Building Sapphire Skies
They had been twenty years old when she told him about the artist. It was a warm spring evening, and she had just purchased a book detailing everything concerning the rise and fall of the man in question; he was a Muggle artist, this man-one that she had grown up adoring and reading up on at every opportunity. Draco didn't have much interest in the supposed revered creative mastermind, truth be told, but one look from those determined brown eyes and a firm nod of a head surrounded by bushy tufts of hair was enough to silence his complaints for the afternoon. She claimed that the best of this man's life was printed in the confines of the thick, freshly-printed tome she was clutching in her dainty hands, and for the life of him Draco couldn't find a way to silence her. She merely mumbled through his kisses, talked louder over his exaggerated sighs, and clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth when he feigned exhaustion. He had known even then that she wanted to share this part of her life with him-to introduce him to a side of culture he still regarded as filthy and primitive-but he had been hesitant. It was strange to even consider accepting a side of life he'd been taught to despise, but the glimmer of hope that shone in her bright brown eyes was enough to silence his attempts to protest her notion. So instead, he shifted his body closer to hers and listened as she flipped through the pages. He was inclined to study all of the paintings that she directed him to, wondering what the motivation behind each and every one was.
"What's with all the shades of blue?" Draco had asked, his nose crinkling in slight disdain for the swirling patterns of pale to deep blue that coated a majority of the artist's works. "Didn't he have any other damn colors on his palette?"
Sighing, she had simply narrowed her eyes at him and flipped furiously through the book. The pages, stiff with the unmistakable impression of freshly-pressed parchment, snapped violently as she searched through its contents. When she finally stopped and pointed a finger triumphantly at a picture of a painting focused on a vase of flowers, Draco had been forced to admit that his assumption about the Muggle's lack of variety wasn't (entirely) true. The piece she had directed his attention to was done in a million hues of yellow, and he recalled glancing at it only briefly before she began to speak in that know-it-all tone of hers.
"He was a genius, Draco, and for a good reason," Hermione had snapped, tugging the book onto her lap and jutting her bottom lip out defiantly. He could remember how her fingers had skimmed the corners of the book lovingly, as though it were a beloved pet or a small child.
"Besides," She persisted, her voice as soft and smooth as he glanced at the colors swirling before him on the opened page. "I'm rather fond of the blue; I think it's calming. If I could, I'd paint the entire world in shades of blue, I think-from pastel to midnight." She paused, giving his shoulder a playful nudge before continuing. "You can even help me. What do you say to that, Malfoy?"
"You're on your own, Granger," He'd said with a smirk, tossing his head back and lying down on the soft grass they found themselves seated on. "I'll have no part in painting anything; that's servant's work."
"Van Gogh certainly didn't seem to think so," She had defended primly, snapping the book shut with a dull thud and clutching it to her chest. He could vaguely recall considering her words; tasting the name of the Muggle artist in his mouth and letting it leave his lips on a breathless whisper before he'd given his response.
"Van Gogh was a nutter."
He had been twenty-two (to the day, in fact) when he had found out that Van Gogh had cut off his ear.
"Not his entire ear, Draco, don't be ridiculous," Granger had huffed, short of temper but light of mood-as per usual for the stubborn little Gryffindor. "That's a misconstrued fact, really; it's been said dozens of times by art enthusiasts and historians that he only cut off part of his ear."
"What did he do with it?" Draco remembered asking, more amused than intrigued by her answer.
"He-he...gave it to a prostitute," She stammered finally, her face flooding scarlet as she cleared her throat and dipped her head to sip on the glass of water their waiter had left them. They had been out to dinner celebrating his birthday-though many years had since passed, he could call the memory to mind at will; it was still as vivid and fresh in his mind as the day of its inception. She had been wearing a simple dress that glittered and shone under the dim lighting of the expensive restaurant he'd taken them both to; the fabric was soft and shimmering, much like silk, and the first word that that came to mind upon looking at the outfit was blue. Granger had assured him that the exact shade was steel blue; something entirely different, apparently. She'd been told by her mother that it complimented her frame better than other shades of the color, though the way in which she had delivered this clearly-practiced statement to him suggested the color was really of more concern to her mother than to her.
"Let me guess," Draco had continued, taking a sip from his glass of champagne and leaning in towards her. "He made a painting of his dismembered ear and colored it with nothing but blue."
It had really only been a jesting comment, though Granger's response had been more expressive than he would have been able to predict. She had informed him that Van Gogh had, in fact, composed self-portraits after the incident that involved the damaged side of his face being bandaged up, but the entire picture wasn't focused on various shades of blue. Only certain parts! Just things like his hat!
His favorite thing was how easy it was to rile her up; it had been a sport when they were in school and a game now. But nevertheless, she was attractive-it was an attribute he'd struggled to keep to himself, more often than not. Admitting things like that were sticky and came with unwarranted emotional responses, so for the most part, he just...kept it to himself. He gazed on her when she didn't think he was paying attention; even then, in the midst of her impassioned retort to his flippant comment, he had been struck with the raw beauty of the Witch positioned across from him at the dinner table. He distinctly remembered the elegant bun she'd managed to stuff her unruly hair into; how spirals of chestnut curls fell from the up do and framed her face elegantly. Her lips were stained a pale pink from the scant amount of lipstick she had applied, and the make-up brought to attention the small freckle that dotted the skin just above her mouth. She was still talking about her precious Muggle artist, but Draco had stopped listening long ago. Instead, he looked; watched and studied with curious eyes the color of molten silver.
"...I just wish I had been able to meet him," She had concluded with a heavy sigh, picking up her fork and spearing a bit of her salad. Draco had shrugged slightly in return, rubbing the back of his neck and resuming eating his pre-dinner salad.
"Why?" He'd inquired, cocking his head to the side slightly. "So the two of you could paint the world blue together?" She had huffed at his statement, that much he remembered, but her reply was what stuck out to him most specifically. It was a sentence that would ghost across his mind for the rest of his days; ever present and persistent. It dared itself to be remembered-to be acknowledged and loved and revered. She had said in that moment, with perfect clarity and a small grin to boot-
"No, that's what I'm meant to do with you."
He had laughed.
When they were twenty-three, Hermione had taken Draco to visit with her parents. He had been uncomfortable in the presence of Muggles for so long, though he knew her parents well enough at this point to find a small sliver of ease in the sanctity of their home. Granger's mother, Rose, had called them over under the premise that they had found a few boxes of Hermione's childhood belongings in their storage room, and urged them to go through it. They were meant to attend a Quidditch match later that day with Blaise Zabini and his new fling, Astoria Greengrass, and Draco didn't want to be late-the Chudley Cannons were going against Puddlemere United, and Draco had wanted to make sure that the Cannons lost so he could rub Weasley's impoverished face in it.
Though to her credit, Granger had promised Draco it wouldn't take all that long. After a simple tea with her parents, the couple had headed up to Granger's old room. In her daughter's absence, Rose Granger had painted Hermione's childhood room a shade of bright yellow and sewing equipment cluttered the room. On an antique desk that had belonged to Hermione lay a top-of-the-line sewing machine and a few different swatches of brightly-colored fabric. The boxes in question had been shoved off to one corner of the already-cramped room, and as Wizard and Witch both sat themselves on the carpeted ground and began to root through the box's contents, Draco noticed there wasn't much that had been left behind. Some old papers from her Muggle primary school, a few spelling bee competitions, and some old trinkets that he supposed she had long outgrown. When they were at last done emptying out the contents of the two boxes her mother had laid out for them, Draco had been more than prepared to stand and head on their way, but a soft sigh of surprise from Granger had stilled him immediately. She was bent over the last box and had retrieved a crinkled and worn picture. The smile that had graced her fair features was breath-taking, and he watched for a long beat of silence as she stared down at the paper clutched in her hands.
"What is it?" He had asked finally, moving closer and peering over her shoulder. It was a worn, crinkled copy of what appeared to be a printed replica of a painting. It looked vaguely familiar, though Draco couldn't seem to recall where he might have seen it. It was a thousand shades of blue; dotted with twinkling bursts of yellow and hints of darker shades. It was an entrancing painting, no matter how old or neglected it might have been.
"It's called The Starry Night," She had explained, her voice smooth as silk. There was always something warm and inviting about the way she spoke when she was gazing on something with fondness; to this day, it reminded him of safety, security, and something very much like home. "It's my favorite Van Gogh painting-I had asked my parents when I was a little girl if they'd take me to go and see the real portrait, but they claimed we didn't have the time to travel and view it. So to make up for my disappointment, my father had stopped by a local art shop and bought this print for me. It used to hang above my desk for years."
"It's so..." Draco had trailed off, very much wanting to end that sentence with the word blue. But he bit his tongue; this was an important moment for her, and for as teasing as he could be, he wasn't about to ruin that for her. He would remember that exact moment for years to come-the decision to appease her rather than tease her. It had been a defining moment in his ascent into adulthood.
"He created a world made out of sapphires," She'd murmured, her breath stirring the crumpled paper she was grasping in her hands. "In this one painting, he made the world look like an entirely different place; all the colors of the world are here."
"Granger...it's mainly just blue. Cobalt, navy, whatever you want to call it."
"That's the beauty of it. The world painted in shades of blue; the sky lined with flecks of gold. All the colors of his world-of his perception of the universe-are right here."
"Aren't you supposed to be anally logical and against queer perceptions of the world?" He had teased, smirking at her and reaching out a hand to smooth over one corner of the paper.
"We're supposed to be a lot of things, Draco," She had replied coyly, angling her face to get a good look at him. "It doesn't mean we have to be. I like rationality, but I also like..."
"...when the world is painted with blue," He'd finished.
By the time he'd reached the age of twenty-five, he'd married her. Their wedding day had been swathed in off shades of white-traditional and sophisticated hues that he liked to think reflected the regality of his family name. Their ceremony had been in the late afternoon-the reception was an outdoors event, complete with catering and music that suited their tastes perfectly. At Hermione's urging, their first dance had been to a piece called "Clair de Lune." They'd been searching through vinyl and CD copies at a local record store when she had stumbled across a cracked copy of a Debussy CD. He supposed what had really caught her eye was the cover; the art on the front was a painting of a darkly-colored scene-created in shades of the night. They were dark and vibrant contrasts that depicted a setting over a body of water. There was a water stain in the corner of the picture, causing some of the colors to blot and clump together, but Granger hadn't cared. For all she was concerned, it might as well have been the original piece.
Starry Night Over the Rhone was what she had called it; a Van Gogh painting overlooking a spot in Paris. Evidently, the area surrounding had been homage to several of Van Gogh's pieces-including The Starry Night replica she had shown him that day years ago in the cramped corner of her parents' house. Perhaps it had been fate, though Draco had never really been sure if he believed in that sort of thing. Maybe it was luck, though he found the concept farfetched and ridiculous.
Whatever it was, it had found her. After that, there was no more searching for first dance songs.
"Finding the CD wasn't destiny, of course," She had assured him in a breathless rush as she dug around in her purse furiously for the correct amount of change. "I simply managed to stumble across it, is all!"
Everything had fallen into place for the wedding after that. Things had gone rather smoothly, and by the time they were winding down after their vows had been proclaimed and their rings placed on the other's finger, Draco had officially become a married man; committed, complete, and whole. Even by the end of the night, when her hair had been drooping down and errant curls of coffee-colored hair clung to the back of her neck, he would swear that he had never seen anyone more beautiful in his life. And when they had arrived at their hotel in France to spend their honeymoon night together, that single thought had been a constant reminder. Even as he lay between the sheets with her, sated and exhausted after an intimate bout of love-making, the reminder of who she was and what she meant to him floated about his subconscious. Shafts of moonlight broke through the window and illuminated her fair skin, casting an angelic glow around her form and basking the room in shades of cream and navy.
"Look at you," He had murmured, more to himself than her. "Drenched in shades of blue."
The smile on her face had never been more pure.
When she was twenty-seven and he was still twenty-six, Hermione had come to him with the news that she was pregnant. He'd been in the sitting room rearranging his pile of Potions books to go through when she'd informed him. There had been a lot of shock and initial silence as the first three books from his edition of The History of Potions: Volumes A-Z slipped from his hands and collided with the hardwood floor of their flat. The concept of being a father was foreign to him-he hadn't thought much about children in the time they'd spent married, though one look on her eager and anxious face had helped to quell the jumble of nerves roaring inside of him. He wasn't ready to have a child, exactly, though he rather supposed no one ever was. He had time to prepare himself for the task, of course, and with Hermione by his side...perhaps it wouldn't be quite so terrifying. The knowledge that they would be parents together had helped to soothe his frazzled nerves; it was this realization that would stand out so prominently to him for years to come. It was the shining beacon of hope and security in a torrent of concern and confusion.
The days of his wife's pregnancy slowly rolled into weeks and then lapsed into months, and while Draco grew more and more anxious with each passing day, he took comfort in the knowledge that they were growing and learning together.
Hermione had never been much of a fan of gender-specified roles or colors, so when it came time for her and Draco to paint the baby's nursery, she had suggested something very specific.
"I want to paint the baby's nursery to be in the theme of Starry Night," She had stated breathlessly, brushing a strand of frizzy hair from her face and staring at him defiantly. He hadn't understood why; did the painting really mean so much to her?
"Yes, Draco, it does."
Neither one of them were artists. They had spent hours painting the nursery in their flat; streaks of blue paint smeared against Granger's cheek and dotted the tip of her nose; it stained her hands as she'd struggled to place a base coat across all four walls. When Draco had sighed lazily and lifted his wand to flick his wrist and magically paint the rest of the walls for her, Hermione had grown irate. She turned to glare at him, snapping-without true malice, he might add-that they were supposed to paint the room themselves. It gave it a homey sort of feel.
"I see no difference in having my wand paint it for us," He had defended at the time. The statement awarded him a glob of blue paint splattered across his face. Everything had turned into a paint fight after that, and by the time both husband and wife had finished their childish antics, different shades of blue and hints of yellow were smeared and smudged across their clothes and skin.
"It's a suiting look for you," She'd managed with a laugh, rubbing the soft swell of her stomach with two paint-tainted hands.
"Is that so?" He'd asked, his curiosity piqued.
"Well, you know how much I like the color blue."
When he was twenty-seven and she was turning twenty-eight, the baby had arrived. They had been carting her off to a family party to celebrate her birthday when the contractions had started. Everything became a bit of a blur after that-there had been a hell of a lot of panicking; chaotic screaming and bustling about and his wife waddling and shrieking that she had gone into labor. Somehow, they had managed to arrive at St. Mungo's; somehow, Draco had made it. To this day, he still doesn't understand how he was able to transport them anywhere given his current frame of mind and frazzled state of being. Looking back, it was something akin to a miracle.
They had been informed by the Healer that they were going to have a little boy. Granger had bought baby clothes of a thousand different colors, and although Draco had suggested more than once that their baby deserved to be bundled in nothing but emerald and silver, she was determined to prove him otherwise (and his little comment had gotten him a firm poke in the ribs).
But when the time of delivery came, it wasn't a boy that Hermione gave birth to. It was a girl. A beautiful, warm, soft little baby girl-with hair as light as her father's and as curly as her mother's. She was the most breath-taking thing he'd ever seen, and when the time had come for them to hold their baby girl in their arms, Draco had been struck speechless.
"A baby girl..." He had whispered, his voice hushed and raw. His wife had given him a very watery smile that spoke volumes of what she felt-for her husband, for their child, for the day. It was perfect.
"Our baby girl," She had responded; there was no mistaking the pride in her voice. Not on that day.
They had named her Cassiopeia, for her beauty belonged to the stars; as unrivalled and brilliant as the legend from which her given name sprung from. She was their star-pure, bright, and the most dazzling thing in all of creation.
They dressed her in swatches of blue.
By the time they had reached thirty, Cassiopeia had traded in her infant clothes and rattles for pretty dresses and toys given to her by Weasley and Potter (more popularly known as the Rodent and the Orphan). Draco and Hermione both were settling into their thirties and bidding adieu to their twenties; it had been a time full of growth and expansion-of growing up and together and learning exactly what it meant to raise a child. To be lovers, best friends, and parents. Not everything was easy-there had been fights over ridiculous things, spats over who was more exhausted than the other, and more than once they had fallen asleep whenever and wherever they could manage. But for what it was worth, Draco had never been more content with his life. He could deal with bickering over whether or not Cassi's bottle had been warmed or not, or arguments with who would get up in the middle of the night to check on her; it came with the territory of being a parent.
Not for the first time in his life, he had realized how happy she made him. This was what it meant to love someone-he was certain of it. To love them more than you even thought about yourself; love could be selfish and angry or calm and gentle. It could be a thousand different things, and with each day Draco was learning something new.
Granger had been promoted to the status of a high-ranking member of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement two years prior and had recently abolished pro-Pureblood laws. While it was a relief that her career's work had finally reached its peak, the families who thrived on tradition and Pureblood tradition were enraged. Inquiries from reporters and threats from deranged aspiring Death Eaters pressed in on the family from all sides, and while Draco had placed more than one restraining order on a Wizard or Witch who was relentless in seeking his wife out, the attention seemed to never cease. If she'd been a celebrity before, she was a global star now. It was the first time anyone-much less a Muggle-born-had been able to eliminate the very laws that benefited those of his own bloodline.
"I want to go away, Draco," She had whispered to him one night; they were seated on the balcony of their flat, staring peacefully at the midnight sky as Cassiopeia slept peacefully in her room down the hall. Even then, he'd known how tired and weary she was; the law and the Wizarding Community had taken a toll on her, and the effects were showing in the lines and dark circles that creased and blotted across her face. Sighing, she had stretched and leaned against him, resting her head against his shoulder as they gazed up at the stars.
"Do you mean run away?"
"No...no, running away is distasteful. I just...want a getaway. Just once."
"Anywhere you want to go, I'll take you," He'd murmured, lacing their fingers together. It was always peaceful like this-when they were together and the rest of the world fell to silence. He waited for her response, ready to jump and take her wherever her heart desired-France, Italy, Spain...wherever she wanted to venture to, he'd take her. So when she spoke, he really shouldn't have been as startled as he was.
"I want to see The Starry Night, Draco. I want to see the world painted like Van Gogh imagined; just like I dreamt of ten years ago. Will you go with me?"
"Yes," He answered finally, his voice soft and contemplative. "We'll see your universe colored in hues of blue."
At the age of thirty-one, he had lost her. The anger of ancient Wizarding families who opposed Granger's pro-Pureblood eradication had only grown and mounted as time went on. The weeks soon turned into months, and just when Draco had been praying that things might calm down enough for him to take her on the trip she was desperate to attend, the accident had happened. To this day, he doesn't know the gruesome details; a part of him never wants to know. All he is able to comprehend is that it was an attack headed by Alecto and Amycus Carrow; their Azkaban imprisonment had ended two years prior, just in time to see the laws passed. Their fury had ignited a small band of rebels, and their first target was not the Boy Who Lived, but rather the Brightest Witch of Her Age.
The attack had been at the Ministry, and he would never forgive himself for not being there with her.
He'd been told that she didn't suffer, though that meant nothing to him in the end. The grime and filth of the community had stolen his wife from him, and there was nothing he could do to get her back. He had wanted to gather her broken body in his arms; to fix her and bring her back to life. He wanted to see that soft smile on her lips-that freckle above her lip and the way her curls hung wildly about her face. He wanted to feel the delicate press of her body against his own, and he wanted to inhale the sweet scent of her thinly-applied perfume. He wanted everything that had been ripped from his hands, and for the first time in more than ten years, Draco felt helpless and alone.
So when he had seen her body, broken and vacant of all human life, the only thing he had been able to do was kiss her. But it wasn't the same-she was gone.
"I want to mend this; I want her back," He'd told Blaise on one of the days he could manage to answer his Floo. His friend's response had been brief-painful to hear and achingly true in context.
"This is bigger than anything Reparo can fix. I'm sorry, Draco."
Everyone was sorry, but no one understood. He was a single father with one of the only two lights of his life extinguished forever.
The mortician had suggested dressing her in black for mourning. He had demanded blue.
It was the way she would have wanted it.
He was thirty-three and had been without his wife for two years. Cassiopeia was six years old, and he knew that before too long she would be receiving her Hogwarts letter. The remembrance of Granger's absence tore into him like the sharp edge of a blade; every day he reminded himself that she wouldn't come home from work, triumphant and giddy from a day of law-making and abolishing. Try as he might to forget the pain, it was a part of him now; as natural and constant as breathing. He hadn't thought about their proposed trip to see Starry Night for so long now; it had surely almost faded away to nothing in the crevices of his mind.
But then he stumbled across the picture. Worn and tattered from years of neglect, he had discovered it in the box of old things she'd brought over from her parents' house all those years ago. It was the replicated copy of the Van Gogh painting she had spent so long pining after, and in that moment he knew what he had to do. Not for him, but for her.
He had taken Cassiopeia to the Museum of Modern Art-it was an institution in the heart of New York City that was home to several pieces of well-known Muggle art. But most importantly, it was the resting place of the very painting his late wife had craved to see for so long. He'd clad his daughter in a dress that was a deep shade of green, clutching her small hand in his bigger one as they stood before the painting. It was like entering a dream-the way the colors mixed together and transformed before his very eyes; it was the very picture of perfection that she had painted it out to be all those years ago. And now, with the memory of his wife fresh on his mind and their only child's small hand clutched protectively in his fist, he could feel the prickle of emotion sting the back of his throat and the corners of his eyes. He greedily drank in everything about the picture-from the town pictured below to the swirling night sky that was dotted with specks of gold.
"That's the picture in my room, daddy!" Cassiopeia had stated, her voice excited and triumphant as she jabbed a finger towards the centuries-old painting. Draco had nodded and smiled, appeasing the small girl. Her unmanageable curls were lively and wild as she bounced up and down on the balls of her feet; in many ways, she was the mirror image of her mother.
"This was your mother's painting; it belonged to her heart."
"Where is she, daddy?"
He had picked her up then, cradling her in his arms and pointing to the sky illustrated in the portrait; it was a million shades of blue, and as he gestured to the swirling lines and dots of stars that lined the heavens, he gazed upon his daughter with a fond, nostalgic sort of smile.
"She's there-in the sky. She wanted to paint the world blue."
"But blue is sad, daddy," She had whispered, her warm brown eyes wide as saucers.
"No no, lovely, blue isn't sad; blue is happiness. Blue is love. Blue is you and I."
You and I, he thought solemnly. Building sapphire skies.
a/N: Hey guys! This is another piece I've written for Ollivander's Challenge on tumblr. There was another list of prompts given out, and the one I chose for this challenge was the third one: "This is bigger than anything Reparo can fix." It's a bit of a different angle than most of my other stories, but I hope you like it nonetheless! Feedback and commentary pertaining to how you enjoyed it are always more than welcome! Have a great day, everyone :).