I spent my days with ink on my fingers. An occupational hazard, I suppose. It forever irked my mother; she hated anything with a stain. My fingers, always with a slight tinge of black and blue ink, were her favourite source of complaint.
I had always found it interesting that the thing she most despised about my job was not the lack of money or prestige associated with it, but the ink stains. I, however, took the opposite view. As a naïve teenager fresh out of Hogwarts, I’d blindly stumbled into the world of professional writing without a thought to how I’d pay next month’s rent. Ink stains were relatively unimportant when compared to eviction.
It was only on that particular day, the thirteenth of July, 2002, that I started to share her distaste for the stains. No matter how much I liked my bohemian lifestyle, an up-scale function (where my presence was unfortunately required) was not the place for a girl with stained fingers and a ragtag wardrobe.
Hence, I found myself seated on the floor outside my closet, surrounded by most of my clothes, with absolutely nothing to wear. It was a classic dilemma, one experienced by every woman at least once in her life.
Not only did I not have a suitable dress or top/pants combination, I also didn’t own any presentable shoes. In other words, the evening was doomed to be a disaster.
I reached for one of the many sheets of parchment littered around my flat, and hastily scribbled a note pleading my sister for help. Daphne was a far better choice for my fashion confidant that one of my own friends. She, for one, didn’t share my taste in clothes, and two, she had a knack for fabric alteration charms.
“Tori, you promised after last time you would go and buy some decent clothes,” Daphne said, apparating directly into my bedroom.
“Geez, Daph, you could’ve at least apparated to the other side of the door. Etiquette and all that,” I replied, though I was not offended by her actions in the least. Teasing her was amusing, however.
“You invited me in your note; I think that disqualifies my direct apparition from the list of social ‘do not’s’,” she replied, before setting to work on solving my dilemma.
I watched her sort through my piles of unsuitable clothing, slightly disturbed at just how good an impression my sister had just done of our late mother. Dear Victoria Greengrass had loved to live life by the rules, etiquette being top of the list, right alongside social obligations. I, of course, was considered a failure in pure-blood circles, pursuing an ‘artistic’ lifestyle and all. Daphne, with her respectful job in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, was very much the favourite daughter.
“I think this situation might call for some transfiguration, Tor.”
The sound of my disappointed sister pulled me from my musings, and I looked up at her, sighing.
“Go ahead. But if you ruin anything…”
Well, truthfully I wouldn’t have minded, most of my clothes were several years old and with more than a few holes.
I found myself, an hour later, wearing what had previously been an incredibly faded pair of jeans (with little decorative flowers on the hem, I might add) and an orange top I’d never seen before, transformed into something that was, well, actually suitable for the event.
“Wow, Tori, you actually look like a Greengrass now. Rather than an ‘artistic type’, as Mum called it,” Daphne said, folding her arms in front of her with a satisfied grin.
“Gee, thanks Daph,” I rolled my eyes at my reflection in the spotted mirror mounted on my wall, “that’s just what I’ve always wanted, to look like a part of the family.”
My reflection promptly stuck its tongue out at me. Lovely mirror, that one. Came cheap, though.
“Aw, come on, we’re not that bad. Dad doesn’t care for the society crap at all now that Mum’s gone.”
“I know that, but he still disapproves of my career choices,” I replied vaguely, twisting my hair up on top of my head with my wand.
“He always will. The only way you’ll impress him is if you marry well.” Daphne smirked.
I threw a shoe at her for that.
“Not funny,” I replied, before grabbing my things and shooing her out of my room.
“Time to go. I’ve got to leave, or else I’ll be late.” I locked the front door behind me quickly, shivering slightly at the drop in temperature.
It might be the middle of July, but that never guaranteed a warm night in London.
“Have fun,” Daphne said, smirking slightly at me before disapparating.
I watched her leave, before doing a last minute brush down of my hair and clothes. Usually I wouldn’t care, but being at these sorts of events brings out a vain streak in just about anybody.
I appeared in the marble-floored lobby, feeling distinctly out of place despite my new attire. I’d been to a few functions like this before, with my parents and Daphne, but being back at one after several years absence felt a little odd, to say the least.
“Ah, Astoria! Right on time.”
I turned to see a short, rather thin, man standing behind me in a tasteful yet not overly expensive suit.
“You must be Mr Creevey,” I said, smiling warmly and extending my hand.
He grasped it firmly, his nod confirming that he was, in fact, Creevey.
“Well, come on then,” he said rather impatiently, leading me into the grand ballroom.
As we stepped across the threshold, I couldn’t help but marvel at the extraordinary string of circumstances that had led me here. The only reason I was on the arm of Mr Creevey tonight was because my agent happened to know his cousin, and had passed on my manuscript for him to read. Originally, all I’d wanted from him was a short interview, but apparently he’d liked my manuscript so much that he wanted to help me secure the last few necessary interviews.
I wasn’t entirely sure how he was planning on doing that, but I supposed that he must have had it all figured out.
“So, Astoria, I read that manuscript of yours. Quite original, writing a book about the war and not devoting at least half of it to the Golden Trio,” he said, smiling as he fetched us two gillywaters.
“Yes, well, I thought a few of the unsung heroes deserved to be heard,” I replied vaguely, well aware that Mr Creevey was only impressed with my work because I’d devoted an entire chapter to his brother Colin.
“Absolutely right. I particularly loved the one about the man setting up wards around every Muggle residence on his street. Lovely story, that one,” he said, taking a generous sip of his drink before leading me over to a group of wealthy-looking men in suits far more expensive than his.
“I believe you wanted to interview Narcissa Malfoy?” he asked, looking to me for confirmation.
I nodded, and I saw a man step apart from the crowd, stepping towards us.
“Unfortunately, Dennis, my mother is unable to attend tonight. Whoever she is, she can send her questions via O.W.L. You know we don’t do face-to-face interviews,” the man said haughtily, looking down his nose at me.
Draco Malfoy. Of course.
We’d grown up in the same circles, he was even in the same year as my sister, dated one of her friends actually, but we’d never had much to do with each other. Since the war, he’d been busy cleaning up the name of Malfoy, setting up numerous charities, ratting out other Death Eaters, essentially making himself and his family look good in every way possible.
The general impression now was that his mother and he were of the good sort, though Lucius Malfoy was one to tread carefully around. Lucius had been rather more involved in the whole torture and dark magic gig than the other Malfoy members. Of course, all three of them had been granted a reprieve courtesy of Uncle Harry, since Narcissa had saved his life.
It was this act that made me want to talk to her. Unfortunately, as Draco had pointed out, none of the Malfoys had ever given an interview.
“I don’t see why I would let another insignificant reporter trample all over my family’s name, paint us as villains and then print it for the whole community to see,” Malfoy said, sneering at Creevey.
“I’m not a reporter.” I put in, slightly intimidated by the look on his face, but I continued anyway.
“I’m writing a book about the unsung heroes of the war, and I’d like to include your mother. Of course, if you’re willing, I’d also like to interview you, since you were instrumental to Harry Potter and the Order’s victory, but-“
“Unsung heroes? Really?” He cut in, sarcasm thick in his tone, the sneer still in place.
Did the man do anything but sneer? It really was a little unnerving.
“I find it quite an individual take on the war, Draco. Nothing like it’s ever been done before. Harry, Ron and Hermione all think it’s a good idea,” Creevey interjected, sounding scarily like my agent.
Wait, Harry Potter had read my manuscript? Really?
And he liked it?
It took all I had to not let my jaw drop to the floor right then.
“I’ll ask mother and send you an O.W.L with her answer,” Draco finally replied coldly, before stalking back off to the rich-looking businessmen.
“Well, that was friendly,” I said as we walked away, sipping my drink.
“For Draco Malfoy, that was practically a smile and a hug. He agreed to ask Narcissa, that’s as much as we could possibly hope for,” Creevey said, before spotting someone in the distance and smiling widely.
“I’m sorry, but I’ve just spotted an old friend. You’ll be alright by yourself for a moment, won’t you?” Creevey asked, barely looking at me for an answer before he rushed off to talk to a brunette standing by the door.
I stood by the refreshment table, my drink in my hand, feeling completely and utterly pathetic. Here I was, in a room full of some of the most influential people in Wizarding Britain, and I was standing by myself. After just being snubbed by Draco Malfoy, and ditched by Dennis Creevey.
Ah, the life of a writer.
I watched surreptitiously as Malfoy left the party of businessmen, a firewhisky in hand, and sauntered over to a leggy blonde.
I turned away, turning my gaze instead to Creevey and his friend by the door. However, a Malfoy of a different kind caught my attention. Lucius Malfoy, generally shunned at these kinds of events, was walking through the door. Well, that was certainly interesting. If I had been a journalist, I would’ve rushed up asking for a quote of some kind.
As it was, I took a subtler route. I stood still, observing as he marched up to his son, placing a pale hand on his shoulder. They both quickly retreated from the crowd, heading into the deserted corridor. I followed, hidden by shadows. If the Malfoys refused to provide me a direct quote, I might as well try and see what I could get via snooping.
I was also fairly curious about what they could be discussing in the privacy of the corridor.
“Draco, you really must stop fooling around. It’s not helping your reputation.”
“What reputation, father? I have a respectable job, what else do you want? That’s more than you can say,” Draco replied, and I was shocked to hear the anger and bitterness in his tone.
Clearly there was a lot more to this relationship than most father and son bonds.
“Do yourself a favour, Draco, find a nice pureblood witch and settle down. It’ll make your mother happy.”
Lucius had wisely chosen to ignore Draco’s jibe, and I couldn’t help but admire him for it. I’d expected him to rise to the occasion.
There was a pause as Draco considered his father’s words. There was obviously more to all this than they were saying, the mention of his mother seemed to carry a lot of weight. I could see, from my discreet position behind a potted plant, Draco’s shoulders tense up at his father’s last sentence.
Lucius left first, without a response from his son. I stood still, unable to move without exposing myself until the younger Malfoy left.
“You do realise that I know you’re there, don’t you?”
The shock of hearing his voice caused me to stumble, and I tripped over the plant, landing with a thud in the corridor at Malfoy’s feet. He didn’t look impressed.
No wonder, since he’d known I was spying on him.
“Hi,” I said meekly, standing up with as much grace as I could muster.
“Hear anything interesting?” he asked coldly, his arms crossed.
For once, the sneer wasn’t in place. If I’d had to guess, I would say that the mention of his mother had shaken him somewhat.
“Intriguing would be more accurate,” I replied, glaring at him in challenge. I wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted with me, aside from calling me out on my eavesdropping.
There was a tense moment when we both stared at each other. I refused to back down, and was rather surprised when, after only a moment or two, he relented, his gaze moving to the floor and his shoulders slumping.
I stood awkwardly, not quite sure what to do. He was obviously troubled, but we weren’t friends. We weren’t even acquaintances.
“Er…is everything ok?” I finally squeaked, half prepared to run if he suddenly snapped at me. I wouldn’t put it past him.
He looked up at me slowly, grey eyes meeting brown.
“No,” He replied flatly, before heading back into the ballroom.
I stood frozen to my spot on the floor, gazing after him. What had that meant?