Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, written purely for fun.

The owl was most unexpected. I stared at it for a few seconds and reread it four times, making sure that my initial impression had been correct. Yes, the owl was from Potter, and, yes, he was offering sympathy regarding the death of my mother. Three decades later, nearly to the day after Potter had plucked me out of that raging inferno, I still wasn't sure how I felt about Harry Potter. I doubt I'll ever know. Potter was a problematic bugger, always had been. Although the owl of condolence was bizarre enough, Potter had added a postscript, offering to take me out for a drink at some point to extend his condolences. What in the HELL did that mean?

While walking away from her grave, with Scorpius leaning on one arm and Astoria the other, I wanted to shout, "Who is going to carry me? Who is going to support me when I cannot walk another fucking step by myself?" But I didn't. The funeral itself had been limited to family, but people had been invited for drinks after the burial, so I postponed my meltdown until later.

Circulating around the room, refreshing drinks for those whose glasses were nearly empty, and instructing the house elves to pass the food, etc., I played host. Not many people had shown up. Being the widow of a prominent Death Eater didn't elicit much sympathy. In fact, Potter's note was the only acknowledgment outside of the family and my personal friends that I'd received. Not a single person had shown up when we'd buried my father, but then if I'd been given a choice, I'd have spent the day at the Leaky getting completely soused.

I'd decided to hold the wake in the library so that it would seem like more people were paying their respects than actually were. Everyone from my mother's bridge club had turned up, all of whom had hollow legs; the amount of alcohol they'd consumed over the course of an hour was truly impressive. My Aunt Andromeda hadn't come. The only relationship destroyed in the war that my mother had truly mourned, my aunt had refused to speak to my mother since Tonks' death. I'd owled Andromeda a personal note telling her when and where the funeral and wake were to take place. She didn't reply. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to lose your only child so I didn't judge her.

This was exceedingly maudlin, but it seemed to me that the people who had survived the war weren't living as long as previous generations. Were we just worn out? I had to admit I felt rather worn out these days. I had a hard time imagining myself at seventy, my mother's age when she had died; my great-grandfather had lived to be one-hundred-and-fifty years old.

If that didn't say it all.

The Parkinsons came, very tottery and a little gaga. I wanted to klonk Pansy over the head with a serving tray because she has never had much fashion sense, and she had showed up wearing an outfit that made her look like an aging prostitute; but I didn't. The elder Greengrasses kept to a corner of the room, clutching their drinks and leaving as soon as it was polite. Daphne was being a brick as usual, tacitly understanding that it was her job to make sure that Scorpius and Astoria were okay while I played host. I liked her, and it bothered me that she didn't like me. Three years ago Theodore had denounced magic and had become a Catholic priest, so obviously he'd been a no-show. Blaise? God knows. He hadn't bother to respond to my owl. Neither Greg or Vince had survived the war, so obviously they weren't there and neither were their parents; they'd perished in the battle of Hogwarts. Hindsight had forced me to admit that Vince and Greg were little more than thugs, their joint I.Q.'s never reaching more than about forty on a good day. Still, they'd been my thugs. The death of a parent forces you to revisit your childhood memories, and the three of us had been inseparable as boys. I kept turning around expecting to see them standing there.

Finally it was only me, Astoria, and Scorpius, who had loved his grandmother very much, but who was itching to get back to Romania. I could tell from the minute jerks of his knee going back and forth in a tight rhythm. Scorpius hadn't inherited my tendency toward nervous tics, so obviously something was going on. I was itching to grab him by the shoulders and shake him for being such a selfish git, but I didn't. In a quiet, firm voice I assured Scorpius that Astoria and I were fine, and why didn't he return to Romania? I didn't say 'return home,' because to me the Manor would always be Scorpius' home even if that was no longer true. The relief on his face was so obvious as to be extremely hurtful, but I swallowed, gave him a hug, and managed to maintain a wan smile until I felt the whoosh of air from the Portkey.

Astoria and I resumed our day to day. If my mother had been a bridge aficionado, then Astoria was a bridge fiend. It was the only thing she and my mother had had in common. The only thing besides me. Mother hadn't actively disliked her; it was more that she didn't have an opinion one way or another, despite the fact that Astoria and I had been married for over two decades. The only remotely complimentary thing my mother had ever said about Astoria was that she knew how to bid. That was it. I was sure that she deplored Astoria's parenting skills. Despite endless discussions between me and Astoria about how even though Scopius was an only child, we mustn't spoil him, it was all just talk. We spoiled him rotten. I considered it a miracle that Scorpius had been a rather nice child and was an even nicer adult. As my mother's own parenting skills couldn't be held up to any scrutiny, wisely she said nothing.

Astoria spent her mornings tearing through cheap romance novels and her afternoons playing bridge. I was mystified as to why she'd become a rather vapid woman, because she hadn't been like that when we were first married; I had a sinking suspicion that this was my fault, but damned if I knew why. I couldn't criticize her because my day was equally inane. I made money. I'd always been something of a god at Arithmancy, and about five years ago I'd started dabbling in the American stock market. I didn't need to even use magic. I read People magazine cover to cover every week and based my entire trading strategy on Hollywood gossip. Whatever the magazine said was true, I assumed was false and merely the lies of some overworked P.R. hack. I only traded in entertainment stocks. I'd made so much money in the last year that even I acknowledged it was obscene. But I needed to do something with my days, so I continued to play the market even as I wondered if there was any point.

Since my mother's illness and inevitable death, Astoria had made a plausible effort in hiding her now-standard indifference to me. She gave me a nightly hug and a kiss on the forehead, but then she'd always head off to her bedroom. We hadn't slept together in years. There were limits to her sympathy. Besides, I might be emotionally gutted, but I wasn't at the point where pity fucks were the order of the day.

A week after my mother's death, Astoria kissed my forehead and headed off to her bedroom as usual. At the sound of her door shutting, I paused at the door to my bedroom and had to stop myself from breaking down. Great hulking sobs filled my chest cavity with nowhere to go. If I didn't know better, I'd swear I was having a heart attack. Gripping the door jamb so tightly that I bruised all the fingers of my right hand, the moment passed.

I'd just realized that my mother's death now meant I had no one to talk to. I didn't even bother to undress. I got into bed and burrowed under the covers so that I was in total darkness.

  • Theo had obvious gone around the twist. It wasn't the Catholic business that irritated me. In fact, transfiguration versus transubstantiation? Not much difference in my book. But when I'd pointed this out, Theo's forehead had turned an unhealthy shade of purple and then he began shouting at me that I was the spawn of the devil. Which was more or less true, except that Theo wasn't actually referring to Lucius. The most galling aspect of this whole business as far as I was concerned was Theo's continued insistence that magic didn't exist. At our last meeting, I had had enough and had transfigured Theo's teacup into a cow patty and then had Apparated back home. There were limits to how much crazy I was willing to put up with, and Theo had crossed that line and then some.

  • There was Millicent, but I'd never liked her. Well, no, that's wrong. I just couldn't stand being around her. She was as thick as two planks and navigating her stupidity was often exhausting. It was like talking to a child, except that she had none of the charm of a child. She was a forty-eight-year old women who wore ratty cardigans and the ugliest shoes imaginable, and had an enumerable number of Yorkies who she'd named in honor of dead Bulstrode house-elves. Plus her hair always needed a good scrub. It's an effort, but I can turn a blind eye to poor grooming habits (Greg had a pathological aversion to water). Unfortunately, in addition to needing a bath and a decent wardrobe, she was boring as all fuck. She'd never married and her Ministry job consisted of collecting obscure statistics that no one ever bothered to look at. In the next Ministry reorg she would be made redundant. She'd been doing this for thirty years. No one wanted to hear about the increase in the ratio of toilets to square footage in any given magical dwelling over the last fifty years. Still I felt sorry for her because when she lost that job?--which she would, it was only a matter of time?--she would have no place to go during the day. Out of guilt I take her out to lunch twice a year, where she always has far too much to drink, and which hints at lonely evenings where she drinks her dinner five nights out of seven.

  • Pansy, who had moved to New York several years earlier, was the mistress of a cauldron tycoon who will never marry her. We didn't see each other very often because she kept asking me for advice, and I kept telling her to leave her "benefactor" because she was his Wednesday-night fuck and that's all she would ever be. At some point she throws her drink in my face. It's always the same question and always the same advice, and the intervals between our get-togethers were getting longer and longer, just as Pansy kept getting older and older. The tycoon would be trading her in for a younger model soon. Like Millicent, one didn't need a crystal ball to see Pansy's future.

  • Blaise had disappeared, not even having the grace to write a note in response to my owl. Had Blaise had finally found a rich Muggle woman to support him in the style to which he wanted to be accustomed? Blaise was a formidable wizard, but magic had never really meant much to him. What caused Blaise's wand to stand up straight was money. Pounds or Galleons, it really didn't matter. Like mother, like son.

  • Sadly, despite marrying into the Greengrass family, Daphne only tolerated me for Astoria and Scorpius' sake. The happiest day of her life would be the day Astoria walked out on me, and given the state of my marriage, that will be soon.

  • Astoria? No, I couldn't even count on pointless chit-chat with Astoria. Unless it was something to do with Scorpius, Astoria and I hadn't had a real conversation in years. I suspected that Astoria had planned on leaving me months ago, and then Mother got sick and then had the nerve to die. No decent person leaves a man whose mother is dying, and Astoria is nothing if not decent. Now that my mother had died, she would wait six months and then move out. It was inevitable. Not that it would make that much difference, perhaps none.

Except for my weekly Firecalls with Scorpius, I could literally stop talking and no one would notice. And even those weekly sessions were getting shorter and shorter. Scorpius had better things to do with his time. Like training dragons and fucking Charlie Weasley twice a night. The two of them lived in hovel in Romania where I doubted they even had hot running water.

I couldn't help but smile. I could just imagine my mother's response if I were to utter this thought in her presence. She would look up from her book?--but not until she marked the page with her pinky finger--?and say to me in a voice that brooked no argument, "Don't be ridiculous, Draco. You know for a fact they have hot running water, and Charles Weasley makes Scorpius happy." She would then go back to her book. If she were she alive, which, sadly, she was not.

Both the Malfoys and Weasleys have acknowledged the utter improbability of this relationship, and yet no one can deny that Scorpius and Charlie Weasley seem so suited to each other that the term "soul mates" is bandied about without any accompanying sniggers. Yes, as much as I hated to admit it, that Weasley fellow did make Scorpius happy.

Happy is not a word I would use to describe the general Malfoy state of being, In fact, I would have said that a deep, horrible unhappiness had been so overwhelming for so many years that I couldn't remember the family ever being happy. Certainly not since the day my father had been chucked into Azkaban, but it seemed that even before that the word hadn't applied. I'm not sure what word did, but happy wasn't it.

Had I been happy as a child? Not that I could remember. I was always wanting and then getting but it was never enough and not what I really wanted, although Merlin knows what I really wanted. It was all so confusing. The years at Hogwarts don't even bear consideration. I can't even think of my seventh year without throwing up. Literally. As an adult? I've had happy moments. I suppose I was happy when I got married, but from the distance of the years, it seems like that happiness happened to someone else, not me. I was most definitely happy, ecstatic even, when Scorpius was born. But inherently happy? No, I basically stole what happiness I could from Scorpius, and then once Scorpius went to school, he took happiness with him; I was only happy during the summer, those two weeks at Easter, and at Christmas. It was like I was able to steal happiness for a while, but then I had to give it back at King's Cross Station. Not that I was complaining. That child had saved me. In my very, very dark moments I wondered why my existence hadn't saved my father as Scorpius' existence had saved me.

Sometimes I felt guilty that Astoria and I were only happy as a couple when we were with Scorpius; it was a separate happiness, not a joint one. Was this my fault? I didn't know. What had she seen in me? I couldn't say. What had I seen in her? I mentally squinted and reached backbackback into my memories, and all I could come up with was that she'd been very pretty and had a rather nice laugh. How depressing to acknowledge that I couldn't remember why I'd married my wife. Christ. I had truly loved my mother. Did I love my wife? I honestly didn't know. I watched her writing a letter to Scorpius, the fall of her dark hair against the red of her sweater, and the quill gliding across the page, her handwriting a confection of swirls and flourishes, feminine and quite beautiful. I loved her handwriting, but I wasn't sure I loved her. At least not with the absolute certainty that I felt for Scorpius and my mother.

The last time I can remember loving my father, actively loving him with a real bone-deep affection, was seeing him greet the Dark Lord just after he'd been released from Azkaban. My father's skin was so pale as to be luminous. The Carrows had laughed at his prison pallor, but I thought it made him look like an angel. His incarceration had turned my father's hair from white blonde to just white, but he swaggered into the great hall of the Manor with all the arrogance of old, clearly expecting to be greeted with open arms. All the subtle looks of warning my mother was sending in my father's direction were ignored, so happy was he to be free, and, no doubt, relishing the thought of being Voldemort's second-in-command once again. Aunt Bellatrix's sly smile should have tipped him off, but my father was giddy with relief at being home. And then, instead of the convivial hey ho, instead of the handshake, the effusive speech welcoming him back, the Dark Lord asked him to make tea. That humiliation, that debasing of self was, as they say, a defining moment. I loved my father so much in that horrible moment that tears sprang to my eyes

My father's stint in Azkaban had permanently demoted him in Voldemort's eyes, and upon his return he was nothing more than Voldemort's human house elf. Still, those years in Azkaban hadn't robbed my father of his brains. Once Voldemort appropriated the Manor as his base of operations, my father begin nightly forays into the cellar to remove the good liquor and stash as much of it as he could in the family crypt before Voldemort's ragtag army of dissatisfied pure-bloods and hooligans emptied out the cellars. Whatever he had managed to move was enough to feed his drunk until it killed him. Potter had somehow convinced the Wizengamot to subject my father to nothing more than house arrest, as opposed to returning him to Azkaban, and my father had spent the next ten years dead drunk until finally he was merely dead.

"Draco, do you want to add a postscript?" Astoria murmured.

I shook my head. Even as I said, "I'll write my own letter tomorrow," I wondered. Is Potter happy?

In some ways, Astoria leaving me was strangely liberating; I'd been expecting her to leave for what seemed like forever, and when she finally handed me a cup of tea and at the same time said, "It's time I go. I believe we are done," I could only nod and say, "Yes. I agree."

Its inevitability didn't alleviate the crushing loneliness that began to define my "new" life. I'm not the sort of person who does well on his own. I tend to revert to those tendencies that should NOT be reverted to, although not the ones you'd think. No, I become moody, depressed, and all my nervous tics and OCD tendencies that I've had some modest success in taming over the years come to the fore. Of course, even with Astoria I was still somewhat arrogant and slightly intolerant of others' perceived failures, but I have a good sense of humor and have managed to retain the hard-learned lesson that one does not have to utter every thought that comes into one's head. That sometimes it's better to keep your mouth shut and listen. A year living with Voldemort had had its pluses. Well, one plus. I grew up that year. Many—if not all—of my preconceived notions about my family, my place in the world, and my very identity as a wizard were shattered, with no other concepts to replace them with.

I had to start from scratch.

More a matter of trying to stay sane than anything else forced me to hunt for who I was outside of who I'd been. I'd married early, desperate for both legitimacy and love. I did not marry Astoria because her family had been on the "right" side of the war, but neither do I think I would have married someone who'd been on the "wrong" side of the war. Anyone who actually envisioned a post-war life that was run by Voldemort was the biggest idiot imaginable. I wanted nothing to do with them. I admit I was slow off the mark—it took me a torture session or two—but eventually the reality that was Voldemort hit me over the head.

I didn't know what a post-war scenario without Voldemort would be like, but I sure as hell knew what one with him would be like. Could anything be worse? I strongly doubted it. I had stared at Potter's misshapen lumpy face and thought, he's the only one, the only person who can defeat him. He's the only person who can end this, this carnage. Despite Aunt Bella's shrieking, I waffled and refused to name him. I'd loathed Potter with a burning, obsessive hatred for six years, and now I wanted to get down on my knees and beg him for his help, clutch his hands and beg for help like there was no tomorrow. I'd like to think he saw that in my face. Probably not, but it didn't matter. Whatever help I could give him, I had to give it. I was, for the first time in my limited life, not serving myself. Had I turned him over to Aunt Bella it would have benefitted me and my family to an enormous degree. It would have restored my father to his previous role as Voldemort's right hand. It would have ended the war. It would have ensured Voldemort's victory. The Malfoys would have been heroes. Despite all that, I couldn't turn him over. I gave Potter what little I could give and hoped against hope that he would take that sliver of opportunity and mine it for all it was worth. And he did. Thank fucking god.

As I watched house elves magick into small boxes Astoria's books, her desk, a favorite chair, a clock that had been a wedding present from her parents, and various odds and sods she'd collected through our marriage, I wondered if I had married her because I was so goddamn grateful. That a decent human being had been so foolish to fall in love with me. I was still grateful. The son of Lucius Malfoy might be shunned and ignored; the husband of Astoria Greengrasse wasn't as easy to dismiss. I hadn't brought anything to our marriage but me, and how depressing to realize that her love, uncomplicated and real, hadn't been enough to sustain me. Was it my fault? Was it my fault, I asked over and over again as I gripped the edge of a chair for some sort of support as she Apparated away.

I couldn't answer that question. I suppose I could have asked her, but I didn't really want to hear the answer. Even as I collapsed into a chair and sat there crying off and on for hours, I knew that in some ways I'd shoved her out the door, even if I didn't realize it. I wanted more, something indefinable that she couldn't give me. I missed her and mourned her, but I still didn't love her enough to ask her to stay.

What now?

Three weeks after she'd left, I was sitting in my library staring at the fire and clutching a soddened handkerchief, when an owl pecked at the rain-lashed window. Such an enormous, magnificent white owl could only belong to one person. It was another request to meet. That he needed to talk to me about my mother. My mother?

To be continued