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Title: Reconstructing Draco
Chapter Title: Mommie Dearest
Rating: R
Pairing: Draco/Asteria
Words: 7014
Beta: [profile] queenb23more
Summary: Draco's life is not what he had imagined it to be. Change comes in unexpected ways.



Reconstructing Draco

Part Four
Mommie Dearest



"You have plans for Christmas?" Asteria asked casually as she handed him a glass of wine before settling onto the sofa next to him.

"Christmas? I...well, I actually hadn't thought much about it," Draco admitted. He realised then that he'd completely missed the fact that Teri had put up a small Christmas tree and there were a number of Christmasey things around the flat as well.

She smiled and rolled her eyes. "You forgot it was Christmas time, didn't you?"

He turned aside and felt his cheeks redden. "I've never been much for the holidays, to tell you the truth. This is how I like to celebrate." Draco leaned forward and kissed her urgently, desperately wanting to distract her from the topic of conversation he knew was going to come up: visiting her parents.

She kissed him back with enthusiasm and he thought he was out of the woods until he felt a cold splash on his left leg.

"What the--?" Draco boomed as he stood up and dislodged Asteria from her place on the sofa. He looked down at his trousers to see her wine had landed on him, splashing him across the thigh and onto the crotch. "Oh bloody hell!"

"Hold onto your knickers, Draco. I'm a witch, remember? I have skills," she teased, making sure he didn't miss her double meaning. She reached for her wand off the tea table and cleansed the front of his slacks. "Better?"

"They're still wet," he complained.

"I never said I was highly skilled. Don't be such a baby," she reminded him.

"Well," he began with a hard swallow, "I never learned those sorts of charms."

"House-elf?"

"Dozens. I even had one assigned specifically to me. Pippi was her name."

"Did she have bright red hair that she wore in braids and live on an island with a monkey?"

Draco stared at her with his mouth open. "What the bloody hell are you on about?"

She chuckled brightly and shook her head. "You really need to get into Muggle culture."

"So who the hell is she?" She'd piqued his interest now.

"Character in a Swedish Muggle storybook," she answered. "She lives—"

"I don’t care now. It's a book, and reading just doesn't do it for me." He sat back and crossed his arms over his chest.

She frowned. "Of course. Tell a man it has to do with a book and he completely tunes out. So, about Christmas."

"What about it?" he began mentally preparing himself for her invitation.

"Well, see, my parents want you to go over with me," she admitted shyly and then bit her lip.

Draco let out a heavy sigh. "I don't know, Teri."

He lifted himself off the sofa and went over to the mantel and stared at the photo of her family. Her father, Franklin Heppelwhite Greengrass, a powerful business man who worked importing magical goods, sat surrounded by his wife, Drusilla, his daughters, Gloria, Daphne, and Asteria, and his only son, Branford Franklin Heppelwhite Greengrass, who was perhaps the biggest wanker on the face of the earth. He was three years older than Draco and had been a Slytherin prefect and a pompous ass Head Boy. That year, the year of the Tri-Wizard, he blatantly schmoozed up the Durmstrangs, using it as a time to get business contacts for his father, and had the audacity to believe he'd be the next greatest thing since take away fish and chips.

"They want to meet you," she pleaded from behind him with her arms wrapped around his waist.

"They've met me. It wasn't pleasant."

Draco squared his jaw at the memory of the last time he ran into the Greengrasses at his father's funeral. Asteria's parents had gone out of societal duty, Draco was sure. He could tell that their sympathy was contrived, and when they came to shake his and his mother's hands, the grip was anything but firm. The Greengrasses were one of the few Pureblood families who didn't hold to the old ways like Draco's father had. They were disgusted by the prejudice and only associated with the Malfoys and the other families when absolutely necessary.

Asteria rolled his eyes at him and kissed his shoulder. "But this is different."

He furrowed his brows and turned to her. "Exactly how is it different?"

Her eyes pleaded with him to trust her on this. "They've seen how much you love me."

Draco closed his eyes and groaned, walking away from the fireplace and toward the window where it was snowing lightly.

"What did you show them? I'm sure your father enjoyed seeing me fuck you," he said harshly, knowing his barb had hit its mark when she hissed.

"Damn it, Draco! Why do you have to be this way?" Asteria turned him around to face her; her anger was apparent. "I don't go around broadcasting my sex life with my family. It's none of their business anyway."

"Then what the hell did you show them?" he bellowed as he crossed his arms, watching her as she stood silently in front of him and looking hurt. He tried to reach out and touch her cheek, but she backed away.

"I'm going to choose to ignore what you just said because I was under the assumption that we loved each other. I'm sorry I thought that there was more to us than sex." Her chin and bottom lip began quivering and Draco felt like a complete and utter heel.

"There is, I swear," he whispered. "It's just that...I still have a hard time believing I'm worthy of you, Teri." He ventured a step toward her and touched her cheek. When she didn't back away, he brushed his thumb over her lower lip before bringing his lips forward, stopping a breath away from hers. "You've helped me change for the better. I don't want to go back to the way I was before. I need you to help me."

"I will always be there for you. I haven't chucked you out yet, have I?" A smile curled the corners of her mouth and their lips met in a delicate, yet brief kiss.

"Don't throw me out on my ear. I don't want to move back to Hackney."

"Good, I hated that place, too," she said with a chuckle.

"And yes, I'll go to Christmas with you," he relented and drew her in for another kiss, which was just a tad more passionate than the other.

* * * * * * * * * *


"Do I look all right?" Draco asked nervously as he ran a hand through his hair. He and Asteria were standing a few feet from her parents' front door on Christmas Eve. "I mean, did I dress for the occasion?" Even though he was on the fringe of society these days, dressing properly was still a concern.

She chuckled brightly and kissed his cheek. "Yes. And the blue looks great on you." Draco sighed in relief, glad that he'd worn the new blue jumper he found in Glad Rags. "Ready?" At his nod, she grasped the door knob and they entered the foyer of the Greengrass home.

"Which of my lovely girls is that?" came a feminine voice from beyond the entry.

"The star stone!" called Teri, nearly bouncing in anticipation as she wriggled out of her cloak, draping it over a bench.

The sound of heels clicking against the hardwood floor grew louder until it stopped in front of them. Draco looked up and saw Drusilla Greengrass standing in front of them, hands clenched in front of her chest and wearing the widest grin he'd seen in a very long time.

"Oh, Asteria!" she exclaimed breathily and met her daughter in a warm embrace.

Draco watched as they hugged and exchanged nonsensical squeals until it ended abruptly and they were staring at him. He swallowed hard and stepped forward with a shy smile on his face.

"Mrs. Greengrass, thank you for the invitation," he said hesitantly with his hand extended then found himself wrapped up in a hug he was entirely unprepared for. He stiffened in her embrace, uncomfortable with such a familiar touch. His parents weren't the touchy-feely sort and it had taken him a few weeks to grow accustomed to the frequent physical touches from Asteria.

"How nice to see you, Draco. Teri, your cloak does not belong on the bench," Mrs. Greengrass reminded her daughter. "While she puts away her coat, why don't you come with me and we'll have a cocktail." She led him away and he turned back to see Asteria smirk at him and turn to the closet to hang up her coat.

He soon found himself inside a warm and cosy sitting room with leather sofas and a fireplace that took up an entire wall. It reminded Draco of a hunting lodge without the garish heads on the walls. Sitting in an over-large chair was Asteria's father, holding a large snifter of something and smoking a cigar.

"Franklin, you remember Draco, don't you?" said Mrs. Greengrass hesitantly.

"Mmm. Malfoy," he said with a grunt, not getting up from his throne-like chair.

"Thank you for the invitation, sir," Draco stated with a bit of trepidation. The man was intimidating and demanded respect with a simple look.

"I didn't invite you, Malfoy. My wife did," Greengrass answered gruffly.

"Daddy—"

"Franklin—"

"It's fine, really," Draco said softly, taking a seat in one of the sofas and looking down at his clenched hands. The sofa dipped next to him and one of Teri's hands clasped his. He looked over at her and saw her reassuring smile.

"Daddy, did you know that Draco's working in the MLE?" she stated with pride, squeezing his hand.

"Mmm," he grunted. "Must be strange, being on the right side."

Draco bit his lip, trying valiantly to control his temper. This was going to be much harder than he'd originally thought. He'd wanted this evening to be friendly, but so far, her father was not cooperating with his plan.

"Sir, I admit that I hadn't expected the job offer when it came," he began. "I thought Potter was pulling my wand, actually. But you know, I'm good at what I do." He set his jaw and leaned forward, still holding onto Teri's hand. "I'm not proud of what I did when I was younger, but I've moved on and grown up. I've earned the respect of the people with whom I work and that, Mr. Greengrass, is enough for me. It should be for you, too."

The room suddenly became quiet around him, making Draco feel hot around the collar. Asteria took a deep breath, almost as if to say something, and then her father broke the silence.

"Thank you for your candour. Honesty is something I expect of those I work with and those in my family," announced Mr. Greengrass. He took a sip of his liquor and then set the snifter on the table next to him. "Would you mind coming with me, Draco?" He stood up and watched as Draco stood up nervously.

"Y-yes, sir," Draco answered with a little trepidation. He leaned over and kissed Asteria on the cheek before silently following her father out of the room, into the corridor, and outside onto a flagstone terrace.

When the door closed firmly behind them, Mr Greengrass cleared his throat and turned to Draco. "What are your intentions toward my daughter?"

"Uh, well, I, er, I hadn't thought that far ahead yet, to be honest," Draco stammered, feeling completely idiotic. Mr. Greengrass raised an eyebrow and Draco quickly gathered his thoughts. "I'm in love with her, sir."

"And does she know everything?"

"When you say everything, I assume you don't just mean about my past on You-Know-Who's side?"

Greengrass nodded curtly.

"Well, it is rather difficult to keep a secret from her," Draco said with a little smile, hoping that he'd lighten the mood.

"Mmm hmm."

What did it take to get the man to crack a smile? Draco wondered.

"She knows it all and loves me in spite of it. She's the best thing that's ever happened to me."

And there it was: a smile that wrinkled the older man's face.

"Alright then. Let's join them then, shall we?"

The invisible band around Draco's chest loosened considerably, allowing him to breathe again, as the older man patted him on the back and led him back inside the house. Draco was just about to say something to Mr. Greengrass when a familiar voice stilled his tongue.

"...you manage to drag here?" Daphne's voice rang in the air before turning toward the men as they entered the room. "Oh, you've got to be kidding."

"Hey, Daphne," Draco said casually as he walked toward Asteria and quickly took her hand. A distinct feeling of impending doom came over him.

"Calm down," Asteria whispered, almost for her as well as for him.

"I thought you had better taste, Teri. For a Ravenclaw, you're rather stupid, you know."

"Daphne," warned Mr. Greengrass.

She rolled her eyes defiantly. "Did Malfoy turn on the charm with you, Daddy? Did he tell you he cares about you, Teri? Did he say he's a better man when he's with her?" She snorted and glared at Draco. "He told me all that, too, and then some. Said it all to Pansy, as well."

The elder Greengrasses were obviously taken by surprise and looked from Draco to Daphne to Asteria and back again. Draco could feel the way Asteria tried to control her magic; she tensed beside him and the grip on his hand tightened painfully. He knew this was a bad idea and had tried to talk Teri out of bringing him here for the holiday. This was supposed to be a happy, family time, and it looked like Daphne was going to ruin it.

"D-Daphne," stammered her mother, "let's go in the other room and calm down, shall we?" She tried to lead her middle daughter out of the room gently, but Daphne shrugged off her hand.

"I don't need to calm down, Mother! He ruined my friendship with Pansy by fucking us both and promising us that we were the only ones. He used us and when he was done, he threw each of us away like a used tissue!"

Draco sprung to life, pouncing on her statement. "That's a damned lie, and you know it! Pansy was a bitch and manipulated the both of us." Asteria held him back as he began to lunge forward. "It's not my fault—"

"Nothing's ever your fault, is it, Draco?" Daphne spat back. "Not Dumbledore's death, not Vinnie's, not any of it, is it? You hide behind your name and your money—"

"I've got no money, and in case you haven't noticed, my name doesn't mean much these days," Draco said weakly.

"Calm down, both of you!" boomed Mr. Greengrass' voice. "This is neither the time nor the place to hash this out. It's Christmas." He put a hand on Daphne and pushed her into a chair. "I will not have the holiday spoiled like this."

"Then you shouldn't have asked him to come," hissed Daphne.

"Er, I should go," Draco said softly, extricating his hand from Teri's. "I don't want to intrude."

Daphne laughed and Asteria turned to him, stopping him as he began to turn around.

"Stay," she whispered. "I want to spend Christmas with you. She doesn't matter."

Draco looked over her shoulder and saw her parents quietly speaking with Daphne. He then realized that they weren't quiet at all; someone had thrown up a Silencing Charm. Daphne's arms were flailing and Mr. Greengrass' face was purple with anger as he shouted. Mrs. Greengrass, on the other hand, was ashen-faced and on the verge of tears.

"Look, I don't want to cause any more trouble, all right? I don't want to have to explain to your father how I dealt with things back then. Not tonight," he told her forcefully. "I'll be at your flat."

"But it's Christmas!"

"And I'll spend it the same way I have for the last five years. It doesn't matter." Turning on his heel, he left the room before she could stop him. He could hear the clicking of her damned heels against the wood floor behind him and her pleading with him to stay. Shutting out the sounds around him, he swung open the door and quickly Disapparated somewhere she'd never look for him.

* * * * * * * * * *

His neck hurt from sleeping in his office chair. He'd felt a little guilty for lying about where he'd go after leaving the Greengrasses', but he had wanted to be alone with his thoughts. He'd come to realize last night that no matter what he did, no one would ever forget his past. It didn't matter that he'd already taken a dozen or so wizard terrorists off the street. They would forever remember that he'd been the one to start the whole damned war, and that mistake would mark him for the rest of his life.

He'd also decided that it would be better if he broke things off with Asteria. She'd be hurt, he knew that much, but he was prepared for it. He'd be also resigned himself to the fact that he'd probably never love anyone like Teri and he was sure that no one would love him the way she did.

"Some Christmas," he muttered to himself, rising from the chair and casting a freshening charm on his clothes. With a heavy heart, he made his way to the lift and descended slowly to the empty atrium of the ministry where the sounds of his shoes against the tiled floor were his only companions until he reached the row of fireplaces and took the Floo to Asteria's flat to gather up his belongings. He wanted to get his things and be out of there before she returned from her parents.

He emerged from the fireplace and was relieved to see the room in front of him was empty. His throat tightened as he saw the small pile of gifts he and Teri had wrapped for each other. He never really had anyone to give presents to before and was looking forward to seeing the look on her face as she tore into them. Draco moved across the living room toward their bedroom but stopped short upon hearing a tapping at the window. A scrawny looking barn owl was perched at the window holding a rolled parchment in its beak.

"Is that...Betelgeuse?" he wondered aloud as he went toward the window. Upon closer examination, he realised that it was, in fact the Malfoy family owl. Betelgeuse was once a proud looking owl, complete with his own haughty air. Now he looked malnourished and on his last leg.

He threw open the sash of the window and the bird fluttered in, settling himself on the back of a chair and dropping the letter on the cushion. He fluffed up his feathers and immediately put his head under a wing. Apparently, Draco's mother wasn't too worried about getting a quick reply.

Draco picked up the rolled parchment and found his mother's writing.

    Dearest Draco,

    Happy Christmas, my dear son. I hope this letter finds you well and happy.

    I have heard that your sentence was lifted and you are able to travel freely. I would love to have you come home for good. I am very lonely and have little company. Don't you think you could do this for me? You are the only family I have left, after all.

    Your room is ready for you when you arrive.

    Mother

Draco swore and crumpled up the letter, tossing it into the fireplace. His mother had become a master of manipulation and guilt. He'd be damned if he'd allow her to do that to him. He'd done enough of that as a child. His life had changed so much over the years and he liked the person he'd become. Going home would only be a step backwards.

He was just about to head into the bedroom to pack when he heard a crack, signalling Asteria's probable arrival. He braced himself for her appearance and when she opened the door, all of his resolve to leave her vanished.

"There you are!" she wailed and ran to him, wrapping her arms around him, peppering his face with kisses. She pulled away and put her cold hands on his cheeks. "I couldn't find you when I came looking for you. Thank Merlin Daddy told me to put the alarm spell on the flat."

"Great." He shrugged out of her embrace and flopped down on the chair that Betelgeuse was stilled perched upon. The old bird didn't move. For all Draco knew, he could have had a heart attack.

"What is that?" Asteria shrieked, pointing to the owl on the chair.

"Meet Betelgeuse. The former stately Malfoy owl." Draco pushed the bird off the chair and watched him fly to rest on the curtain rod.

Asteria sat on the arm of the chair, brushing his hair off his eyes. "Daph apologised last night."

Draco rolled his eyes and turned away from her.

"Daddy likes you."

"Mmm," he grunted, sounding like her father had the previous night. "Lucky me."

She swatted his shoulder. "Get over yourself! Daphne was a bitch last night and since when have you let anyone push you around? And you can stop thinking about breaking up with me, you know, because it's not going to work. I'm not letting you go that easily."

"Would you just stop shoving your way into my brain? And yes, it would probably be better if I moved out. You'd be better off."

Asteria growled in frustration and jumped off the chair, staring at him with wild eyes. "I really hate when you get like this, Draco. You know that I love you despite of what you've done or said in the past. That's over. I care about the here and now. And as far as my 'shoving my way into your brain', well, you should know that when I'm angry, it just happens. I happen to know that there are several women in my acquaintance who would love to know what their men are thinking since anyone with a Y chromosome is incapable of sharing his personal feelings about things."

Her words took all the fight out of him. He really should have known that she would point out the obvious things he'd known for months now. His arguments were squashed and he had no reason to counter with any of his pre-planned thoughts. It was times like these that he really hated her logic and Ravenclaw nature.

"My mother wants me to come home," Draco said out of the blue. "She's laying on the guilt trip. Her letter is in the fire."

Her face changed at his abrupt change of subject and she sat on the table in front of him.

"Are you going?"

Draco chuckled. "No."

"Why not? When was the last time you saw her?" She took his hands and rubbed the skin with her thumbs.

"The last time was at Dad's funeral. I had to bring a fucking Auror along with me. That was fun," he said flatly. "Swindon was out of the boundaries, remember?"

"Tell me why you won't go."

He sighed heavily and dropped her hands, getting up and looking out the window. "Don't want to go."

"Well, why not? She wants to see you. You can now and I know how much you like your home. I still don't know why you didn't take me when we went to Stonehenge," Asteria pointed out.

"Get out of my head and I'll tell you," he requested, watching as she closed her eyes and concentrating on closing off their connection. As her face relaxed, he continued, "I'm embarrassed of her. She never took a stand in the war. She did things that only benefitted her. I would have rather she took a stand one way or another, not waffled about the way she did."

"She didn't waffle."

Draco snorted. "Asteria, she followed my father because he was the head of the household. She listened to her parents because she was a timid child in a bat-shit crazy family. She never made up her own mind about anything in her entire life. She let Aunt Bella walk all over her. At least her other sister could think for herself. That's why I don't want to see her."

He watched as she crossed the room and stood in front of him, wrapping her arms around his waist. The warmth of her body flowed through him and he relaxed in her arms. She could always do that to him; whether it was intentional or not, he didn't care.

"Go see her. Talk to her and get it out. Keeping it all in here," she said, tapping on his head above the ear, "only holds you back. It doesn't do any good to keep your anger at your mother to yourself. It builds and builds until something similar happens and then you get angry all over again like last night. You need to deal with it so you can move on."

He groaned and clenched his arms around her. She was right, of course. Common sense told him over and over again to let things go, but then there was always a little nagging voice that came back, telling him that he had no right to say hurtful things to his mother because of his own actions. The cycle had to end.

"Will you go with me?"

"That was in the plan all along."

* * * * * * * * * *


When Draco and Asteria appeared in the garden outside Malfoy Manor, Draco thought he'd gone to the wrong place. The yew hedges, once so stately and neatly trimmed, were overgrown and scraggly. The limestone gravel along the path was no longer a bright white but more like grey dust. The gardener was obviously lackadaisical in his duties.

The large fountain, which occupied the space directly in front of the doors, was no longer running. Upon closer examination, he saw the water was green with algae and the fish which he loved to feed as a child were gone.

"Looks kind of creepy," Asteria said offhandedly. When Draco turned and glared at her, she quickly added, "Sorry. But it does."

"It's alright. Honest. Just that I really liked the koi we used to have in there. Mother let me start feeding them when I was about six and they started to recognise me. I used to sit right here," he explained, taking a seat on the edge of the fountain, "and then they'd all come to the top, just waiting for me to feed them. Closest things I ever had to pets."

"I always killed the fish we had in the house." Asteria took a place next to him. "I mean, they'd die three days after we'd bring them home."

"The water," he said, automatically. "You have to make sure the water is right. The first couple days are a good indicator of whether they'll survive. That's why you first buy the ones that come three for two Knuts. Otherwise you waste your money."

"No wonder Dad got all hacked off when we wanted fish. We made him buy the pretty ones."

"The ones in here were white," he told her as he turned to face her. "Platinum, actually. Dad had a thing for white animals. We used to have—"

"White peacocks. I remember Daphne telling me about them."

Out of nowhere, Draco chuckled. "Remember the year of the Triwizard?"

"Yeah, why?" she asked curiously. "It was my second year and I had a crush on Cedric Diggory."

Draco smiled and rolled his eyes. "Not you, too."

She playfully nudged him with her shoulder. "I was twelve and a half."

"At least you didn't have a crush on Potter." She was oddly silent and her cheeks were stained crimson. "Oh bloody hell," he muttered.

"Fourth year." She nudged him again. "Hey, he was the centre of attention back then and well, he was kinda cute."

Draco rolled his eyes again. "Okay, back in 94, remember the Defense professor?" She nodded. "Well, he interrupted an argument I was having with Potter."

"Oooh, you argued with Harry."

"Shut it," he teased. "Well, Moody got his knickers in a twist at me for drawing my wand on Potter and then turned me into a white ferret," he said with a wide smile on his face, shaking his head. "World looks a helluva lot bigger when you're that size."

"That was you?" She burst out laughing. "I heard Peeves go on and on about the bouncing white ferret but never knew it was you," she said between giggles.

"Glad you find that so humorous," Draco said sharply, still smiling. "Come on. Let's go in. Get it over with."

"Nothing like going into it with a good attitude, Draco." She took his hand and together they crossed the path to the front door. "Are you going to knock?"

"Why? This is my house." Draco reached for the once shiny brass doorknob and pushed the door open. It creaked with years of disuse. As he stepped inside, the air smelled stale and he wondered how his mother could stand it in here; she had always loved placing sachets all over the place with whatever scent struck her fancy at the time.

Just as he didn't recognise the gardens, the interior of the house was quite unlike it had been years before. The front entry, which once contained large oil paintings and several wing back chairs, was riddled with cobwebs, thick enough to resemble gauze. The furniture was gone along with the Turkish rugs his mother purchased on a trip to Transylvania when Draco was seven.

"Mother? Mother, I'm here," he said into the empty space.

"You did tell her we were coming, didn't you?" Asteria whispered and he nodded. "Then where is she?"

"Shh! Apple? Apple, are you here?"

"Who's Apple?"

"SHH!" Draco stepped further into the entry and turned toward the living room on the right. A tight knot formed in his stomach and he closed his eyes to memories he thought he'd buried long ago.

"Draco, what's wrong? What happened in there? I can feel your fear."

He ignored her and stood at the threshold as the sounds of screams rang through his ears. He thought he'd got over it, but being in the room brought it all back: the look of pain on Granger's face, his aunt's gleeful expression, the agonised shouts from Weasley down in the dungeons. Draco felt hot tears build up behind his eyes and he spun around, nearly running out of the room. He continued past Asteria and sprinted into the dining room on the other side of the entry hall, sliding to a halt as he saw his mother standing in front of the empty fireplace.

"Mother?" Draco asked tentatively. "Why didn't you answer me?"

Narcissa slowly turned toward him and Draco swore she looked like a corpse. Her hair, once full and luxurious, hung on her head like wet grass. There were dark circles around her eyes and she looked as if she'd lost all the weight she could spare.

"I didn't hear you, dear," she answered in a raspy voice.

"I called for you. I was even talking to Asteria. How could you not hear me?" He crossed the room to her and put his hands on her shoulders. Her bones were protruding and made him feel sick. "Mother, what's wrong with you? Why does the house look like this?" He waved his arm around the empty room, which once held the large dining table from where he watched the Muggle Studies professor die.

Her mouth opened and closed but no words came out. She took a deep breath and wiped the errant tears from her eyes. "The house elves wouldn't work anymore. They wanted to be paid. Foolish, idiotic creatures. So I did what my aunt did."

He looked at her, dumbfounded. "What the bloody hell are you talking about?"

"Aunt Walburga." She walked over toward the window and looked blankly out on the drive. "She had the right idea. They got shirty and had thoughts of their own. They wouldn't do what I told them to. They would rather punish themselves than fulfil their duties. The heads are on the wall," she said coolly and turned back to him.

"WHAT? You...you killed the house elves?" He turned to Asteria, who he forgot was there until he felt her behind him. "She killed the house elves."

"I heard."

"You brought a guest, Draco? I'm sorry, where are my manners," Narcissa said softly and walked unsteadily towards Asteria. "Pleased to meet you." She held out a bony hand toward Asteria.

"Asteria Greengrass," she answered formally.

From her expression, Draco could tell she was taking a peek into his mother's mind. As much as it annoyed him when Teri did it to him, he needed to know what was wrong with his mother.

"Greengrass? Are you Daphne's sister?"

"Yes. I'm two years younger. I was in Ravenclaw."

"I'm so sorry. Your parents must have been thoroughly ashamed," his mother said, taking Teri's hands into hers and patting them patronizingly.

"Mother!"

"Actually, they were very proud when I was Sorted," Asteria answered defensively. "They never made me feel inferior. My mother was a Hufflepuff."

Narcissa straightened up haughtily and let go of Asteria's hands. "She's unacceptable, Draco." She turned and walked over to the large portrait of his father in the corner of the room. Draco hadn't noticed the portrait earlier, but as he stepped forward, he noticed that there appeared to be something like a shrine around it. Small candles were lit and fresh flowers graced the small tables on either side. In fact, it was the cleanest part of the house.

"I...I don't know what to say, Mother. I came here because I wanted to clear some things with you, but I don't think that you're ready to hear them. In fact, I don't think you'll ever be," Draco stated, feeling his anger bubble toward the surface.

"Draco," Asteria said softly in his ear. "Don't worry about it."

"No, Teri! I won't allow her to talk to you like that." He turned back toward his mother. "You need help, Mother. Serious help. And when you're ready, let me know and I'll make sure you get it. Until then, I don't want to see Betelgeuse on my doorstep. Damn thing's gonna die if he has to make the trip again."

He took Asteria's hand and pulled her behind him, heading toward the door. He was relieved that she didn't complain about her heels this time because if she had, he'd blast them off her feet.

"Don't you speak to me like that, young man! I didn't raise you to soil the bloodline with the likes of her!" his mother spat.

Draco skidded to a halt and dropped Asteria's hand. "The likes of her? You don't want me to love an intelligent, funny, and beautiful witch? You don't want me to love someone who helped me change for the better and loves me in spite of all the shit that I've done? If so, you really don't know me at all." Draco withdrew his wand from his belt and his mother gasped while Asteria grabbed his wrist. "I'm not going to curse her! Accio trunk!" With a tremendous clatter, Draco's school trunk zoomed through the house and tumbled down the stairs to land at his feet. "Sorry. I was never very good at that one."

"No worries," Asteria said with a small smile. "Let me vanish it for you." With a wave of her wand, she sent the trunk to her flat.

He gave her s little smile and turned back to his mother. "Mother, I really don't think we can stay. I wish it could be different, I really do. Hopefully sometime in the future we can talk. Somewhere else. I won't talk to you here."

At that, he turned on his heel, took Asteria's hand, and left his childhood home without looking back.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"So what's in here?" asked Asteria as she flung open the lid of Draco's trunk. She knelt in front of it, wearing a tight t-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts. After their lovemaking and shower, Draco would have preferred to crawl back into their warm bed, but no, she had to investigate his trunk.

"Just a bunch of junk." He put a hand on the lid and tried to close it, but she quickly propped it open with a spell; his own wand was upstairs. In response, he knelt behind her and began nuzzling her neck in hopes of luring her back upstairs.

"Stop it!" she said with a giggle. "I want to look at this stuff."

This time, a hand reached up and began fondling her breast, kneading it gently before rising to sweep over the nipple and drawing it into a hard pebble. With his other hand, he pulled her into his lap, pressing her bum against his growing erection. To put emphasis on what he wanted, he thrust up and growled. She allowed herself to be fondled and massaged for a few moments before squirming out of his grasp and crawling to the side of the trunk.

"You," she said while wagging a finger at him, "are a bad, bad boy. Humour me. Please?" She batted her eyelashes and he knew he couldn't deny her.

"Fine. Entertain yourself." He half-heartedly scowled at her and sat on the floor, watching her excitement, as if she were opening Christmas gifts.

"Books...a cauldron...Ew! Smelly socks! Didn't you clean this out?" she gasped.

"Well...no. Didn't take the time to do that once my parents were arrested."

"Sorry. Should I stop?"

He shook his head. "Go on. I've forgotten what I've got in there. It'll be nice to see some of that stuff."

She grinned and went back to digging through the trunk. "Oooh! Love letters!" She glanced at them and then frowned. "Burn them. They're from my sister." She handed him a small stack of parchment.

"Hmm, what'd she say? 'Dear Draco...I miss the way your hard cock feels pounding inside me—'"

"Stop it! I know it doesn't say that, you pillock!" She lunged at him and grabbed the letters as he fell onto the floor. "I'm burning them." She got up and took them to the fireplace, tossing the letters in and watching them curl in the hot flames.

"HEY!! Look at this!" Draco shouted from beside the trunk. "It's Fa the Fireball!" he held up a figurine and held it out to Asteria.

"What?" She spun around and once she saw the toy in his hand, she began laughing. "Dragon Defenders? You had Dragon Defenders? I loved these!" She joined him on the floor and dug in and pulled out a green figure. "Oooh! Thor the Ridgeback? That was the rarest one!"

Draco smirked. "Father was determined I have the entire collection. But of course, he wouldn't actually let me play with them. Had to maintain their value, you know."

"That's too bad that you never got to play. You should have seen the adventures I made with the two that I had."

"You had Dragon Defenders?" He cocked an eyebrow curiously. "I mean, they're toys for boys."

"Who says?"

He knew enough about her to know that she was more open-minded than a lot of witches he'd known, which was very intriguing. Why did he think these were only for boys?

"So which ones did you have?" He reached into the trunk and pulled out the rest of his action figures.

"Sven the Short-Snout and our friend Fa here." She picked them up and began banging them against each other in a mock fight. "I called Sven Svetlana because it looks like a girl. Don't you think?" She held the dragon out towards him, wiggling it in a teasing fashion.

"No!" Draco snatched Sven from her. "My Defenders are male. He just has...soft features," he said with a smile. "Wonder what else I put in here." They began looking around the trunk and then a whoosh of silver streaked through the room; it was Weasley's Patronus.

"Need to move on the Khalil case. Now." The small dog disappeared and Draco scowled.

"I'm sorry," he said as he kissed Asteria on the nose. "We've been working on this for a while now."

"No, it's all right. You need to go."

Draco quickly dressed and Apparated to the Ministry. As he walked across the atrium toward the lifts, Weasley and a group of Aurors strode purposefully toward him.

"Where's Potter? I've worked with him on this case since the beginning and was promised I wouldn't have to work with you," Draco pointed out, craning his neck. Potter was not in the group.

Weasley bit his bottom lip and furrowed his brows. "He...he couldn't be here. C'mon, let's go."

"Do you have any idea how hard we worked on this? He assured me that he'd be there when this came to a head." He knew deep down that it didn't matter if Potter or Weasley was the one to go along, but it was the principle of the thing.

Weasley's face turned red. "Well, I'm sorry that my sister went into early labour. Let me go tell her that she can't have her husband there with her even though she's scared shitless!"

Draco blanched as he recalled the pride on Potter's face as he had talked about becoming a father. He was where he needed to be, and Draco had no right to take him away from his wife.

"Fine, let's go."
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