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Chapter 1: Final Bloom
Draco Malfoy stood alone on the small Japanese bridge in Batsford Arboretum. It had been years since he had come to this place, and the thought that this would probably be his last visit did not escape him. It was mid April, and an unseasonably warm breeze wafted by. The warmth of the air intensified the scent of the surrounding cherry trees, and the scent brought a tear to Dracoís eye even as a slight smile graced his lips. The breeze ruffled his hair, which was now more gray than platinum, and he wiped his eyes as he pushed the hair out of his face. This was the first time Draco had ever stood on this bridge alone, and realization of that pained him.
As a child Draco had often come to this place with his mother. She would hold his hand as they walked through the lush landscape, and she would tell him the names of the various trees and flowers that they passed. It wasnít often that a Malfoy ventured into the muggle world, but his mother had told him she had apperated to the arboretum by accident once when she was young, and fell in love with it. Her favorite had always been the cherry trees when they flowered. The pale pink blooms would make her smile like nothing else could.
Growing up Draco had rarely seen his mother smile. Then again, there had been little to smile about in those days. The years leading up to the second war with the Dark Lord had not been kind to his family, and the strain of it showed more and more on his motherís face with each passing year, but when one of her rare smiles slipped through it lit up the room. Thinking back on it Draco could see how his father had fallen in love with her.
Draco cringed at the thought of his father. Lucius Malfoy had been a harsh man in life who had never done anything without an ulterior, self serving, motive. His death was mourned by few. And Draco, who had had been long estranged from his father, only attended the services to support his mother while she mourned the passing of a man hated by many, and loved by her alone.
Shaking the thought from his head Draco crossed the bridge and walked down the dirt path that ran between the rows of cherry trees. So much of his life had revolved around that small pink bloom. It had been here that he had taken his wife the day he had proposed, and when he married Astoria Greengrass pale pink cherry blossoms had accented her dark hair. They had brought their son Scorpius to see the blossoms before he was old enough to walk, and again just before his first year at Hogwarts. When Dracoís mother died, just after his fortieth birthday, he had planted a cherry tree on her grave and enchanted it to bloom eternally.
In his travels as an adult Draco had seen cherry trees all over the world, but none had compared to the pink blossoms of the English garden he stood in now. He could measure his life on these trees. The one he stood before now had barely been a sapling the first time his mother had brought him here. Now it stood tall and strong, itís beautiful blossoms perfuming the air around him. Settling himself beneath the blooming cherry tree Draco let his mind continue to drift.
His life had never been a particularly easy one. Growing up his classmates had always assumed that he had the easy life of a wealthy pure-blood, but they never understood what came with having that status. The pressure to uphold the family name was at times crushing, and though he hated to admit it, Draco knew he had been brought to his knees by that pressure more than a time or two in his life. His father had expected Draco to follow in his shoes; to become a death eater and serve the Dark Lord, while living above the reproach of the rest of the wizarding community. Draco had tried to please his father. He had let the words of arrogance and hate his father taught him fall out of him mouth without really thinking about them. But as he got older Draco began to see the pain and suffering those pointless words could cause, and he hated himself for it.
His mother, on the other hand, had different thoughts on the matter. Thoughts that she never voiced in front of her husband, or even to Draco, at least not until he was older anyway. She had been no saint. Draco would never try to convince anyone of that. But there had been a softer side to Narcissa Malfoy that was rarely seen, and that was the woman that Draco had loved and as child and looked up to as a man. That was the woman who had made him into the person he was today.
A sudden change in the wind pulled Draco from his musings. The branches above him rustled in the breeze sending a single pink blossom floating down into his lap. Draco twirled the stem of the flower between his fingers as he looked around. More muggles had entered the arboretum and he couldnít help noticing a young couple standing beneath a tree just down the path from him. And young man with blonde hair was trying to lay a blanket beneath the tree while a petite woman held a straw basket and giggled. They reminded him of his son Scorpius and his wife Delilah when they were young.
Scorpius, like his father, had proposed to her in this very arbor. Draco smiled. He had been so proud of his son when he heard the news, though he was pretty sure it was that same happy news that had killed his father. Delilah was a small woman with curly brown hair, and a mischievous grin, who just happened to be half muggle on her fatherís side. She was also the first non-pure-blood to ever bare the Malfoy name.
Narcissa had welcomed the girl with open arms. Lucius, on the other hand, had disowned and removed his only grandson from his will as soon as he heard the news. Scorpius had laughed when he found out. The boy was so different from his father, that if they hadnít looked exactly alike no one who had grown up with Draco would have believed they were even related.
Scorpius had been a strong willed child, determined to do things his own way. When he had befriended the younger Potter boy in his first year Draco had been hesitant, and when Scorpius had dated the Weasley girl in his sixth and seventh years it had been difficult for Draco to hide his concern. But never once did he tell his son that he could not associate with someone because of their heritage. He had seen all too well the pain and chaos that sort of thinking causes.
So over the years, because of his son, Draco had actually become casual friends with the once famous Harry Potter, and by some miracle he had kept a cordial relationship with Ron and Hermione Weasley. In the end Draco was happy with the way things had turned out. Thinking back on it he realized that he would have even been able to accept it if thing had turned serious between Scorpius and Rose, and that thought alone made him realized how much he had changed as he had grown up.
Glancing at his watch Draco rose, sighed and straightened his muggle clothing. He hated to leave this place but he had an appointment with a specialist at St Mungos in an hour. And even though he knew they would tell him, once again, that there was nothing they could do for him, he wanted to freshen up first. Draco walked slowly to the path, then turned and looked up at the tree he had been sitting beneath. The branches of the tree swayed in the gentle breeze, flexible yet strong; the tiny blossoms floating like a great pink cloud, their fragrance strong in the afternoon sun.
Draco breathed deeply. Regardless of his rough start, he knew he had lived a good life. He had known the love of a good woman, and had been then for his son like his father had never been there for him. He had seen the birth of his first grandchild and had held the little pink bundle in his arms.
The only thing that made him sad was that he knew he would never see her delight the first time she saw the blossoms he now gazed upon. Draco hoped that Scorpius would remember the only two things he had ever asked of him as an adult.
ďBring Alanna to see the blossoms, make sure she remembers them, and when I die plant a cherry tree on my grave.Ē He had told Scorpius the first time the doctors had told him they couldnít help him. Scorpius had hugged him and promised, and he knew that his sonís word was good.
Draco took one last look around at the rows of cherry trees swaying in the breeze and smiled. He was ready to go now, and he knew that even after he died he would always remember the pale pink flowers and the peace and happiness they carried with them. He walked down the path, ducking behind the thick tree line that bordered the arboretum and with a quiet pop Draco Malfoy was gone.