Chapter 16 : Epilogue
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Scorpius Malfoy sat on the edge of his bed, staring at the manor’s gardens through his bedroom window. The young man wore a tailored white shirt with french cuffs and black trousers and the fringe of his platinum blonde hair was still damp from his morning shower. He stubbed his toes listlessly against the carpet while one of the elves expertly packed his clothes, books and supplies into his new school trunk. Heaving a sigh, he looked back to the pages of the book lying in his lap before giving up a few moments later and snapping it shut. Then he flopped back onto his bed, closing his eyes and pressing the heels of his hands into them.
From the doorway, Astoria worried at the inside of her lip as she watched her only child prepare to make his first journey to Hogwarts. She felt pangs of something she couldn’t quite describe. Guilt? Regret? Her rational mind argued that neither was justified, although it couldn’t quite convince her heart to see reason. The simple truth was that there was nothing she could do to change the reality he faced. The experience awaiting him in Scotland was going to be very different from her own.
Throughout history, wizarding society had always been slow to acknowledge its own problems. The impact of the war on the old families was no different. At dinner parties and fundraisers, the heads of the noble houses tended to downplay the effects. They’d survived worse through the centuries, or so they liked to say. But the effects were very real and they were rarely so pronounced as when one looked at the dwindling number of pureblood children attending Hogwarts. Scorpius was part of a lost generation. She could only hope that he would find new friends to replace the ready-made social circle that she and Draco had once taken for granted.
It was going to be difficult for him. Scorpius was a quiet boy who didn’t take to strangers easily. It wasn’t hard to understand why. Growing up, he hadn’t had many opportunities to spend time around other children. There were a few second cousins on Astoria’s side of the family, but Scorpius usually only saw them at weddings and funerals. When he wasn’t with his parents or grandparents, he spent most of his time flying or reading. His broomstick and his books were his constant companions, helping to fill the long hours that other children spent with one another.
Astoria took a step into his room, drawing his attention. The boy instantly sat up and straightened his posture, which made her heart ache a bit more. As always, he was trying to do what he thought the adults expected of him. That damnable Malfoy facade that he’d inherited from his father and grandfather. His eyes told the real story. She saw apprehension, loss and fear lurking just below the surface. It made her want to bring the whole world to a halt somehow. To hold her son and comfort him and give him all the time that he needed to be ready for what came next. But her rational mind knew that such things were beyond her magic and, she suspected, anyone else’s. So she put on her best smile and swept an appraising glance over his small, thin frame.
“You look so handsome. Be careful that you don’t break too many hearts during your first year.”
Scorpius forced a small smile in response, but it didn’t reach his eyes and quickly faded.
“Grandfather says that there are hardly any girls left who are suitable for me to marry.”
Astoria kept the smile on her face while she slowly counted to five. The act came easily after so many years of stopping herself from hexing her father-in-law. As though Scorpius’s time at Hogwarts wasn’t going to be difficult enough...
She walked over to his writing desk where a long, slender box lay open. The wand inside felt cool but not unfriendly as she picked it up and twirled it between her fingers. It was hazel, ten and three quarters inches with a core of unicorn hair like his father’s.
“Are you looking forward to learning how to use this?”
Scorpius shrugged his shoulders slightly as she gently returned the wand to its box.
“I guess so. Grandfather thinks that I already know most of what’s taught in First Year. He said that I could spend the extra time getting to know the right sort of people. He said something about sending some owls to his old friends.”
Astoria arched her eyebrow in response and he deflated a bit under her gaze.
“I don’t really know where to start. Will I know the difference between the right sort and the wrong sort?”
Scorpius stared at his feet as Astoria made her way over and sat beside him on the edge of the bed. She waited for him to speak, knowing that if she rushed him, he would merely say what he thought she wanted to hear. When he finally broke the silence, she could hear the conflict and resignation in his voice.
“I’d really rather spend my time flying. I want to be sure that I’m ready when I’m old enough to try out for the house team. But Grandfather’s told me so much about the history of our family at Hogwarts. I don’t want to let him down, especially with his condition...”
Scorpius wasn’t supposed to have known about his grandfather’s condition, but it didn’t surprise Astoria that he’d managed to work it out for himself. He had always been a very bright, very attentive child. She’d noticed over the years that he was often listening to their conversations even when he seemed to be completely lost in the pages of a book. It was one of a select few traits that was distinctly Slytherin.
Astoria wrapped her arm around him and felt him lean his head against her side.
“I’m sorry that your grandfather isn’t feeling well enough to go to London with us. I know how much you wanted him to be there to see you off.”
She could see the hurt and disappointment in his eyes even as he tried to put up a brave front and it broke her heart.
“It’s not his fault. I heard Nanna say that his potions aren’t working as well as they used to.”
Astoria tightened her embrace, pulling him closer to her side. She tried without much success to keep the sadness out of her voice.
“You overhear a lot of things you’re not supposed to, you know that?”
Scorpius looked slightly embarrassed and a little proud of himself, but mostly just sad. They sat together for a long moment before the clicking of the latches on his school trunk broke the silence.
“Begging mistress’s pardon, but young master’s trunk is all packed.”
All too quickly, her final moments with her son were coming to an end. Astoria sighed and addressed the diminutive creature.
“Thank you, Kriffin. Please take it to the entry hall.”
The elf bowed deeply and then disappeared with a crack, taking the trunk with him. Astoria rose to her feet, keeping her son pressed against her side. She knew it was silly, but something inside of her felt as though once she let go of him, she’d never be able to hold him that way again. Scorpius collected his wand and a book from his desk as they made their way toward the door. Just when they were about to step into the hallway, he paused and turned around. Astoria watched as his eyes swept over the shelves filled with his favorite books and the painted Quidditch players that zoomed around the ceiling. He took a deep, shuddering breath and then turned away. By the time his grey eyes reached hers, the imperturbable Malfoy facade was once again fixed on his face.
“I guess we should go downstairs. Father won’t want to be late.”
Draco Malfoy waited in the entry hall of Malfoy Manor, holding a silver snuff box in his hand. Autumn had arrived early and he wore a thick black coat to ward off the cold. He checked his watch and drummed his fingers impatiently on the pedestal by the door. They were in no danger of being late, but he’d been milling around the manor all morning and there was an odd sort of tension in his chest. A fitful, nervous energy that seemed to demand a change in scenery. Just as he was about to go in search of his wife and son, a house elf appeared at the door with Scorpius’s school trunk in tow.
“Mistress and young master will be coming soon.”
Draco waved the creature away, feeling unable to tolerate its foolish prattling. He took a deep breath and tried to compose himself as he waited for them. It wasn’t every day that his only son left to begin his first year at Hogwarts, but Draco still expected better of himself. Perhaps Astoria would shed a few tears as Scorpius boarded the train but he fully intended to retain his dignity, just as his father had done a quarter of a century ago. As he understood it, Potter and Weasley also had children starting their first year of school. There was no way he would make a spectacle of himself in front of their sort.
Astoria and Scorpius appeared at the top of the grand staircase and Draco resisted the urge to rock forward and back on the balls of his feet as they descended. His wife seemed to be clinging to his son, and he squelched a small pang of jealousy at the physical closeness they were sharing. Her only child was about to leave for four months and he couldn’t begrudge her those last few moments of holding him by her side.
Draco turned away from the stairs and saw his mother sweep into the room. There was an effortless air to her movements, a way of hurrying without looking like she was hurrying. At sixty-two years of age, she was still as graceful as Draco remembered her being when he was eleven years old. Considering everything that life had put her through over the years, that was a pretty remarkable thing.
Scorpius smiled at his grandmother and he managed to slip free of his mother’s arm before he found his way into her waiting embrace. After a long moment, Narcissa held him at arms length and took in the sight of him, beaming with pride.
“You look so dashing, my dear. Your grandfather and I are very proud of you.”
A hesitant smile crossed Scorpius’s lips, as though he almost dared to hope for something that he knew was not possible.
“Is he feeling better? Do you think that maybe...”
Narcissa’s face fell ever so slightly. She didn’t wait for the disappointment to set in before pulling her grandson into another tight hug. Draco could barely make out her whispered words.
“I’m so sorry. He wanted very badly to see you off, but he just isn’t able. I promise he’ll be here to greet you when you return for the Christmas holiday.”
Draco surreptitiously checked his watch again while his mother dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief and assured Scorpius that he was going to have a wonderful time at Hogwarts. He still felt unsettled and the longer he stood by the door, the worse it was getting. Scorpius seemed to be feeling the same discomfort. When his grandmother finally released him, the boy turned to Draco and nodded stiffly. Draco returned the gesture and grasped the handle on his son’s school trunk before holding out the snuff box.
“Let’s be on our way then. Better to have your choice of compartments on the train.”
And what sort of people you’ll be sharing the journey with. There was a time when Draco would have completed the sentiment without a second thought. It was the type of phrase that had always rolled so easily off of his father’s tongue. Only when he’d been faced with a world that regarded him as the wrong sort of person did he come to realize the difficulties such words could create. It wasn’t that he wanted his son sitting in a train compartment full of muggle-borns and muggle-lovers, but age and wisdom had taught him to view that as a preferable outcome to the boy becoming an outcast. Times had certainly changed.
Scorpius and Astoria each laid a finger on the snuff box and then she tapped it gently with her wand. It glowed blue for just a moment and then Malfoy Manor disappeared in a twisting blur of motion. Draco timed the journey in his head, feeling the inexorable pull on his internal organs. It was moments like this when he could almost understand wizards like his father-in-law, who preferred to travel in hired muggle automobiles. Just as he felt himself beginning to slow, he released his grip on the snuff box. A fraction of a second later his feet come into contact with a hard, flat surface.
Draco regained his bearings just in time to see his son tumble to the ground. He found it perplexing that the boy had such impressive balance and reflexes on a broomstick but he still struggled with traveling by portkey. As he reached down to help Scorpius to his feet, he took a careful look around. The muggle-repelling charms that protected the abandoned vendor stall appeared to still be intact, but it had plainly fallen into disuse. When Draco was a boy, all of the old families used this space to arrive and depart from King’s Cross. It was a short walk from the magical barrier that led to Platform 9 3/4. Most purebloods would have preferred not to mingle with the muggles at all, but as a matter of security the Ministry refused to allow anyone to travel directly to the train platform.
“Mind what you say, Scorpius. We’ll be surrounded by muggles until we pass through the barrier onto the platform.”
Draco conjured a trolley and loaded Scorpius’s trunk while Astoria added a few small charms to make sure that their attire wasn’t crying out ‘Wizards!’ to anyone who might happen to look in their direction. Then Draco cast the spell to open the magically sealed door that led to the train station. He watched his son carefully as they navigated through swarms of muggles to make their way to the magical barrier. The boy was understandably overwhelmed by the crowd, and Astoria wrapped her arm protectively around his shoulders. Draco shook off an unpleasant feeling that he had somehow failed to properly prepare his son. Scorpius would only have to confront the situation four times a year, after all, and by the start of his second year he’d probably be shrugging off his mother’s attempts to shield him and rushing to meet his friends on the train platform. For the moment, however, the anxious look on the boy’s face bothered Draco much more than he cared to admit.
The sign for Platform Nine had just come into view when Astoria came to a stop so rapidly that Draco bumped into her from behind. He was reluctant to ask her what was wrong while they were surrounded by hordes of muggles, and his hand instinctively found its way to the handle of his wand as he scanned the vicinity for threats. Ahead of them, he spotted a head of shaggy ginger hair towering over the crowd. Draco reached out and pulled Astoria and Scorpius closer, then he whispered into her ear.
“We’re in no hurry. We can wait here for them to go through.”
He felt her shoulder relax under his hand. Draco had always thought Ron Weasley was an idiot -- and nothing had happened to change that -- but since the battle in her father’s home, Astoria refused to be anywhere around the red-headed Auror. It seemed that she’d never forgive Weaselbee for threatening to arrest them after the battle. As far as Draco was concerned, that was just fine. It gave him one more reason to avoid the obnoxious buffoon entirely.
“Father, what will it mean if I’m not sorted into Slytherin?”
Scorpius’s question was so soft that Draco barely caught it over the crowd. In an instant, Weasley and the bustling muggles seemed to disappear from his world and he found himself uncomfortably focused on his son and his wife, both of whom appeared to be waiting intently for his answer.
“Don’t you want to be in Slytherin?”
It wasn’t the most sensitive response. The small frown that instantly appeared on Astoria’s face told him as much. Scorpius was at least outwardly maintaining his composure, and Draco desperately wanted to keep it that way.
“Yes, I want to be in Slytherin. But what it the hat puts me in a different house? What will Grandfather say?”
The last question was whispered so quietly that Draco was essentially reading his son’s lips. He was starting to feel trapped. If he didn’t come up with the correct answer, and quickly, his son was going to be upset and his wife was going to be angry with him. Draco did his best to say something reassuring without being soppy.
"Of course the hat will put you in Slytherin. It's ratty and it smells, but it's not barmy. It barely touched my head before it knew where I belonged."
The frown on Astoria’s face was no longer subtle. Scorpius’s lower lip was trembling slightly. Draco felt cold fingers of panic on the back of his neck. What did they want him to say? The possibility of his son being in any house other that Slytherin had never crossed his mind. What will it mean if I’m not sorted into Slytherin? An equally fair question, he supposed, was what did it mean if Scorpius was sorted into Slytherin? Certainly not the same thing it had meant when Draco was eleven years old. At the time, Slytherin House embodied all of the ideals that his family held dear. If he’d been sorted into any other house, old Lucius probably would have disowned him. Did it matter to Draco what house his only son was sorted into? Of course it did. Was it important enough to destroy the family that he and Astoria had fought so hard to create? In that question, he found his answer. He knelt down so that he was face to face with his son.
“Scorpius, your ancestors have been in Slytherin for countless generations. The hat knows that, and it will know if that’s important to you. But if it chooses to put you in a different house, in spite of custom, in spite of your wishes and in spite of plain common sense, your mother and I won’t feel any differently about you. You’re our son and you always will be no matter what color trim you end up with on your school robes. When they put the wretched old thing on your head, just focus on what you want and the rest will take care of itself.”
Draco looked at his wife and son -- in that order -- and observed that they both seemed satisfied with his answer. The corners of Scorpius’s twitched downward again, however.
“... will be just fine with it. Otherwise your grandmother will probably stop speaking to him.”
Scorpius seemed to ponder that answer for a moment, then nodded. The boy didn’t look completely certain, but he was also no longer on the verge of tears. Draco rose to his feet and looked toward the magical barrier.
“They’re gone. Let’s go to the platform before anyone else gets in our way.”
Ten minutes later, the three Malfoys were standing amidst the billowing clouds of steam surrounding the Hogwarts Express. Scorpius had selected a compartment and stowed his school trunk with plenty of time remaining for Astoria to fret over his appearance and smother him with reassurance. It was more of a scene that Draco would have preferred to make in public, but he was loathe to deny her. Although he wouldn’t admit it, he wasn’t really looking forward to returning home to the quiet, mostly empty Manor.
He felt a tug at his sleeve and found his son by his side, pointing toward the far end of the train platform.
“Those people were staring at us. Do you know them?”
Draco peered through the shifting plumes of steam. He recognized Weasley, who was standing with his own family as well as Potter’s. He and Potter locked eyes for a moment and Draco nodded curtly before turning his attention back to Scorpius.
“We attended school at the same time. It appears that their children will be classmates of yours.”
Weasley shot a venomous glance in their direction and bent down to whisper something into the ear of a young girl whose bushy mane of bright orange curls left no doubt as to her parentage. Next to him, his wife rolled her eyes and said something in response while Potter seemed to find the whole situation amusing.
“I don’t think I’ll be friends with them. They seem like the wrong sort to me.”
Draco sighed softly. He was surprised how clearly he could hear old Lucius’s words in his son’s voice. It wasn’t that he thought the Potters or the Weasleys were the right sort. Far from it. But his son was going to have enough difficulties at Hogwarts without making powerful enemies. A germ of an idea formed in Draco’s mind, one that was pure Slytherin. He nearly dismissed it as too far-fetched until Weasley shot him another nasty glare and whispered something else to the little girl. If Weasley wanted to fight dirty, Draco was more than happy to engage him on those terms.
“Don’t be too hasty to judge, Scorpius. You might find that they have some redeeming qualities if you give them a chance. The red-headed girl is rather cute, actually.”
Scorpius fixed him with a nauseated look, but Draco only smiled in response. In spite of his overly dramatic display of disgust, Draco caught the boy stealing another glance toward the Weasleys, who were busy saying their goodbyes. The little girl locked eyes with him for just a moment, then she turned away and hurried on board.
A couple of minutes later the train’s whistle blew, and the remaining children on the platform began to scramble into the waiting compartments. Draco watched Astoria wrap their son in one last smothering hug and then the boy hurried into the train car just as the engine roared to life. Wrapping his arm around his wife’s shoulders, Draco watched the train start to move. They stood together as the Hogwarts Express receded into the distance, sharing a moment that they’d talked about for many years. Draco could feel Astoria trembling as she dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief.
All of the other families were making their way back to the magical barrier. The first of September fell on a Friday, so many of them had jobs to return to. The Malfoys lagged behind, allowing time for the crowd to clear. Astoria seemed to be struggling a bit to process the morning’s events, which Draco supposed was one of those female things that he’d never really understand. She suddenly turned to him with an incredulous look on her face that nearly concealed her amusement.
“Did you seriously just tell our son that the Weasley girl is cute?”
Draco shrugged his shoulders in response.
“And if I did?”
Astoria tried to look upset, but a smile kept breaking through her frown.
“You’re unbelievable! What if he actually takes a fancy to her?”
Draco rolled his eyes in response.
“Rubbish. You act as though they’re going to end up married. The chances of that are-”
“-no worse than the chances we once had.”
Draco couldn’t help but smile at her words. He reached out and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her closer.
“That was different.”
Astoria beamed at him. Draco felt his breath nearly catch in his throat at the sight of her smile.
He spun her slowly around, enjoying the gentle sway of her hair. Suddenly, the quiet, mostly empty Manor wasn’t seeming like such a bad place after all.
“You and I were made for one another. Scorpius only wants to play Quidditch and Weasley’s daughter seems a bit... delicate to me.”
Astoria’s eyes sparkled with amusement.
“Oh, so you’re saying they’re mismatched? Well obviously that could never work.”
“You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”
She suddenly ducked out of his arms and seized his hand, then started to pull him toward the entrance to the rapidly emptying train platform.
“Everything except why I agreed to marry such a prat.”
Draco chuckled in response, allowing himself to be led away.
“Doesn’t much matter now, does it? You already said yes.”
As they walked along, Draco realized that he still enjoyed the feeling of her small hand in his as much as he had twenty-five years earlier in Diagon Alley. The afternoon sun illuminated her long, brown hair and three words echoed through his thoughts, familiar and yet amazing.
She said yes.
Hello, dear readers. My second HPFF novel has come to an end. I hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it.
This story started off as a challenge entry, a gift to my dear friend Jami. I owe her a great deal of thanks for input and insight on the thoughts and behavior of teenage girls that helped to make Astoria and Isadore much more realistic.
Tremendous thanks are due to my wonderful beta reader, sophie_hatter. She always does an amazing job of catching my mistakes, talking me out of bad decisions and finding ways to make my stories better. I would be lost without her. Congratulations and my eternal gratitude!
Finally, thanks to everyone who has read Detox and especially to those of you who've taken the time to review. Kiana, Ral, Nadia, Sharvi, Courtney and Rosie, thank you all so much!
-Dan, November 12, 2013
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