from her parents; just as he did. Her posture was fine; sitting straight backed, and her ankles crossed neatly to the side; her fingers held the tea cup and saucer expertly (as nouveau riche as Arsenius claimed the Greengrasses were, she made no social faux pas in regards to her dining). She smiled warmly at something his Father said, and Draco felt the corners of his mouth curl too.
"Draco why are you standing in the middle of the staircase, I want to get down?" Narcissa voice came from behind him. Draco jumped as he turned around to find his Mother standing inches away from him looking a little cross.
"Sorry, Mother, shall we?" he offered his arm and she took it, smiling. The noise on the stairs had alerted Lucius and Astoria. Draco saw Astoria look around, put down her tea cup and stood up as Narcissa and Draco entered the room.
"Your Father was just telling me a little history of the Manor."
"How lovely, it's terribly interesting, isn't it?" Narcissa answered going to sit on the chair next to where her husband stood. "I remember when I first visited Lucius here, his parents told me many stories about the Manor ... it was most welcoming."
Draco suppressed a smirk, from everything he had heard, his paternal Grandparents had been nothing but cool with his Mother in her youth – although she came from a good family, the reputations of her sisters put a damper on her reputation. If his Grandparents had explained the history of the house, it was most likely to boast about the perfect lineage and the absence of any bad eggs. It was not until his parents were actually married that they resigned to treat her with a cool acceptance. Even as a child he remembered his Grandmother's snide comments; it was no great surprise she moved to one of the second homes as soon as Draco's Grandfather passed away.
"There's no mistaking the beauty of your home, Mrs Malfoy." Astoria smiled. "Pansy always spoke to Daphne and I about its loveliness. By the way..." she turned to Draco. "Well done in the lake ... it was very heroic."
"Not really ... I couldn't leave the broom there forever and summoning charms didn't work. I had no choice." Draco said uncomfortably, but his chest swelled with a little pride.
"Is Theodore alright?"
"Now he has his broom back he is."
"The simple pleasures of men." Astoria smirked at Narcissa.
"I remember when Lucius bought Draco his first racing broom, Draco tried to bring it down to dinner parties and keep it under the table – so he could look at it when he got bored. When Lucius discovered what he was doing; which didn't take long, mind you; he would strike up conversations about it with anyone who would listen – if they showed even a little interest, he'd run up the stairs to get it and show them."
"Mother." Draco grumbled.
"You must share that level of enthusiasm with Theodore ... that or all men are the same."
"Lunch, I think." Lucius announced suddenly. "Dizzy, is it ready?"
Dizzy appeared with a small pop.
"Lunch is ready when Master and Mistress wishes it." she bowed.
Lunch was uneventful, Draco found that he was not very hungry and wanted nothing more than to be left alone to sleep. He still felt very cold and tired – but with a guest present it was inexcusable for a man of his age to leave the table oversuch a small matter. The table seemed rather quiet without Theodore present, but Astoria seemed to do most of the talking. Although Draco's opinion of the witch had improved somewhat, there was still something about her that irked him terribly. It was the way she spoke to his Aunt Andromeda. Draco understood that she felt the need to display kindliness towards Undesirables, however, her interpretation of this need resulted in a need to fawn over the older woman. Her over-eagerness to involve the usually reclusive Andromeda into the conversation was so enthusiastic that it seemed false. Andromeda was clearly uncomfortable with the amount of attention, Undesirables were just not supposed to have so much involvement in a conversation – indeed, even having her eat with them at the dinner table was tolerant enough. To ask her opinion on every topic discussed was completely unreasonable. Draco caught Narcissa and Lucius' surprised expression twice but other than that, they did not seem to display the same amount of disapproval as Draco felt. However, his parents were masters of repressing their feelings in front of guests and he decided to discuss this with them when they were alone.
"I will clean and return your robes to you as soon as possible, Mrs Malfoy." Astoria said as she prepared to leave.
"There's no rush, but do visit us again soon, perhaps for afternoon tea. Draco, stand up properly!" Narcissa chided, as Draco found himself leaning weakly against the stair newel.
"Are you sure you're alright Draco?" Astoria asked, concerned. Draco nodded.
"Forgive me," he said quietly. Narcissa was now looking at him with concern now too.
"Regards to your parents, Miss Greengrass. When you do visit the Manor next perhaps Draco will give you a tour of the house?" Lucius interrupted, to take the attention off of his son.
"I'd love that." Astoria smiled, enthusiastically. "Thank you so much for your hospitality. It was lovely seeing you all." she said looking at each of them. She touched Andromeda's wrist briefly as she turned. Apart from Andromeda herself, Draco reckoned he may have been the only one to have noticed. Andromeda looked wan and miserable – had something passed between these women that he was not aware of? Astoria left; clutching her leather bag tightly, turned and grinned widely at Draco before disapparating off of their porch.
That night, the dark mark burned again.
AN: If you like it? Then review it please ;)
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