When Astoria Greengrass-Malfoy is elected Minister for Magic she intends to arrange a dinner, but in fact ends up arranges a soiree of sorts for the Heads of Departments and their families at Greengrass Park - lovely evening, very elegantly done up. Draco stumps through the arrangements with badly-concealed irritability - though, in all fairness, still operating at his usual level of efficiency in such matters; Astoria has found that it pays to have a Black for a mother-in-law in more ways than one - and makes a face at the Greeting which plainly indicates he has no intention whatsoever of shaking hands with Hermione, or with her husband, or with Auror Potter. The only reason it doesn't become a bit of an éclat is because none of them offer to shake hands with him in the first place.
Scorpius shakes hands with them, perfect gentleman. Scorpius shakes hands with young James as well - both of them are trying not to grin - but Albus, despite being supposedly the better-behaved of the Potter brothers, flings his arms round him instead.
Draco glares. It is beginning to dawn on Astoria whose idea it was to invite everyone's families and turn her dinner into a full-blown party.
“I promise they won't blow anything up, or fall in the fountain, or anything like that,” says Ginny.
Astoria eyes the look on her son's face: flushed, triumphant, head-over-heels happy. Six years ago he was drifting through this house like a ghost and reddening with repressed anger whenever he laid eyes on his father or his grandparents. He could barely bite his tongue on his contempt for her that she'd proven her lax moral standards by marrying Draco in the first place.
“I don't,” she says.
Ginny grins. “Congratulations on your win, Assie,” she says.
The old school nickname sounds odd on her lips: Assie with the expensive clothes designed for a woman two decades older than the adolescent she was, with the books and the spare quills; Assie with the Trip Jinxes and the fearless smile. Assie with the ambition and the skill and Draco Malfoy in the corner of her eye: good prospects, excellent family, not bad-looking, impeccable taste in clothes. Everyone loves successful school sweethearts.
“Thanks,” says Assie, and tucks her hair behind her ear in an entirely uncalculated gesture. “Did you vote for me?”
(She knows Daphne did not. She knows Daphne would rather be dead than at this party.)
“I might have done. How about an exclusive, by the way?”
“I thought you wrote Quidditch, Ginny.”
“Well, yes. But you know as well as I do that you'd rather snog the Giant Squid than give an exclusive to Fotheringay-Bobbin - slimiest witch in the West of England.”
“I'll think about it,” she promises.
“I shall ask you again when we've both had a couple.”
Astoria laughs out loud, and doesn't notice when Scorpius grins to see her do so and Draco rolls his eyes in feigned disgust.
She's wanted to be Minister for Magic since she was eight years old.
Daphne wanted to be the next Celestina Warbeck, and then she wanted to be the next Bellatrix Lestrange, and now Astoria has no idea what her sister wants, if anything.
After Scorpius, there was a miscarriage. She thinks that's when Draco started to love her back. Sometimes, in the dead of night when she's so tired she's insomniac and her head is whirling with tomorrow's tasks, she presses against the length of him and feels him shift in his sleep to accomodate her, hears him say her name when he flings an arm across her, and she thinks it was worth it.
They were married a year before Lucius Malfoy got out of Azkaban. Draco needed the respectability and Astoria needed the money; the only demand he made of her was that they should live at Greengrass Park, and his mother with them. Admittedly, neither his prospects nor his contacts were as good as they once were, but by then Astoria had made her own. Lucius doesn't like her; Daphne resents the fact that it's Draco's gold that keeps their parents' home from collapsing into rubble. Narcissa is charming, but Astoria catches an odd look on her face sometimes, as if grieving. It's hard to tell what for.
She never meant to make friends with Hermione Granger-Weasley. It was during the election campaign; she was still a Junior Minister, and Granger came into her office one day and said, I can help you win this.
Why would you? Astoria had wanted to know.
I need more backing than I've got.
(Astoria likes blunt.)
Why trust me to give it?
Hermione had reached out and caught her wrist, resting on the desk top. Before Astoria could pull away her sleeve was shoved up, probably more roughly than Hermione had thought. The scars rake up her arm then as now, faded but still visible. Draco has never acknowledged them. He has none himself.
My sister in law has scars like these.
Strange to think that Alecto Carrow appears to have made her career.
The Potter house is quaintly pretty, and the Lupin boy is confident and cheerful and rakishly charming, all three character traits Narcissa will tell her, when Astoria mentions it, that he apparently shares to some extent with a young Sirius Black. Albus is charming too, James Sirius suspicious, Rose polite, observant like Hermione, solid common sense like her father. Lily and Hugo want to know if it's true she has a collection of stuffed tigers at Greengrass Park.
“Thanks, Mater,” says Scorpius. “See you in a week!”
She pauses. There's something to say, but perhaps after everything he doesn't need to hear. “Be polite to Auror Potter and to Ginny. No starting arguments the way you do with your grandparents. And stay out of trouble.”
“It's all right, Mrs Malfoy,” says Albus. “The Dread Mrs Packenham likes Scorpius.”
Astoria decides she doesn't want to know.
"If I invite you to my birthday celebrations, will you come?" she asks Andromeda one day over lunch, and her husband's aunt flings her greying head back and laughs, a deep honest laugh from the pit of her stomach. It is not a laugh that would come naturally to a Black, thinks Astoria. It is a laugh Andromeda has chosen for herself and practiced to perfection, and it suits her.
"Will I sit in the same house as the woman who sheltered my daughter's murderer?" she asks.
If it were Scorpius, Astoria thinks but does not say, I would have killed her already.
If it were Scorpius; if it were Daphne.
Daphne comes to her once at night, just after she's taken the Astronomy Professor job. Draco sleeps beside them as Astoria shifts to make room for her sister and Daphne strokes her hair the way she used to do when they were children.
Her hands are very cold.
"I find I'm a little frightened, Assie," she says quietly.
Astoria laughs quietly. "You? Never."
Fearless Daphne Greengrass, with a heart of ice.
"Nevertheless," says Daphne. The moonlight reflects oddly off her eyes and Astoria swallows the urge to laugh at this, this hidden whispered secret in the night, twenty years after she came back to the Slytherin common room shaking, her arms a ragged mess of tears, of blood, of flesh and muscle shining through, and Daphne looked at her and said blood traitor; Draco's even breathing beside them and Scorpius along the long black hall, sleeping in his Ravenclaw room and dreaming, if Astoria knows her son at all, of a quaint Scottish cottage, or a garden in the Cotswolds, and the homes he has in them.
Last heirs of the Greengrass bloodline, become this. Astoria thought she knew her sister's mind inside and out. It seems there are corners she has overlooked.
Astoria touches her face and finds it is as cold as her hands. "Daphne." Quiet, quiet, pater and mother might hear!
Pater, dead these twenty years at the Battle of Hogwarts. Last image of her father always very clear to Astoria: the horror on his face when he realised the defender he was about to kill was his own youngest child. Bellatrix killed him for that hesitation. And Mother, shrugging with relief when the Healers explained her tumors.
Daphne, what? I'm sorry?
"Daphne, come with me."
Daphne smiles in the darkness, and her white teeth flash. Cold hands on Astoria's face, and cold lips on her forehead.
"Sleep well, Assie."
She leaves, silent in the shadows, skin white as snow, lips red as blood, hair black as night.
Astoria Greengrass shrugs off her past like droplets of water off her cloak, for her son's sake as much as her own. Her logic is impeccable and her reasoning sharp, and though she cannot recall where she heard the expression, she likes to remind Scorpius to keep his powder dry.
Sometimes that's all the edge you need in a fight.