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Chapter 26 : The Inner Workings of Malfoy Manor
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I could still taste her on my lips as I exited the train.
I watched Rose follow the rest of her over-large family and then turned and headed towards the exit. Since I'd gotten my apparition license over the Christmas break, I wasn’t expecting anyone to meet me at the station so I decided to take my time and walk around London.
My fingers kept searching my lips as I wandered through the streets, I suppose in hopes of finding her there. Our kisses were as exhilarating as the first, if not more brief. Lately Rose had been cutting our time together shorter and shorter and, I'll admit it had me worried. I knew for me there was no question about us being together but, what if she didn’t feel the same way? Nothing, in essence, appeared to be different when we were together but there was a new distance there that I couldn’t place. It was a feeling I got, a feeling that made me very nervous.
The air was damp but I didn’t feel it or even notice that the sky had gone from dusky grey to a dark charcoal. The rain was coming down in heavy rivulets and one large drop hit me square in the eye, breaking me out of my reverie. I realized that it was late and it was probably best if I headed home.
When I arrived at the Manor I snuck up to my room, thankful that I reached the door without running into anyone. I needed time to prepare for any interaction with my family. I was surprised when I walked inside and found my mother sitting on the edge of my bed, looking at the framed photo that usually sat on my dresser. It was one of me when I was a little less than a year old. Mother and Aunt Daphne were sitting on a sofa, Mother holding me and Daphne with new born Bertram in her arms and Ade at her side.
“Hello,” I said warily, unsure of the mood she'd be in.
She jerked in surprise but quickly collected herself. In her usual fashion, she plastered on what was meant to be a warm smile but, unlike the one in the picture, it looked as though it was painfully affixed to her face.
“Scorpius, nice of you to come home.” She carefully placed the frame back on the nightstand. “Dinner will be at eight. Try not to be late; your grandmother would be displeased.” And with that she rose, brushed the wrinkles from her blouse and skirt, and walked briskly out of my room.
“Ugh!” I groaned as I collapsed on my bed. Mother, not often the type to be loose, was in her "Grandmother Malfoy” stiff mode already. This week was going to be torture and, to top it all off, I had my relationship with Rose to worry about.
I arrived to the meal promptly at seven fifty-five. Mother was already seated at her end of our overlarge, over-formal dining table. She smiled as I walked in- a smile of genuine thanks- and I noted that it was a good look for her. It wasreally a shame she didn’t do it more often. Grandmother was punctual as always, coming in on the clock's eighth chime with Grandfather following lifelessly at her heals.
“Ah, Scorpius, nice to see your mother was able to get you to dinner on time.”
Grandmother Malfoy definitely had a way with words. I looked over at Mother and saw that she was as dignified as ever, if a bit stiff.
Rising from the table, I scurried over to help my Grandmother to her seat. "Nice to see you too, Grandmother.” I pulled the chair away from the table and kissed her cheek once she had settled in. Grandfather pulled out his own chair and acknowledged me with a barely perceptible nod.
The four of us sat in uncomfortable silence as we waited for Father's arrival. Grandmother would make an occasional huff but, thankfully didn’t comment on his tardiness. Of course, Father could do no wrong in her eyes so it was really no surprise. Finally, at eight o’nine Father strode into the dining room.
“Mother,” he said as he went over to kiss her cheek.
“Draco dear, you look exhausted!" she cried, her face twisting in displeasure. "You must’nt work so hard all the time. Of course, I’m certain if you had someone who could organize this mess of a house, you would have more time to spare for yourself.” The backhandedness of my grandmother's comments were quite the artform.
“The house is run just fine, Mother," Father rejoined. "I thank you for your consideration but I believe Astoria has it in hand.”
I'll say one thing for my father, he might not be the most affectionate of men- especially where mother was concerned- but at least he stood up for her.
“Hmm,” was all we got from Grandmother.
The salad magically appeared on the china and the tense silence was broken by the sounds of chewing and forks clanging against the plates.
“So Scorpius, how is your sixth year proceeding? Are you top of your class?” The games had already begun. I finished chewing before responding to phase one of the Malfoy Inquisition, as I knew there'd be more to follow.
“Sixth year is going well, thank you," I stated carefully, "although I'm not quite sure where I stand at the moment. Sometimes Rose Weasley is in top seat, sometimes it's me, though Bertram gives a rather good showing as well.” I wiped my mouth and dug back into my salad, knowing I would need as much nourishment as possible in light of the coming interrogation.
“Bertram," she repeated, looking less than pleased, "as in your cousin? Wasn’t his father a Hufflepuff?”
Grandmother knew very well that he was-- she just loved to dig into mother about it.
“I'm surprised he can compete with my Scorpius," she continued. "Perhaps you aren’t trying as hard as you should, especially if that Half-Blood Weasley can get a one up on you.”
I clenched my hands beneath the table and tried to keep a straight face. It was difficult considering her calculated vindictiveness.
“Rose is quite brilliant, as is Bertram," I retorted. "I'm not ashamed to be grouped with either of them.” Thankfully my voice was even, with no hint of irritation whatsoever.
“Yes, you are very generous in your praise," she shot back. "I would expect as much given your mother’s relations.” Placing her fork delicately on her plate, Grandmother placed her hands in her lap. I blinked in fascination- her salad hardly looked touched. “You're not letting any girls distract you from your studies, are you?”
I couldn’t keep my color from rising.
“Aha...I thought as much," she averred with a triumphant nod. "No wonder you're not on top. I do hope it's someone reasonable- Pureblood of course, but not that chit daughter of Pansy’s. Please tell me you're not dating her.”
“No, grandmother, I'm not seeing Hollace.”
The salad plates were cleared away and the roast pheasant appeared in its place.
Grandmother looked somewhat relieved. “Well, that is certainly mercy. Her mother was quite the doting admirer of Draco but she was so insipid!" she proclaimed. "I couldn’t bear listening to that incessant chatter if she were to become your mother-in-law.”
At least grandmother had some taste.
“Well, you don't have to worry, I'm not interested in dating Mrs. VanStrauss’ daughter...ever,” I assured her.
I noticed that both my parents were very quiet. I knew Mother was not a fan of Mrs. VanStrauss and father didn’t seem to bother with her either way.
Grandmother leaned forward, an expectant look on her face. “So if it's not that one, who might it be?" she prodded. "Do I know her parent’s? Or perhaps her grandparent’s?”
“Yes, grandmother, I believe you do.” Why did I say that? I inwardly slapped a hand over my mouth. There was something about being interrogated by the woman that made it impossible not to tell the truth.
"Who is it then? I can’t recall knowing anyone with a granddaughter your age, that is, anyone acceptable.” She eyed me with an accusing stare.
Grandfather continued to eat his meal, seemingly unaware of the conversation going on around him, or rather the inquisition.
“There are many lovely girls my age, Grandmother.”
“I am not concerned with many, I'm only interested in the one you're seeing," she snapped. "So tell us, who is she?” Grandmother's mouth tightened, drawing into a thin line, and her eyes bored into me as if she could read my thoughts by shear will alone...or perhaps Legilimency, though I'd become quite adept at Occlumency so I wasn't worried about that.
"Well?" She crossed her arms over her chest.
I wasn’t sure what to do so I took a bite of my pheasant. It tasted like chewy saw dust but it gave me time to contemplate.
“Answer your grandmother, Scorpius,” Mother was clearly hoping to garner some favor with the elder Malfoy. I wish she could she see that grandmother would never approve of anyone who took time away from her ‘darling Draco’.
Grandmother responded by giving Mother a small, terse nod- in agreement, not approval.
I gulped and decided, why the hell not? I was in love with Rose and they were going to find out eventually, better now so they had time to get used to the idea. Maybe then, when we officially came out with our relationship, they wouldn’t be such arseholes to her.
“It’s Rose Weasley if you must know.”
Grandmother’s lips tightened further, if that were even possible. In contrast, my mother’s mouth was hanging open in shock and the clang of silverware on china coming from Father's end of the table alerted me that he'd dropped his fork. Grandfather ate on.
“You’re dating the daughter of that Granger girl?” Grandmother’s voice shook with rage. This was new-- I didn't think she could be anything but calm and condescending.
“I am,” I replied and looked straight into her angry eyes. My heart was pounding and I could feel the sweat starting to bead on my forehead, but I held her glare with one of my own.
“How could you?" she exploded. "Do you know what that mother of hers has done? And a half-blood, no less. She is not worthy of you!”
Unsure of how to respond, I looked to mother. She lowered her head to her plate. Snapping my head in the other direction I saw Father staring coldly, but not at me...he was giving Grandmother Malfoy’s death stare a run for its money.
“And exactly what has Hermione done, other than help save the wizarding world from the maniac you and father let in our house?" he snarled. "I will overlook the half-blood comment, as Rose – is it?” He looked to me for confirmation and I nodded. “As Rose is born of two wizards. Even if one of them is an oaf, he is a pureblood of one of the oldest lines.” My father's voice was icy and even I got shivers listening to it.
Grandmother, completely unfazed, continued on. “What has she done? She left the most brilliant wizard in England and ran off with that, that ‘oaf' as you call him!" she bellowed. "She broke your poor heart and I, for one, will not allow her daughter to do the same to my grandson!”
Father responded through clenched teeth. “Perhaps if you hadn’t been such a shrew things might have turned out differently.” With that he rose, threw his napkin atop his partly eaten pheasant, and left the dining room.
Mother turned away from us for a moment to collect herself. When she finally faced us, her eyes were dry and her mouth set into a line that closely resembled Grandmother’s. Gently placing her napkin aside, she rose gracefully from her chair and left me alone with my grandparents, one of fuming and the other silently folding his napkin in his lap.
Great! Left to fend for myself, and against a harpy from hell, no less! I couldn't expect any support from my practically catatonic grandfather. In retrospect, I should have felt terrible thinking such vile thoughts about my own grandmother but, given the evidence she really did deserve it.
“See what you’ve done?” My Grandmother spoke up, her voice tight and cold.
“Good-night Grandmother,” I said calmly before leaving the dinner table and the devil herself essentially alone.
I went in to look on mother and found her sitting at her writing desk.
“How can I help you?” she asked as she looked up from her paperwork.
“I was just making sure you were…”
“I’m fine,” she replied and focused back on her desk.
I stood there, looking at her stiff shoulders and blank expression, and I knew she was anything but fine. However, it's a little difficult to comfort someone who refuses to admit any pain so I left her study and pretended not to hear her stifled sob as I headed down the hallway. Anger started to bubble up inside of me as I strode towards my fatehr's study. It was an anger I had never realized I even felt until that very moment. I was angry at my grandmother for being a horrible shrew, at my mother for letting the Malfoy's walk all over her, and at my father for dismissing Mother all the time.
Sweeping through the door, I found Father also sitting at his desk though, unlike mother, he was not pretending to work. An empty glass and a bottle of Ogden’s stood on the desktop in front of him-- evidence of what Father needed to seek comfort.
“Why do you find it necessary to show mother exactly how little she means to you?” My fury burst forth on its new found target.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about Scorpius, now leave me be.”
“I don’t know what I’m talking about?" I repeated in disbelief. "I live in this house too! I know a site better than you think I do.”
“No you don’t.” Father rose and pointed his finger at the door. “Please leave.” His tone was firm and usually I would have obeyed but not this time.
“I'm not leaving," I snapped, crossing my arms over my chest. "I want answers, Father. Why did you get married if you didn’t love mother? Why even bother? A kid is not enough of a reason.”
Momentary shock flitted across my father's features at my knowing the details of my birth but, he was the master of masking his emotions and hid them as quickly as they had come.
“I could not be the father of a bastard,” he replied, staring at me hard.
“So why not live with your choice instead of running away from it?" I shot back. "Why ignore mother, why ignore me?” I would not be cowed by him-- not now. It was time for all of this to come out, time for this chasm between us to end or begin anew.
“I do not ignore you.” It was all he could manage to get out.
I quirked my brow, a look that seemed to disconcert him.
“Like I said, you don't know what you're talking about,” he said finally.
“I know that you were married to Rose’s mother. I know she left you for Mr. Weasley. I know that you and mother only got married because she was pregnant with me and I know you sleep on your couch down here more often than you do in your own bed." I crossed my arms over my chest, feeling somewhat victorious as my father's mouth fell open in astonishment. "Am I missing anything, Father?”
Clamping his mouth shut, he cast his eyes downward and busied himself by pouring another drink. “Have a seat, Scorpius," he demanded and waved his glass towards one of the opulent, leather chairs positioned in front of his desk. I watched the amber liquid slosh inside the crystal highball and nearly spill over the side.
My father looked at me when I didn't move from my spot by the door. "I want to tell you a little story.”
Lifting my chin, I refused to sit down.
He shrugged. “Suit yourself."
Running a hand through his thinning hair, my father took a long draught of whiskey before launching into his story. “When I was your age, I was a complete arse."
I blinked in surprise. His statement was so plain that it caught me off guard. I had never heard my father speak about himself in a negative light.
“You know of course that I was a Death Eater," he continued, "and that I made a lot of horrible decisions. I took the cowardly way out, though at the time I thought it was the only way to survive." Pausing, my father set his glass on the desktop and raked his hand through his hair once more. "I hurt a lot of people Scorpius and, one them was Hermione Granger...now Weasley.” The name came out forced alongside a grimace.
I nodded for him to continue.
Blowing out a heavy breath, he acquiesced. “After the war I served one year in Azkaban. I won't discuss what happened there but, rest assured the lack of Dementors did not make the place any less…uncomfortable." Another grimace. "When I was released I was put on parole, and who do you think was assigned as my MCO? The one person I had made it my mission to torment when I was in school…Hermione.” The end of her name came out as a low sigh. “I had been taught to hate her ‘kind’ from birth so you can imagine my surprise when I started to enjoy spending time with her, and when I realized that I actually liked her…and then when I fell in love with her.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and bent his head-- it might have been the first sign of real emotion I had ever seen from him.
Shitfting awkwardly on my feet, I decided I might need to sit down after all. I stalked slowly over to one of the chairs and sat, listening as my father went on.
“I had never loved anyone before, not like that," he admitted and I swore I saw a hint of a blush creep onto his face. "Hermione forgave me for all the terrible things I had done and that made her the most incredible person I had ever met. I knew when I proposed that I wasn’t the man of her dreams but, I also knew that she had grown to care for me and I hoped she might forget the man who held her heart. Who always held her heart. I think, deep down, I knew she would never forget him but, I didn’t care. I took what I could, while I could." Father sat down in the oversized wingback behind him and rested his hands on the desktop. "You see, Rose’s father-- Ronald Weasley-- had been missing for quite some time. We all thought he was dead. Turns out that he wasn’t and his return made it painfully apparent that she would never really be mine."
Staring at his hands, my father looked almost transfixed. "So I let her go,” he whispered and then looked me squarely in the eye. “Me Scorpius, not her. Hermione was too noble. She would have stayed, would have spent her life with me even though she loved another man." Dropping his gaze back to his hands, he closed his eyes. "I let her go because, I realized that I loved her more than I loved myself. Then Astoria came along and..." He paused for a moment. "Your mother was there for me during a very dark time and, for that I will always care for her." Opening his eyes, he shot me a slightly affectionate look. "She gave me you and, while you might think me hard, I have done my best by you, son."
As quickly as his affection came, it disappeared. "But don’t for one minute think your mother didn’t know what she signed up for in this marriage," he stated coldly, "don’t think you weren't an orchestrated plot. Your mother knew exactly what she was doing so forgive me if I hold a bit of a grudge. Forgive me if I'm not always thrilled by the cage she put me in.” My father's head went into his hands and his platinum hair stuck out at odd angles through his fingers.
This was the first real conversation I had ever had with my father, and most certainly the longest. Part of me felt for him but another part of me wanted to slap him and, for the first time in my life, irrationality won out.
“Get over it!” I shouted.
My father looked up and I saw there were tears dripping down his cheeks. It was almost enough to make me pause…almost.
“It was years ago!" I added, balling my fists in outrage. "Hermione Granger is married to someone else, and so are you! You have a wife who would dote over you if you let her, you have a beautiful home, a loving, if not insanely bitchy mother, and a son who would love to get to know you. You have all of this, Father and yet all you do is think about yourself and this 'selfless love' you have for someone else." I stood up and walked towards his desk. "What you did for her might have been selfless but now your nothing but a bitter, selfish man with a receding hair line!”
Grabbing the bottle of firewhisky, I threw it into the fireplace where it smashed to pieces. The dying flames burst to life and cast a flash of brilliance around the room. My father stared at me, tears running down his cheeks, his hair rumpled, and his mouth agape.
“Grow up Father.” I turned on my heel and tromped out of the room, leaving him to solitude and self-pity.
As I closed the door behind me I felt tears prick my eyes, which only incensed me further. Smashing the antique vase in the hall didn't do much to help ease the pain and anger I felt either. Taking the stairs two at a time, I rushed for the safety of my room. I had never stood up to my father before, never gotten involved with my parents domestic affairs because I felt it was never my place. I had no idea what made tonight different but, with the revelation of my father’s history all I felt was an all-consuming dread.
A/N: I cna't even begin to apologize enough for the delay, but know that the next chapter will defintiley be up sooner. I swear it on HP!
So how did you like the insight into the Malfoy Manner? How about Draco's side of events from RY? I really do want to know all your thoughts on this chapter since it was one of the hardest to write and I hope I got it right.
Thanks as always to those of you for reading and those especially who take the time to review. Also to my wonderific beta Dracosgem. She is the bestest.
Lastly I just wanted to let you know the Sproggy is now going to officially have a little brother!
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