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Chapter 3 : Present Wives And Future Ones
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Draco’s career had seen what most believed to be a positive light since his association with Asteria Greengrass. Mr Greengrass was a vastly important member of St. Mungo’s Board of Health and it had been his express wish that his future son-in-law should be able to take proper care of his darling daughter - and by proper care, he meant moving up from the degrading position of a simple Healer to Staff Manager. This meant that Draco spent most of his time behind a desk than by a bedside and left all surgeries to Healers, nurses and interns. He was able to meet some patients, but hardly ever diagnose them - all in all, it was expected of him to issue orders, not obey them.
Naturally, he gained an increase in both income and Mr Greengrass’ approval, but there was no denying that Draco missed the busy, hectic lifestyle of a Healer. He could not complain to Asteria, who adored her father, nor decline his promotion, and thus Draco felt a sad sort of solitude and a restraint in his career.
The sweet sound of Asteria’s voice greeted Draco as he rolled over and opened his eyes. Sunlight was seeking entrance through the ivory curtains and Asteria, dressed in a silk bathrobe and balancing a tray in her hands, was making her way over the cluttered floor. Draco yawned and stretched as she carefully placed it on the white sheets.
‘Come here,’ he smiled and leaned over to kiss her.
‘Can’t wait to get my hands on the paper,’ she said, when their lips had parted after a luxurious kiss.
‘I can’t wait to get my hands on the jam,’ Draco answered hungrily, reaching for a piece of toast as Asteria poured coffee. She unfolded the Daily Prophet with her other hand.
‘Didn’t even make the front page,’ she sighed with mock disappointment.
‘Our engagement? Did you expect it to?’
Draco leaned back against his soft pillows, chewing his toast pensively as he watched his fiançée peruse the paper. She was kneeling against the bed quite gracefully, her eyes fixed on the words before her and her feet playing with the fluffy carpet. The silk bathrobe parted at her knee, revealing a beautifully shaped calf resting against the edge of the bed. Asteria was so amazingly intentionally sensual without being vulgar. There was an air about her which was quite difficult to define without being mysterious. He watched her lips part as she smiled.
‘’Revealing a stunning emerald and diamong ring, Miss Asteria Greengrass proceeded to announce her engagement and upcoming wedding to Mr Draco Malfoy. The happy and rumoured event will take place in December after two years of what Miss Greengrass describes as “bliss”. It is her first marriage and Mr Malfoy’s second after an unsuccesful first attempt which nevertheless bore Mr Malfoy’s first and only child, Scorpius.’ Not very detailed. Precise. To the point.’ Asteria looked up. ‘Quite satisfactory.’
‘Give me the paper, Asteria,’ Draco said.
Draco reached for it, but Asteria merely drew back. He rolled over and landed on her legs and as she attempted to save the coffee from tumbling to the floor, he grabbed the newspaper and read aloud the lines she had skated over intentionally:
‘’Asteria Greengrass, sister to Daphne and daughter to wealthy and reputed businessman Tristan Greengrass, founder of “Magic, Myth & Might For The Few”, member of St. Mungo’s Board of Health and International Judge of Quidditch Felonies...” Yeah, definitely to the point, Asteria.’
Draco gave her a smile which she did not return; she was frowning, looking at the paper as if it had been insulted. She tried to get up but Draco was still on her legs; when she attempted to push him off, he grabbed her hands and pulled her into his arms, meeting her lips with his.
‘Don’t you dare think this will spare you from washing up,’ she breathed into his ear, as the kiss met an end.
Draco smiled again, a smile which she, this time, returned.
‘I can’t wait till married life, Mr Malfoy.’
‘I hate married life.’
‘I do, I do.’
Hermione took hold of a hanger and examined the dress on it without any real interest. Ginny clucked her tongue against her teeth.
‘You and Ron were married long before he even asked you.’
‘It’s gone, Ginny. It’s been gone for the past five years, I was just too much of a coward to admit it.’
‘We’re driving each other mad simply by existing. And it’s worse when the kids are at Hogwarts. A typical day consists in avoiding all conversation. It’s hideous, Ginny.’
‘Is it?’ Ginny looked at the blouse she was holding in doubt.
‘Not the blouse, my marriage!’
‘I mean, it was never easy,’ Hermione admitted as they wandered out on to the street in search of a tea shop. Ginny threw her hair off her face in the September wind. ‘But it’s just become so much harder. You and Harry -‘
‘We’ve had our moments. There were times where I could’ve strangled him.’
‘But that’s just it!’ Hermione exclaimed in frustration. ‘Even that’s gone with Ron. I mean, at least hatred is a sort of passion. If you hate, there’s a chance that you could love. But indifference... That has to be the cruelest emotion.’
Silence fell on the sisters-in-law as they sat down in an overcrowded café. It was a beautiful sunny, if not rather windy, Saturday, a few weeks since the children had been sent to Hogwarts. Hermione had since feasted on Draco’s face in secrecy, marvelling at how little it had changed and how handsome he still looked. She had often wondered since their seperation whether the old tension would always be there, and Hermione had felt it more than ever on that platform. She had been ready to leap into his arms just to feel his body against hers, to feel that someone, even if he was not her husband, still found her attractive, still wanted her. But she hadn’t been able to; too many things had been left unsaid, and she could not even imagine how bitter he must still feel. She had left him for another man; she had abandoned that promise of a new life to make her old one better, causing him more pain than anyone else. How could she hope for forgiveness?
‘You say that hatred is better than indifference,’ Ginny interrupted her thoughts. ‘Maybe that’s why...’ Her sentence faded into nothingness. Hermione could see there was something she wanted to say. After a few silent moments, she pulled out a newspaper; Hermione took it hesitantly and found the right page.
‘They’re getting married in December,’ Ginny continued quietly. Hermione’s eyes swallowed the article whole. ‘She’s eight years younger than him. He announced it yesterday.’
‘She’s pretty,’ Hermione breathed, staring at the black and white picture of the blonde, young woman, resting against Draco’s arm - that same arm which had once comforted Hermione. ‘Draco always did have good taste.’
‘No,’ answered Hermione sharply, putting the paper away as their coffee was finally served. ‘No, I don’t hate him. No, Ginny, I’m indifferent.’
Reluctantly, Ginny shoved the paper back into her purse and attended to the waitress while Hermione pondered over how happy Asteria Greengrass must be feeling in that very moment, and whether her happiness was shared by Hermione’s old lover.
The first few weeks back had been difficult for Rose. She had not been homesick, but she was not accustomed to being Head Girl. Not that there were any particular difficult duties, but the novelty of it did wear her out a little. People pointed at her and at the mere mention of some disastrous event, the blame was pinned on her. Scorpius being Head Boy also provoked a good deal of whispering and it did not help that he was in Gryffindor; mutinous rumours spread from Ravenclaws, Slytherins and Hufflepuffs about the Head positions being occupied by members of the same House.
However, she learned to ignore it and she soon started enjoying her days back in Hogwarts. Her dormitory was shared with, among others, her cousin, Roxanne, George’s daughter, who she had been rather close to since their first year - or at least as close as anyone could get to Rose, for she was not a very approachable person. But Roxanne understood this, perhaps, better than anyone else and knew when to give her space and when not to.
‘How are you enjoying Head Girl duties?’ Roxanne yawned, as she stretched on her bed. Rose collapsed on to her own and stared at her cousin, too tired to get into her pyjamas.
‘It’s not what I expected. It’s not alot different from Prefect duties. Would it be surprising if I said I was anticipating more glory?’
Roxanne grinned. She sat up and reached for her overlarge gym socks, rolling them more closely around her bare ankles and legs. The sweater she was wearing was too large.
‘Cheer up. Hogsmeade visit tomorrow. We could go to the Three Broomsticks.’
‘I can’t, I promised Gabriel I’d meet him,’ Rose groaned, finally standing up and opening her trunk to get out her blue striped pyjamas. Roxanne frowned.
‘You say that as if it’s a bad thing.’
‘It’s is,’ Rose answered promptly. ‘He keeps ruining everything.’
Rose did not respond immediately. She pulled off her robes and crawled into her pyjama bottoms, looking around casually. The other girls had not yet left the Common Room. Rose walked over to the adjacent bathroom and turned on the light.
Roxanne had joined her and was leaning against the doorway while Rose started brushing her teeth. They eyed each other through the mirror. Rose brushed her teeth longer than necessary, but Roxanne did not budge.
‘It’s like he wants to say he loves me,’ she finally exclaimed, once she had dried her face and turned off the light.
‘For Merlin’s sake, Rose,’ Roxanne groaned, ‘this has been your problem since forever. This is what happened last time with Romeus too.’
‘No, it wasn’t,’ Rose protested. Roxanne raised her eyebrows. ‘Ok, maybe it was, but I can’t help it. It’s just the way I am. It’s the way I function.’
In frustration, she rummaged in her bedside table drawer and pulled out a packet of cigarettes. Roxanne eyed her stonily.
‘What?’ Rose said irritably, holding the still unlit cigarette in one hand.
‘There are a million things I could say,’ Roxanne answered with annoying superiority. ‘You’ve just brushed your teeth, the dormitory will smell, your health will -‘
‘All right!’ Rose said, throwing the bedcovers off her and pulling on a sweater. ‘I’ll go out in the corridor. I’ll freeze to death to satisfy you.’
‘If you really want me satisfied, you’ll quit altogether.’
Rose did not answer but stuffed the packet into the mid-pocket of the sweater and walked downstairs. She met the two other girls on the way, but they were in deep conversation; otherwise, the Common Room was quite empty.
It was tempting to stay in the firelight and smoke her cigarette there, but there was too great a risk that someone might come downstairs or through the portrait hole; anyway, the drafty air of the corridor would soon get rid of the smoke and smell.
She had not been smoking for a very long time and could not even remember how she got about it. She had seen her mother smoking, and her father occasionally, and she had never really been told that it was bad for her; anyway, before it had been at social events that she had smoked to feel included, and now it was more out of habit than anything.
It was a comforting gesture and it calmed her down, even if the corridors were icy and she had forgotten her slippers upstairs. It was wearing her blue striped pyjama bottoms, her grey, worn sweater and a pair of unattractive gym socks that Scorpius found her a few moments later, cigarette in her left hand.
Out of shock, Rose jumped, turned around and hid her cigarette behind her back. Scorpius was eyeing her curiously.
‘What the hell are you doing here at this time of night?’ Rose exlaimed breathlessly.
‘Are you smoking?’
Rose, her eyebrows contracted and her lips forming a sour pout, took another drag and flicked the stump to the ground. She started to make her way towards the portrait when Scorpius’ arm suddenly prevented her from going any further; she came to a furious halt.
‘Let me pass, Malfoy.’
‘What is your problem, Rose?’
‘Don’t call me Rose.’
‘Why are you so damn angry all the time?’
Rose tried to push Scorpius’ arm away, but it merely came back. His grey eyes glinted in the dark. She could not quite make out his expression; was it anger? Worry?
‘Shouldn’t mean anything to you why or what I feel, and anyway, I don’t see how it’s any of your business,’ Rose breathed.
‘Have I insulted you in some way?’ Scorpius asked, frustrated. ‘Even before I knew you, you hated me.’ She tried to get past him again, but this time he placed her hands on her arms. ‘What did I do.’
‘Get your hands off me or I’ll scream, Malfoy,’ Rose whispered.
‘Tell me what I’ve done,’ Scorpius merely continued.
‘I’m not bluffing, I will, I’ll do it, Scorpius!’
Scorpius eyed her, their glances meeting with some strange, intense ferocity, and he finally let go of her; she wrenched herself away from him and ran to the portrait hole. He was left alone in the darkness, annoyed with, but also strangely attracted to, the furious redhead who had always despised him.
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