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Cui Bono by Badname
Chapter 3 : Chapter 3
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2

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Astoria accepted the invitation the Corvus' gala after Tristan had talked her into attending. "Right into the heart of the enemy camp," he'd pronounced. "C'mon, pup, you have to do it."

She'd made him her plus one.

Astoria and Tristan made their way to the entrance of the ballroom to where a uniformed wizard opened the great double-doors, announced the arrival of the couple in front of them, then closed the doors again, where they presumably joined the fray. Astoria gave her hair a last pat, ensuring the golden filigree leaves, an imitation of those that were worked into her family crest, still held in her hair. She smoothed down the front of her robes with shaking fingers.

"Relax, pup," Tristan said. "Just like riding a bike. It'll all come back."

The doors swung open, Tristan and Astoria Greengrass, was called, and they were in.

Although Astoria much preferred the gowns of American political do's, she had to admit there was a quintessential British charm about a ballroom full of purebloods in their fine robes and House colours. It was like stepping back in time to a period of elegance and extravagance, truly beautiful to look upon. And intimidating. The last ball she had attended had been more than eight years ago - her brother had been younger then, clean-shaven, her sister still laughed in that high laugh that Astoria had not heard since the War. Father hadn't been happy, she recalled; but in the lead-up to the War, there were a lot of men looking like they were worrying about the future. That was a long time ago, though.

"There's Corvus," Tristan said, gesturing to their right. "Let's go thank him for the invitation.” He was already steering her in Corvus' direction.

Hadrian Corvus was holding court near the beverages, with Draco Malfoy and a man Astoria couldn’t place standing either side. Lucius Malfoy was nowhere to be seen.

"You said Lucius Malfoy was working for Corvus?" Astoria asked.

"He is. Doesn't come out in public much since the War, though."

"Ah." So Draco was here as what? Stand in? Consolation prize? She knew he and his family had come out badly from the Second Wizarding War, and she wouldn't have imagined she would see this fallen prince so clearly involved in the election.

Speak of the wolf, you see it's tail seemed to ring true then, as Astoria saw Draco's eyes meet hers. She felt a moment of alarm at being caught in her surveillance, and she was left with that terrifying, split-second feeling one gets as their foot misses a step before safely finding its hold. Then Draco bowed his head and the moment had passed. She saw his lips move before Corvus swung his head toward them and swept the room, settling on her.

Tristan was striding toward the men, Astoria following.

"Corvus," Tristan said, shaking his hand firmly. "Spectacular, really," he said, gesturing with his hand to encompass all of the ballroom.

"We have a reputation to uphold," Corvus replied.

"Indeed. Still, spending more money than you're making. Doesn't augur well for the economy." Tristan continued before Corvus had a chance to reply, clasping each man's hand. "Malfoy. Thurkell. I notice you’ve scheduled your gala on the same night as Miremont’s. That’ll put a doxy in her curtains. Does she have you or Malfoy to thank for that?"

Thurkell laughed as he pumped Tristan's hand. "She can send Malfoy a thank you card. Might I ask, does your good humour have anything to do with the return of this young lady on your arm?"

"My sister, Astoria. Returned from the Americas; with a horrendous accent but otherwise none the worse for wear."

Thurkell took her hand and bowed over it. The courtly gesture, well out of fashion amongst the purebloods in America, reminded her of how out of touch she was in this British social class. "Joe Thurkell," he introduced himself. She knew this man by reputation - the portly campaign manager for Corvus. "We are a smaller community these days, and your arrival has sparked quite the flurry of gossip amongst the womenfolk. I hope you're not going to disappoint them by minding your manners."

"I'll bear that in mind."

Corvus was introduced then. Late 50's, a strong chin, and a full head of greying hair; all in all a very distinguished looking man. As he smiled and shook her hand, Astoria concluded that he had a faultless respectability about him: sort of like the prize witness in a murder case who only need smile and tell a couple of lies to convince any jury of a man’s innocence. She could see why he had come out on top as the pureblood candidate of choice. Of course, they had a reputation to uphold.

"Your father was quite well known amongst this crowd,” Corvus said, “and a friend of mine, once. Back when the Greengrasses stood for more than ideals.”

It was probably the first time in Astoria’s life she’d been accused of idealism, and it didn’t sit well. At what point over the Atlantic people had decided that she had a noble and higher purpose in Britain, she wasn’t sure.

“I hope you won’t hold our father’s lapse in judgment against us,” she said. “Voldemort already punished him severely.”

Lyndon ignored her choice of topic with grace. Or perhaps he’d put it down to her being American. “We thought it a courtesy to offer you a chance to reacquaint yourself with your British countrymen,” he said. “I do apologise, but I'll have to leave you to it. There are many people I must speak with tonight."

Astoria shot him a smile. "Of course there are. And I do thank you for inviting us."

Corvus' eyes shifted from her to her brother, then to Malfoy. "It was no trouble. Although, that invitation was not from me." And he was already turning, leaving to speak with a group of robed wizards behind them.

Curious. Which left -

Malfoy's eyes were slate grey, she saw, unsettling in their stillness. His patrician features had sharpened with age and he had bucked the current trend of long hair that the pureblooded dandies were fond of. Breaking his gaze, she offered her hand. "Thank you for the invitation."

Malfoy bowed over her hand, the gesture at odds with what she remembered of his character from their Hogwarts days. "I'm interested to see what you have planned for Lyndon's campaign," he said, straightening. "Or rather what you have planned for ours."

The offhand words, spoken in that cut-glass accent, registered. Startled, Astoria slipped her hand from Malfoy's before he could release it, causing the corners of his mouth to curl.

"You're mistaken," she said. "I'm not working for anyone."

"Regardless, the Greengrass family has always been politically minded. I don't doubt we'll see you dealt in for another round."

She took care to school her features. He said the Greengrass family was politically minded - the Malfoys had made their fortune on it.

"I dislike card idioms," she said. "They imply some kind of game."

This raised the ghost of a smile. "It's election time," he said. "This is the game."

Her brother, looking from Astoria to Draco, intruded. "We can assume it's not on your cards then, Astoria?"

"Ha!" Thurkell said. "You've a quick tongue on you, lad. Lyndon had better watch it doesn't get away from you."

"Ah, luckily I've got long enough legs to keep up with it."

With Tristan in charge of the conversation again, Astoria deliberately kept her eyes from Malfoy, only turning to watch as he left to join Corvus.

"He's just trying to unsettle you,” Tristan said. “Get it together.”

They'd found a balcony at the edge of the gathering and were nursing wine, a very good vintage from the 1800's.

"I know,” Astoria said. She swirled the wine. Rich and heady, she thought it matched the tone of the night perfectly. “I was just... surprised."

"There are mimes who couldn't have portrayed that any better."

She shot him a dirty look. "How is it Malfoy knows what I'm doing before I do?"

Tristan exhaled noisily. "His father, probably. What's your take on him?"

"No way of finding out without playing the game.”

He sipped his wine and appeared to study the glass with great fascination. "Doesn't appeal to your curiosity by any chance, does it?"

"Mmm," she murmured noncommittally. "A shot at being included in Britain's biggest election yet? If you offered me the same chance back in Salem I would say yes in a heartbeat, but it's just - It feels too close to home, you know?"


"A little, yeah."

"Yeah," he echoed. They sipped their wine in silence a while longer. "I spoke with Marsh after he'd spoken with you. He's a good guy."

"Tristan -"

"Listen," he interrupted. "If you think the reason we're working with Lyndon is due to some naive notion that he's going to put a bandaid on Britain and kiss it all better - maybe you're being the naive one, and I'd hoped you would've known me better. We're not a bunch of righteous do-gooders on crusade. But don't think for a second that there's anything wrong with believing in the guy you're working for." He drained his glass. "Hell, maybe we are a bunch of hypocrites."

She snorted. "Hypocritical would be involving a Death Eater in your campaign." She turned and leant over the balcony, letting her empty glass dangle over the edge. "Maybe I owe Marsh an apology."

"Chin up, there are worse things in the world than being called an idealist."

"I called him an idiot too."

"Ah, did you?" He laughed. "Didn't tell me that one." He chuckled to himself again, then raised his empty glass. "Here's to that fantastic wine. Let's get another glass."

They'd stayed on the balcony until they were ushered inside for dinner and the speeches. They were seated to the far right of the stage, at a small table of six filled by an American diplomat and his plus one, and two members of the Holyhead Harpies. Astoria fell into a comfortable conversation with the diplomat and his wife, and Tristan had turned his charm to the quidditch players.

Dinner was an extravagant six courses, with the speeches beginning as dessert was brought out.

Thurkell made a short speech of introduction, and then the crowd had abandoned their polite clapping to thunderous applause as Corvus stepped onto the stage. Corvus raised his hand in acknowledgment, set his papers on the lectern and tapped his wand to the microphone, waiting for the room to quieten. He picked up a scroll of parchment and read directly: "Although Britain is a largely democratic country, purebloods make up less than 9 percent of the population. And although purebloods are barely one tenth of the population, they make up more one third of Ministry employees, and over 80 percent of Ministry Officials." Corvus paused, then set the parchment down. "That was the beginning of a speech given by Thersander Rhodes at a rally yesterday, which was published today on page 3 of the Daily Prophet. A smear campaign discrediting centuries of good government. No one in this room needs me to tell them the damage that has been done and that Thersander Rhodes continues to inflict upon the British Ministry."

"He's good," Tristan whispered. "He's really good."

He certainly was. Due to their heavy presence in Ministerial Office, purebloods had become the centre point of Rhodes' argument. Corvus' speech focused on the work that Rhodes was doing to undermine those in power, and, by extension, the Ministry itself. "Almost makes you forget he's a pureblood himself," she whispered back. As Corvus continued to speak, she let her gaze wander over faces: the glitterati, the influential, the high-ranking Officials; all upturned and listening intently. The foreign faces, introduced by British witches and wizards marrying out of country to keep their lines pure, drove home the changes that Voldemort had wrought upon them. What Voldemort had done to these proud people was unforgivable. It was a shock to see how few of the purebloods she remembered from her youth were left; the rest, imprisoned or dead. The poor bastards hadn't stood a chance. But they had rallied behind Corvus, clinging desperately to some familiarity in a world that was changing. She couldn't blame them for wanting to keep everything as it was.

She clapped politely as the speech ended, excusing herself to find the ladies. When she re-entered the ballroom, the tables had been magicked away and guests had begun to mingle again. Tristan and the quidditch players were nowhere to be seen, but she spied Thurkell and Malfoy speaking together.

She slowed her pace.

Malfoy knew Marsh had asked her to join Lyndon's campaign. How he had come about his information was anyone's guess, but what piqued her curiosity was the intent behind the invitation. She knew that he was fishing for information, which he presumably would realise. So what then - to intimidate her? Or had his information been off, in that he had thought he was issuing an invitation to a member of Lyndon’s campaign, rather than an undecided witch with no British ambitions?

Surely there was more to it than that?

"Greengrass," Thurkell said as she neared them, stopping Malfoy mid-sentence. "Lovely to see you again."

She thought she saw Malfoy's lips quirk briefly, then: "Shall we take a walk?" he asked, offering his arm.


He steered them to the back of the ballroom, her hand resting lightly on his arm. "I hope you're enjoying yourself?" he asked politely.

"Ah, yes, thank you." She snagged a wine glass from a passing waiter to keep her hands occupied.

She could see Tristan at the edge of the gathering, now, drinking with one of the quidditch players. His eyebrows flew up as he spied her on Malfoy's arm, but he made no move to follow her as they passed him to the balcony.

Malfoy released her then, stretching his legs out with back to the balustrade.

Astoria leant against the banister and followed his gaze to the merrymaking inside the ballroom, waiting for him to break the silence.

It was strange to see an ex-Death Eater at one of these sorts of functions. Where convicted Death Eaters had been locked up in Azkaban, this family had been pardoned by the Ministry and allowed to resume their pre-war activities in politicking and favour-lending. It was no wonder that this particular Malfoy had gravitated toward the only pro-pureblood candidate in the running, but surely all was not forgiven? Did British purebloods have such short memories that they would allow this man to continue on, who had followed Voldemort and so had contributed to the downfall of the purebloods?

With Malfoy quiet and nothing forthcoming she sighed, impatient. "Corvus speaks well," she said. "I can see why he has such a large following. Rallying against the great domestic menace and all that." Her hand circled carelessly, indicating Rhodes and all that.

He glanced back at her. "You trivialise what affect Rhodes is having on Britain. You agree with him?"

"Please," she scoffed. "Corvus couldn't give a shit about what Rhodes is doing."

He turned to face her then, giving her a once-over, re-evaluating. "Alright. What does Corvus give a shit about?"

She turned sideways, hip against the banister. It was clear from Corvus' speech that he stood for the good old days, when the oldest wizarding lines were guaranteed the best seats on the Wizengamot. Standing up against the unjust accusations levelled at the Ministry was merely the hook intended to snag public attention. It was much more acceptable to stand for the institution of the Ministry than the disgraced blood lines. "Setting purebloods back on their pedestal?"

"Partly," he allowed.

"But not wholly?" she asked. She studied his profile, the light from inside playing against the angle of his jaw. "You're not actually implying that it would be in the best interests of the public for him to win Ministership?" She could begin to understand what Lyndon's opposition was to letting the Ministry carry on as it had for centuries. Corvus as Minister for Magic would be the same old, humdrum Ministry, that had allowed puppeteers like Lucius Malfoy to put a finger in every pie.

"The best interests of the public have always been served by the Ministry," he said.

And Ministers have been exclusively pureblooded until the muggle-born Nobby Leach in 1968. A line appeared between Astoria's brows. "The British Ministry has been overrun by Death Eaters and subject to the tyranny of Voldemort. Do you think he had the best interests of the public in mind?"

Previously relaxed against the banister, Malfoy's posture stiffened almost imperceptibly. "A compromised Ministry. You're attacking a straw man."

Astoria noticed his accent had sharpened.

Well then. His casual reply was at odds with his sudden change in demeanor. It seemed she'd touched upon a sore point. "The last thing Britain needs is a pureblood traditionalist at the helm. Corvus would undermine all the progress that Shacklebolt has fostered toward blood equality. Progress that wizards have died for."

Malfoy had his back to the banister again, pale and languid. "Including your father," he observed.

Astoria's hand tightened around her wine glass. "You're blood-fascists," she accused.

"We prefer to think of ourselves as syncretic."

"Mmm. How about: well-meaning, cultural conservationists? I think that's a fairly acceptable way of saying you're so far-right you've ended up backwards."

"Let's not limit ourselves to left-wing/right-wing ideology."

Malfoy's resistance to keeping pace with her biting remarks was a blessing in disguise. She bit back a retort and took a shaky gulp of wine, as she tried to calm her surge of anger and refocus on the reason she'd sought him out. "I don't mean to imply you have some sort of hidden agenda, but I'm getting the impression that you only invited me here so that you can pump me for information."

He appeared to consider this. "My sincerest apologies. Something about the corn-fed accent led me to believe I was operating over your head."

Astoria bit the inside of her cheeks, determined not to let this easy deflection stand. "I'm sorry to say I haven't accepted Marsh's offer yet. Here you thought you were point-scoring when really you've been playing in the sandbox all by yourself."

Malfoy pushed off the banister and faced her again. Astoria snatched her hand away from where Malfoy's robes had rested against it. He had turned just that little bit closer than was appropriate, betraying his gentleman's mask - not so close as to wag tongues but enough to raise eyebrows, and in full view of the party inside. All the lessons she had learnt on propriety raged through her mind, but Astoria quelled the urge to step aside, as no doubt had been his intention.

"You place a high value on the privacy of a conversation held in the courtyard of The Bird," he said idly. "In this case, the value was a single galleon. I've paid more for a glass of wine. Speaking of -" his fingers closed around the top of her wine glass, tugging gently, and she let her fingers slip from the stem as he pulled the glass away.

"Is this where you tell me to back off?" she asked, annoyed at the feeling of helplessness as she watched Malfoy swirl the wine. Was this his aim, then - playing devil's advocate, testing the waters and provoking her to see what her reaction would be?

As if sensing her thoughts, Malfoy tipped the glass and sipped it. "Drearish Wine," he pronounced, again not deigning to engage her. "Only three casks left in the British Isles. One was in the possession of my family, before the Ministry seized it during the War. I wonder where this particular cask came from?"

Was that his round-about way of warning her that Hadrian Corvus had the support of the Ministry? If he thought to cow her with words and a stolen wine glass he was way off the mark. "I daresay it came from the cellars of some old wizarding family - pale and arrogant, pretensions to power - Do you know them?"

He had stepped closer now, crowding her and forcing her gaze upward. She returned his gaze defiantly. "Why do you think I invited you here?" he asked suddenly. He was so close that his breath brushed the hair on the crown of her head.

“Wine and the mind games?” she asked pertly. And, because he still hadn’t moved, she added, "People who have to resort to physical intimidation are already on the back foot. Bit close, mmm?"

Called out on his behaviour, he wasn't even a little fazed. He set the wine glass down on the rail of the balustrade and his hands came up - her eyes widened a little - and rested about her waist. "But it works so well," he drawled.

It took her a moment to collect her wits. She pulled away from the reach of his arms with a sharp movement, annoyed that he had called her bluff. “I remember when you used to ponce around the halls of Hogwarts with those two goons at your shoulder,” she said. She smoothed the front of her robes as the corners of his eyes tightened. “My friends and I used to call them your shoulderpads, because they made you look bigger than you ought. I see time still hasn’t taught you how to play nicely.”

He was watching her with something akin to amusement. "Luckily you're here to pull me up on my social shortcomings."

"Clearly you’re in need of another lesson."

A boot scuffed against pavers caught their attention.

Draco looked up and over the top of her head, and she followed his gaze over her shoulder to where Tristan was standing, wine in both hands. When she had returned to meet his gaze he was looking down at her, gentleman's mask firmly in place. Draco took Astoria's hand, bowed over it and brushed a kiss across her knuckles in a last mocking show of his good manners. She didn't snatch her hand away this time - the slight would be petty - and when she pulled her hand away at last she wondered at the difference between this perfectly polite Malfoy and the one who had presumed to put his hands on her. His eyes when he straightened had returned to impassive gentility. "Another time."

"This whole thing was pointless," Astoria said, but he had already turned, returning to the ballroom.

"What was that about?" Tristan asked after Draco had disappeared into the crowd. He handed her another glass of wine.

Astoria drained the glass and set it on the balustrade, next to Malfoy’s. She'd gotten her first taste of what it might be like to cross swords with the British scrabblers, and she felt that she'd lost this round. When she’d first seen the invitation she had known it for what it was immediately - a challenge. They may as well have forgone the dinner menu and written come if you dare. On some level she knew that by turning up tonight she was signalling that she was open to the game. Truthfully, she wondered what Malfoy’s plan had been beyond getting her there. She had the dawning suspicion that Malfoy had orchestrated this whole thing as a sort of test.

“Just reacquainting myself with my British countrymen," she lied.

"Looked like you were getting up close and personal."

"He was just trying to unsettle me, like you said."

Tristan frowned down at her empty glass. "Astoria, I know you haven’t given Marsh your answer. But don't make the mistake of thinking you're entirely removed from this election. When a Malfoy sneezes, someone else catches the fucking cold. Do you get what I'm saying?"

Tristan was right, of course. Having attended two candidates fundraisers, with her brother already involved in one campaign and her job as a political consultant... people would already be asking questions and making plans. It was little wonder she had ended up at this particular party. "Politics is in my blood, Tristan. I know what I'm doing."

"Just don't make it personal."

What a strange thing to say. Being back here, Lyndon's cause, especially after what their father had died for... it was hard not to take it personally. But she said, "I won't", and pretended not to notice the deepening frown on her brother's face.

"What do you think?"

"She'll do it," Draco said. "I'm certain."

"Well, do we need to be worried?" Corvus asked. "What is she capable of?"

"It's probably a good thing," Thurkell said. "Lyndon's not pitching to our audience. Any votes he gets he's going to have to take from Miremont or Rhodes, so Lyndon will be focusing on those two.”

“Why on earth would we want anything good coming for Lyndon?” Corvus asked. His soft hands tapped at the table. “I’d prefer them not to replace Cortewalle, at all. Do you think we could scare the girl off?”

Draco stood, his chair scraping noisily across the floor. He collected the unopened glass of wine from the empty table opposite, then sat back down in a move that had hidden his smile from Corvus.

Thurkell reached over the table. He snagged each of their wine glasses and moved them into a half-moon around the wine bottle Draco had placed in the centre of the table. “Imagine four glass bottles. Corvus-” he indicated their bottle of wine “-holds the Ministry and the bloodlines, the old money.” He set the bottle aside. “Lyndon, Rhodes and Miremont hold the anti-pureblood vote. We don’t want a clear winner out of those three.” He moved the remaining three glasses around, so that the fullest glass was on the far left, and the other two, almost empty, to the right. “We want those votes spread evenly, while ours stays consistently high. This reduces our competition. At the moment, Rhodes’ is filled highest, but if the girl can take votes from Rhodes, she’ll be spreading them about more evenly. It can only be to our advantage.”

Thankfully, Thurkell had refrained from pouring wine from one glass to another in a practical demonstration of exactly how this would occur.

Corvus seemed reassured, but Draco still held his doubts. He tended to find questions far more informative than answers, and Greengrass had shown herself to be well versed in the nuances of British politics, for an American.

Draco had intended to discuss the Greengrass girl with his father over breakfast the next morning. His mother, having missed her chance to be introduced to the fresh blood in their midst, brought the topic up first.

"I had wanted to meet the new Greengrass girl, Astoria, although she seemed to be engaged on the balcony for most of the night."

“New?” Draco asked. “You make it sound as if she died and came back.”

“Don’t be silly, Draco,” his mother responded. “Once you go American you never come back.”

“Really?” Draco made a show of buttering his bagel. “I feel rather the same about my boyhood sojourns in the Hogwarts second floor bathroom. The experience has never quite left me.”

Narcissa’s brows rose ever so slightly. She lifted her teacup to her lips and sipped daintily, changing the subject masterfully without even the bother of a segue. “Thurkell tells me you had a lengthy conversation with the girl, Draco." Her eyes slid to the head of the table, to where Lucius had put his knife and fork down. "Tyron Greengrass... one of the first casualties of the War."

Tyron Greengrass had been killed in the first stage of recruitment during the War. A Voldemort sympathiser, he had however drawn a line at taking the Dark Mark and had been killed for it. The death of such a high-ranking Official had become a cautionary tale amongst the Death Eaters.

"I wondered where her loyalties lie," his mother said finally.

"Hardly the time for such conversation," Lucius said in clipped tones. He pushed his chair back and stood. "The study, Draco."

Narcissa continued sipping her tea, watching them leave the room under hooded eyes. Lucius made a point of never discussing business in front of his mother, but Draco knew his mother had many years of practice of gauging when Lucius was up to something.

Lucius poured them Hebridean Brandy from a decanter before they'd sat down, taking seats in armchairs opposite the fire of Lucius' study.

Lucius Malfoy had withdrawn somewhat from society since the War. It wasn't the sideways glances he tended to attract when in public, it was more that he found he had less patience for them. And the last years of the War had so tried his patience. Far from squirreling himself away in his study, however, Lucius had kept a close eye on current affairs and hosted guests at Malfoy Manor often.

"The finances?" Lucius asked.

"Over six hundred thousand last night. Thurkell says there's more to come from the Kings. We may have Dinar, if he can swing it."

Lucius' indrawn breath was a hiss. "Dinar isn't Corvus' type." His finger tapped against the arm of his chair. "Tell Thurkell I'll deal with him."

“Very well.”

They needed the Wizarding Wireless Network, and for that they needed Scott Dinar. Dinar had been on the Board of the WBC - the Board that oversaw the media's professional conduct - for the past eight months, since the Director for News and Current Affairs had taken an open period of leave. A sad business, that. His predecessor's mother had taken a rather bad turn after a bout of Dragonpox and no one could be sure if the poor woman would survive. Of course the Director couldn't continue to act, in all good conscience, while his mother lay on death's door. Which had given Dinar the perfect opportunity to step in. Dinar had eluded Lucius’ grasp so far, but the first mistake people like Dinar made was thinking they were above the "petty nonsense" of the purebloods and their schemings. They always found, to their detriment, that there were ways of making it their business.

Draco sampled the Hebridean - much smokier than Antipodean Brandy, which was his preferred drink - and set his glass on the table between them. "I spoke with Tristan Greengrass' sister last night." He leant back in the armchair, and continued on when his father made no comment. "Her views match her brother's."

"And has she joined Lyndon's campaign?"

"Not yet."

"Well." The finger began to tap again. "We'll just have to see what we can do to hurry her decision along. If the chessboard is missing the Queen, the game cannot begin."

Faced with the decision between Astoria Greengrass or her replacement - potentially with British connections - he knew which choice his father would prefer. "She doesn't strike me as the type to be influenced," Draco said, thoughts already on the brunette pureblood. Astoria Greengrass could prove a most interesting foe - far more interesting than the arthritic old doily-folder they'd had in Cortewalle. As his hands had spanned her waist, he’d certainly been interested to find what was under the fabric of her dress robes. Let it never be said that a Malfoy did not have a keen eye for a person's assets. "Perhaps what she needs is prompting."

In the meantime, Draco would continue to amass a knowledge base on everything he could find on Astoria Greengrass. Her professional life was proving difficult to report due to the distance between the two countries, but there was a reason the Malfoys were known for their connections. The Malfoy Holdings had financed an American entrepreneur in the British release of Nightbane Potion four years ago. That American entrepreneur had a brother who had run for the Sweetwater seat and won in the American state elections last year.

Draco always thought if the Malfoy motto hadn't been Purity Always Conquers, it might have been Everything Has A Price.

If, somewhere, Saint Peter held open his great ledger at the gates of heaven, perhaps the Malfoys were the earthly counterpart of a being more sinister. What can I do for you? Lucius would ask, finger tracking down the page of a leather-bound ledger. There he would enter a name in precise font. Or, rather, what can you do for me?

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