Breakfast at Malfoy Manor was a sedate sort of affair. Or at least, Lucius Malfoy - Lord of said Manor - would like to think so. Expensive silverware clinked pleasantly against fine china and the Daily Prophet felt new and crisp in his fingers. Golden sunshine trickled in from the bay windows and bathed the room in a soft morning light, complementing the pleasant conversation at the table. Lucius allowed himself a nod of satisfaction. Everything was in order. In fact, he would go so far to say that everything was just…


"Mon cher, please! I only meant…"

"Get out! Get the fuck out of my house now!"

"Really, Draco! This behaviour is most unbecoming of a…wait, what are you doing with that…Draco, no!"


"Get! Out!"

A house elf yelped and bolted for the nearest exit, upsetting a suit of armour in the process. Lucius sighed and folded up the Prophet. Seconds later, a series of loud thuds, shrieks and crashes heralded a hasty descend down the Main Staircase and a weedy, young man stumbled into the dining room. His collar was askew, his expensive robes were singed at the hem and Lucius noted - with an arch of his eyebrow and a barely there twitch of his lips - that he was sporting a rather large bump on his forehead.

Apparently, Draco was aiming better these days.

"Lord Beaumont. How nice of you to join us."

Only decades of diligent practice in the fine art of self restraint could have enabled Lucius to greet his hapless guest with such a politely detached expression.

Augustus Beaumont didn't have the benefit of such refined training. He just stood there, sputtering with outrage and flushing a very impressive share of magenta. Lucius waited patiently until the man was coherent enough to commence his tirade.

"Manuscripts! Side tables! Silverware! And that's not all he threw at me!" He gestured wildly to the swelling lump on his head. "That was a First Edition Most Potente Potions which your son used as an assault weapon!"

There was a snort of laughter from the table and Lucius raised a stern eyebrow. Blaise Zabini pressed his mouth in a thin, straight line and closed his eyes, apparently willing himself not to laugh. If Lucius listened carefully, he could almost hear the lad counting to ten. To his immediate right, Andromeda Tonks née Black continued to butter her toast as if nothing was amiss. Nevertheless, there was a quirk to her lips that suggested she was trying very hard not to smile. Lucius gave up and turned back to Beaumont who was by no account, finished.

"…a host of maisons in France! A lineage dating back to the Crusades! An ancestry that would make any pureblood green with envy! And your son treats me like a…like a…"

"I believe the phrase you're looking for is 'crash test dummy'" Blaise obliged helpfully. "Admittedly, a muggle concept but Draco has it down to a science."

"Eat your toast, young man," Andromeda ordered sternly. Lucius gave her a grateful, if slightly weary nod. Blaise smirked and returned to his breakfast and Beaumont treated him to a withering look before turning back to Lucius.

"Consider this courtship rescinded, Lord Malfoy! The Beaumonts know when to cut their losses. Good luck finding a rider for that - that wild horse of yours!"

And with that he stormed off dramatically - the effect somewhat ruined by his smouldering robes and shaky gait. Lucius sympathized deeply. Most Potente Potions was a formidable piece of work. He would know - it had been Narcissa's weapon of choice. Thoughts of his late wife sent a twist of pain to his chest and he distracted himself by glaring at Blaise, who had succumbed to gales of laughter.

"Are you quite finished?" he asked dryly as the boy howled with mirth, thumping helplessly at the table. Andromeda watched the scene with a quiet expression that was certainly not approval, but she didn't seem less amused for lack of it.

Finally Blaise emerged, gulping in deep breaths of air as he did. "I doubt it," he admitted with a grin that made Lucius wish he hadn't completely given up the Dark Arts. He subjected the impudent brat to his best Malfoy Glare. There was another crash from the North Wing, followed by a snarling diatribe on pompous wankers and just what they could do with their oversized egos…

Lucius shook his head hopelessly. "Make yourself useful and see if you can calm him down," he ordered flatly.

Blaise promptly stopped his sniggering. "Excuse me?" he blurted, looking absolutely horrified. "Did you not get a good look at the last bloke who went down that rabbit hole? I don't know what you look for in a good heart to heart but I happen to prefer mine concussion free!"

Lucius opened his mouth to argue and/or hex the annoying little snip, but Andromeda mercifully cut in. "I'll have a word with my nephew," she announced, standing up and making her way towards the stairs. She turned and smiled at Lucius. "Cissa had her moods as well. On a good day, I could talk her out of a strop."

Lucius chuckled. "Let's hope it's a good day then," he commented. Andromeda's smiled again, and then she was gone. Blaise watched her leave intently, waiting until she was well out of sight before emitting a low whistle. "Morgana's lacy underpants! If I was twenty years older and a foot taller, I'd… ow!" He rubbed his head ruefully and glowered at Lucius. "What's that for?"

"Inappropriate breakfast conversation and leering at my guests," Lucius supplied, rubbing his hand. "Additionally, I find you annoying."

"So that's where Draco gets it from," Blaise remarked sulkily.

"Hardly," Lucius replied. "He has his mother's spirit." His steely eyes softened slightly and even an ever tactful fellow like Blaise could sense the need for a change of subject. Thankfully, there was another crash from upstairs as Draco discovered an unfortunate something that had somehow survived his rampage. Blaise chuckled. "So, I take it we need to find another rider for your wild horse. I'll spread the word, shall I?"

Lucius groaned and buried his head in his hands. Blaise smirked and resumed his breakfast. He never said it was a good change of subject...

Andromeda swept up the marble staircase and made her way over to the West Wing. She suppressed a slight smile. Draco's rooms were always the easiest to find in the Manor. All you had to do was follow the sound of an utter and absolute conniption fit.

She did exactly that and found herself walking a familiar path.

Her nephew was in his half decimated study, pacing like a caged jungle cat. His slim frame was taut with tension and his silver eyes were dark and clouded, giving the impression of a raging thunderstorm. A dark glare marred his patrician features and his blond hair fell over his eyes as he clenched his fists. To the uninformed observer he looked absolutely livid, the very personification of blinding, murderous rage. To Andromeda - who had had the benefit of dealing with Narcissa's volatile mood swings for the better part of her youth - this barely qualified as a temper tantrum.

"Well, we won't be seeing him again in a hurry," she commented lightly. Draco whipped around to face her, his features morphing from scowling displeasure to relief when he saw who had intruded into his quarters. Some of the tension left his shoulders.

"I thought you were Father," he muttered. He walked over to a chair, the broken glass crunching under his leather loafers as he seated himself in a chair. Shrewd, grey eyes swept her face searching for some sort of a reprimand for his behavior. Andromeda smiled and took a seat next to the boy.

"I think he'll keep his distance for a while," she smiled, slipping a slender hand over his. "Your Father has a remarkable sense of self preservation."

Draco's lips quirked but he returned the gesture with a gentle squeeze of his own. "So he sent you into the dragon's lair? That sounds about right."

"I volunteered," Andromeda retorted dryly. "Believe it or not nephew, but you're not as tough as you look."

"Says you," Draco smirked, nudging her gently with his shoulder. It was a simple gesture - one of trust - and Andromeda appreciated it. She was a woman who treasured her family and it had nearly killed her to walk away from them all those years ago. But those had been different times. She had been young and in love and Ted - bless him - had been wonderful to her. The War had taken him and not long after, Narcissa's illness had set in. She had never felt so utterly bereft, so completely alone.

Lucius' letter had come as a shock, to say the least. Not one to offer forgiveness lightly - particularly to the man who had kept her from her sister for a good twenty years - she hadIncendio-ed it on the spot. Then another had come and another and another and long story short, Lucius Malfoy proved without a shadow of a doubt that as far as persistence and sheer stubbornness went, Malfoys trumped Blacks hands down.

She finally succumbed to his seventh letter. For someone with very little experience with humility and contrite apologies, he managed beautifully. Andromeda found herself writing back. In his quiet loneliness, she recognized a kindred spirit and in Draco she saw glimpses of the sister she had lost, this time for good. Four years since that first awkward meeting and Andromeda had come to the realization that they were the last of her family. And she didn't have it in her to turn her back on them.

Especially Draco. She sifted a gentle hand through the boy's hair, pushing the blond strands out of his eyes with her fingers. Draco sighed and leaned into the gesture, making her smile fondly. "So just out of curiosity, why was a certain Lord Beaumont evicted from your quarters sans ceremony?"

Draco huffed petulantly. "He's lucky I didn't hex him."

"That, I believe," Andromeda mused. "I assume he put his foot in it something proper then?"

Draco smirked. "Let's just say his choice in literature leaves a lot to be desired," he drawled, passing her a rumpled leather bound book, bent at one of the edges. Not surprising, considering it had recently been used as a launch missile…

"The Taming of the Shrew?" she groaned, reading the title. "Oh, he didn't…"

"Oh, he did," Draco drawled. "He thought it would be funny to give me that as a courting gift. Suffice it to say, I did not see the humor in it."

Andromeda shook her head and tossed the book away, well out of sight. Honestly, of all the idiotic things to do… well, it was probably for the best. Beaumont had been a particularly vile specimen and Draco had resented him from the start. He was hardly worthy of a Malfoy. But then her nephew had rejected almost every man to walk through those doors. It shouldn't be a surprise that they were scraping the bottom of the barrel now…

"They're probably not going to get much better," she admitted. "Your suitors, that is."

"Then perhaps I shouldn't be forced to deal with them," Draco snapped, standing up abruptly and starting to pace. "I'm sick of them - witless, spineless, arrogant, bleating twits who think they can have me, that they're entitled to me just because they're Lord this or Baron that or whatever. Thinking they have the right to stand there in my presence and tell me that I should feel honoured that they're considering me. Talking about how it's the best decision for me considering the Malfoy name is what it is since the War and…" He broke off, apparently too enraged to even finish his tirade. Andromeda sighed and shook her head.

"Oh Draco," she said softly. "It's not as bad as that. Sooner or later, the right man will find his way to you and things will change."

"I don't care!" Draco snarled, whirling back at her. "I am not some cheap trophy to be won at a fair game!"

Andromeda kept her expression neutral as he glared witheringly at her. Finally, the boy hunched his shoulders and retreated. He sighed and ran a frustrated hand through his hair, messing it up completely. "I'm sorry, Andromeda. I didn't mean to snap at you. I just… I hate this whole charade. I hate them all, every single one of them. It makes me furious and… and now I'm taking it out on you. Please don't be angry with me? I just…"

"Of course not," Andromeda interrupted him softly. She stood up as well and placed a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "You're my nephew and I love you like a son. I want the best for you, you know that don't you?" She smiled as he nodded quietly. "Then please just trust me. I know you don't like this, I know you're upset. But you deserve to find someone who will make you happy. That's all we want for you. Now there's a gentleman your father would like you to meet this evening…" She paused and waited politely until he stopped groaning. "Yes I know. That being said, he seems… better than the others."

"Really?" Draco demanded dryly.

"No," she admitted. "But at least he's your age. And it will do you good to get out of the house for a while. Who knows, he might just surprise you."

Draco snorted inelegantly. "I doubt it."

"What do you have to lose?" the older witch shrugged. She crossed her arms firmly, standing her ground until the sulking boy was forced to relent for once.

"Fine, I'll go," he muttered. "But if it all goes to Hades, it's your fault."

"Fair enough," she laughed. "I'll go and tell your Father the worst is over." She kissed his cheek affectionately and turned to leave. "And remember Draco," she added, facing her nephew again. "If he can't handle you at your worst, he definitely doesn't deserve you at your best."

Draco's grin would have frozen a Basilisk. "That's what I'm counting on."