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Off Her Rocker

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Narcissa Malfoy did not take tea with just anybody.

However, Albus Severus Potter was not just anybody. He was the - for lack of a better word - boyfriend of her Grandson, Scorpius, and Narcissa fully intended to take tea with him. Tea was a craft, a skill she had honed over the years until she was perfectly proficient in the art of cracking someone open over a platter of cucumber sandwiches.

And Albus was someone she needed to crack open. She was not in the business of deciding a person’s love interests for them; nobody had truly believed that Lucius was a good match for her, and even though their relationship had crumbled in the end, she did not regret it. It had brought her Draco, after all, and for a long while, they truly did love each other. So she would not make choices for anyone else, and her Grandson was no exception, but to Narcissa, family was everything. Family meant taking the time to know the people they loved, too.

Yes, Narcissa fully intended to take tea with Albus, but first she had to catch him.

He proved to be a slippery boy. Her first three letters were returned to her, unopened, and stamped with a failed to deliver sign. Narcissa deposited them in a drawer and wondered absently if he had the stamp made up especially, or if he crafted it himself. She would have to borrow it, one day, to replicate it. It was a useful tool, although entirely unhelpful when turned against her.

She placed a request for a Floo Call, and received a notice that the recipient was without a Fireplace for the time being, and would be unable to take her call. She refused to be deterred.

She took to the outdoors, instead. She donned a set of thin, silvery robes, spelled her hair into an intricate knot and slipped on her most intimidating shoes. Draco’s loud, grating friend, Parkinson, had dubbed them Narcissa’s get-shit-done shoes when she thought she wasn’t listening. Narcissa rather liked that phrase. She did indeed plan to get shit done.

Diagon Alley was almost entirely vacant at this time in the morning, giving Narcissa free reign of the cobbled street. Her heels clicked with purpose, taking her right up to the doorstep of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. The orange paint was hideously bright, and Narcissa quite liked the effect.

She enjoyed the scent of gunpowder less so, but she powered on through to the counter, past the towering shelves and bins full of odds and ends, where she found the eldest Potter child. James was sketching something on a piece of parchment with a Muggle utensil, his mouth tipped down in a thoughtful frown. His hair was tinged pink at the front, freckles obscuring his skin.

Narcissa waited patiently in front of the counter, watching the sketch grow and bloom. It was quite beautiful, a face thrown into shadow, and it had an eerie feel about it.

“That really is lovely work,” she said eventually.

There was a clatter as the boy fell off his stool. Narcissa frowned as she peered over the counter.

“I was under the impression that Potter’s were supposed to be quite graceful. Perhaps that’s only when they’re on a broomstick.”

“Or maybe when they aren’t having the shit scared out of them!” James popped back up, scowling. “Jeez, lady. Are you trying to give me a heart attack?”

“Please, child. I’d do a much better job than that. Now, I’m looking for your brother.”

James narrowed his eyes at her, and then his expression flattened as he presumably recognised her. Narcissa was quite used to this reaction. She stared back placidly. Her spine was made of steel, her heart thumping steadily behind the silver cage of her ribs. She had faced much more than a young man with a face like thunder.

“Whad’ya want with Al?” James asked, eventually. Still suspicious, but not hostile. Protective. She could work with that.

She made her smile warm and inviting. It was a bit of a chore, after years of sitting stiff and tense unless she was in the company of family.

“I wish to invite him to tea,” Narcissa said. She opened her purse, a blue velvet clutch, and delved deep inside. She produced a small card with an elegant scrawl on the front.

James’s eyes bugged out of his head. “Tea? Like the kind with crumpets and stuff?”

“I was thinking sandwiches, and cake, actually. Much lighter on the stomach. Unfortunately, my letters seem to have been sent back. A small error, I’m sure. If you could tell me where to find him, or otherwise give him this card.”

James took the card, clearly unsure exactly what to do with his life now that Narcissa was in it. His fingers were stained with graphite, and she tutted, wiping them clean with a handkerchief that came billowing out of her breast pocket. His fingers vibrated with the force of her scrubbing.

James didn’t respond to this. It was possible that he was overcome with emotion - it was also possible that he was struck dumb by an unrelated jinx, one that she hadn’t seen coming, because he didn’t appear to be moving.

“Lady, you're off your rocker. Teddy’s always going on about other universes, from those Muggle books he reads,” James muttered. “I reckon I might have stumbled into one.”

“There,” Narcissa said, drawing back and disposing of the handkerchief smoothly. “Do see that he gets that card, won’t you? I’ll be waiting at the location written on it. Oh, and perhaps don't mention this to Scorpius, if you see him? I wouldn’t want him to think I was sticking my nose in.”

James’s mouth twitched. “Yeah, ‘course not. That would be ridiculous.”

He pocketed the card and then scratched the back of his neck, still looking slightly shell-shocked, and now at a loss for what to say. Narcissa knew when to bow out of a conversation, and she took the silence for what it was.

“Good to see you, Mr Potter,” she said, with another small smile. “I’m glad we could come to an agreement.”

She thought she heard a slightly demented laugh as she left the store, but it was also possible that she was hearing things.

*

Albus was not late. He was not early, either, arriving precisely five minutes after Narcissa and pushing the door to the cafe open with great reluctance. Narcissa mentally placed a small black tick on a checklist, and settled her napkin over her lap.

He swallowed, standing in front of her, and then held out his hand. Narcissa’s own hand was halfway in the air anyway, expecting a kiss, but she changed course at the last second and shook his instead. It was a rather old-fashioned notion, anyway, hand-kissing, she decided.

Albus sidled into his chair and gripped the tablecloth, as though he needed something to cling to. Narcissa regarded him with faint amusement. She briefly entertained the notion of shouting “Boo!” but decided that was too cruel.

“Albus,” she said. “I’m glad you could make our appointment. You really should see about your wards, by the way. It seems they don't allow for letters from unknown senders.”

Albus flushed a little at her words, mumbling something under his breath. And then he steeled himself and said, “It’s nice to see you, Mrs Malfoy. You’re looking well.”

He immediately deflated, as though the words had taken something out of him. Narcissa decided to show a little mercy; she smiled, a rare true smile, with a dimple in her cheek, and then looked around while he recovered from his shock.

The place she had chosen was small and discrete, but prettily decorated. A cafe that had bloomed in a side-alley, off Diagon, which had grown a little larger over the years, gathering many turns and twists.

It was an establishment she frequented often, if only because one of Draco’s school friends owned it and ran it well. Gregory Goyle greeted them with a large grin and a respectful nod, clumsily handing them two menus.

Albus immediately hid behind his. Greg raised his eyebrows at Narcissa, and then shrugged.

“Just yell for me when you’re ready to order,” he said, in his usual gruff voice. “You know the drill, Mrs. M.”

“Thank you Gregory,” Narcissa said, smiling gently. He grinned back and lumbered off to deal with another customer, leaving them in silence. She could see Al’s eyes, which stayed resolutely on one section of the menu and refused to move. She inwardly sighed.

“You should try the lemon cake,” Narcissa suggested. Albus looked up in surprise, mouth slightly open. “Scorpius tells me that you’re fond of citrus flavours.”

“He does? He did?”

Narcissa couldn’t help but be a little confused by the incredulity in his tone.

“Of course,” Narcissa said. “He tells me everything. He talks of you often. He’s a very open boy, and when he loves someone, it’s written all over his face. He wears his heart on his sleeve, dear thing.”

She stopped quite abruptly when Albus made a small, wheezing sound and ceased breathing. They stared at each other, Albus rather purple, herself rather shocked. The moment seemed to stretch forever - Narcissa began to envision rather drastic actions, such as seizing her purse, vaulting gracefully over the table and beating Albus in the back with it, until he coughed back to life.

And then Albus took a great big shuddering gasp and said, quite breathlessly, “He doesn’t - we’re not - did you think we were dating?

Narcissa withdrew her hand from where it was creeping towards her purse. She had many years of practice at keeping her face blank and still, and yet her poise fell away from her as Albus kept speaking - well, squeaking, really.

“Because we’re not,” Al half-yelled, one hand flying wildly around in the air. He didn’t seem to be in control of it, and Narcissa watched detachedly as it knocked over a salt shaker; it put her in mind of a balloon going down, inelegant and graceless. “We’re definitely not dating! And I think I would know if we were, since, you know, I’d be the one going on dates. And he doesn’t love me. Well, he does love me, I guess, but in a way you love your friends, you know? The way you love all the people who’ve seen you climb a tree, get stuck and have to be levitated down by Harry Potter at the age of seventeen. You know?”

Narcissa nodded mildly. She didn’t know, of course, because Narcissa never would have been caught dead in such a situation, and her friends consisted, rather depressingly, of her son, her sister, and Cordelia Zabini, the latter of whom would probably have taken several pictures if such an event occured, and left Narcissa to rot.

But she nodded anyway, because Albus appeared to need to get this off his chest.

He did stop when Greg marched back over, and pointedly righted the salt shaker with a disapproving glare. He swept up the spilled salt and disappeared again, muttering about rude customers. Narcissa waited for him to leave before gesturing for Albus to continue, but the boy was glancing around his surroundings with dawning horror.

He shrunk down in his seat and hunched his shoulders, fiddling with the corner of a menu.

“Hmm,” she said. “I appear to have made a mistake. Assuming, as my Grandson so delightfully put it, often makes an arse of people.”

Albus stared at her, mouth falling open. He looked - not quite gormless, but definitely perplexed.

“You swore,” Albus said. “Scorpius says you never swear.”

Narcissa raised an eyebrow. “Oh, does he? What else does he say?”

She made sure to be as intimidating as possible; she wanted the truth, after all. She would make it up to him with something delicious in a moment.

Albus fidgeted uncomfortably, pinned by the weight of her stare. “He says a lot of things. He never shuts up, actually. But he talks about you and his dad quite a lot. He, um, he loves you very much.”

Narcissa dropped the stare. Her heart swelled with affection, both for Scorpius and the boy across from her, who quite clearly wished to disappear. She wondered if it was a natural state for him, or if she brought it out.

“Yes, I’m sure he does,” she said warmly. “And others, too.”

She gave him a pointed look, and then continued before Albus could combust.

“Now, I confess I hadn’t planned much for these tea parties of ours. I simply wanted to get to know you better, since you were dating my Grandson. But if it’s as you say - well, regardless, I should like to know you all the same. If you agree?”

Albus gave the barest of nods. She granted him another true smile and then gestured to Greg, who grinned as he ambled over.

“Wonderful. This will be a regular occurrence, then. Now that that’s settled, what would you like to eat?”

Albus cast a brief, pleading look towards the door, and then sighed.

“I’ll have the lemon cake.”

*

Tea with Albus took place every Tuesday, at twelve o’clock, and became something to look forward to. Narcissa didn’t have much to fill her time with these days, although she refused to sit idly in a rocker and watch life pass her by. Draco often threatened to buy her a rocker, since she was so clearly off hers. She went on walks and took shopping trips with Andromeda, who was lonely now that Teddy had moved out. She was on a few boards, where she gave her opinion concisely and carefully, and she didn’t linger. She could feel the other women watching her sometimes, and although it didn’t bother her, it was still irritating, to be somewhere where you clearly weren’t wanted.

She thought it might be the same with Albus, but the opposite was true. Albus was kind and attentive. He pulled her chair out for her and held the door open, and he stopped doing it when she insisted she could do it herself. He always poured the tea, though. After the first two lunches, he stopped looking like he wanted to bolt from the room, and settled into himself.

He was desperately awkward, too. He stumbled over his words, and after the first time he used a spell to stack their empty plates, and the plates shattered, he did everything by hand. His wand stayed hidden. Scorpius had mentioned, during one of his long rambling stories, that Albus never had much luck when it came to spellwork. But he was clearly not stupid, although Narcissa doubted that he agreed. He dutifully advised her when she asked his opinion, and he although he didn’t have much to say when it came to current affairs, what he did say was insightful and carefully thought out.

Narcissa had the feeling that Albus was a person who spoke great lengths in his mind, comfortably and with ease. He was a thoughtful person, and Scorpius was a talkative one, and they made quite a good pair, although Narcissa neglected to mention it. She wasn’t sure it would be received well, not after his outburst at their first lunch.

Slowly, they worked their way through the menu.

“This is… interesting,” Albus hedged, putting down his fork. “I thought it was supposed to be apple?”

Narcissa swallowed the last bite, after mustering all of her not inconsiderable strength. It was tart and sharp, although the biscuit base was divine. There was also a distinctly meaty taste to the fruit glaze that wasn’t… awful, all things considered.

“We got a new chef, an extra one,” Greg said, looming over them with the voice of the doomed and despairing. “Batty thing, she keeps putting weird stuff in my cake mix and calling it Cooking Experiments.”

Albus huffed a laugh. “Sounds like my Auntie Luna.”

Greg zeroed in on him. “That’s the one, yeah. Her sons are taking over the weird newspaper she runs, so she’s looking for new ‘adventures.’ Don't know why she has to look for them in my kitchen.”

Albut bit his lip, hiding a smile, but Greg was not as stupid as he pretended to be, and he spotted the action for what it was. He snorted angrily and took their plates, muttering as he disappeared towards the kitchen.

“Lord,” Narcissa said, under her breath. “I think I need something strong to wash that down.”

“Drinking in the day?” Albus said, and there was a teasing note in his voice that Narcissa hadn’t heard before. “Careful that no reporters catch you sneaking gin out of your purse.”

“I believe my name has been disgraced enough,” Narcissa said, with a wry smile. “And for the record, I drink rum and wine exclusively.”

“Just for future reference?” Albus asked.

“Well, I do have a birthday coming up, after all,” Narcissa teased. She watched fondly as Albus ducked his head, hiding his grin, and she was not surprised when, later that week, a bottle of the finest rum appeared on her side-table in the Manor, complete with a sparkling green and silver bow.

*

When Albus suggested stretching their encounters to include other events, Narcissa found herself at a loss for words. He was uncertain, judging from the way his fingers played with the edges of the tablecloth, and the way he fidgeted in place. She decided to settle his worries.

“First the rum, and now this. Mr Potter, are you trying to seduce me?”

Narcissa had seen that look before. Harry Potter had paid her a few visits over the years - she liked to keep in contact with people whose lives she had saved, and vice versa - and he expressed the same stunned horror every time she displayed any sort of dry humour.

Albus recovered slowly, his voice faint and on the brink of a scream. “I think my lungs may have just popped. Spontaneously.”

“I had no idea the notion of my company was so repulsive that it could rupture organs,” she said, lifting her tea-cup and hiding a smile behind the rim.

Albus gaped, and then shut his mouth, narrowing his eyes. “You’re doing this on purpose. Why do all Malfoy’s live to hurt me?”

“I understand Scorpius, of course, but has Draco done something to torture you, too?”

Albus grimaced. “He likes to ask me questions about my dad. He thinks he’s being casual, but he’s really not. They’ve still got a really weird rivalry thing going on. Anyway, he reveals way too much about how much he used to watch my dad at school, that’s all.”

“Yes, he was never subdued when it came to his obsession with your father. We used to get letters every week.” She aimed a calm look at Albus. “Quite like another Malfoy I know, who’s taken a fancy to the Potters. One in particular.”

Albus froze at her words, and then coughed theatrically into his fist. “Anyway, I wasn’t seducing you. But I wondered if you wanted to go somewhere else, until Greg’s had a chance to cook up something we haven’t tried yet.”

“Lovely. Did you have somewhere in mind?”

Albus scratched the end of his nose, frowning. “...Bingo?”

A brief silence enveloped them.

“Precisely how old do you think I am?” Narcissa said drily.

Albus smiled, all teeth, and said, “Not too old to try new things.”

Narcissa surveyed him, and then collected her purse with great dignity. “That,” she said, “was a very Slytherin thing to say.”

Albus’s laugh followed her out of the cafe.

*

Draco surveyed Narcissa over the top of his newspaper. He was trying to be subtle, but he had never mastered that particular art, a fact which both exasperated and endeared her. She was seated across the room, knitting something long and horribly knobbly, although that wasn’t the intended outcome when she first picked up the needles. Knitting was not something that came easily to her. She had planned on a thin, woolen jumper, and yet she appeared to be knitting a serpent. It might make a good draught excluder, she mused.

Draco cleared his throat, rustling his newspaper. Narcissa did not deign to look up.

“Mother,” he said, patience wearing thin. He had always been a terribly impatient boy. “What exactly are you doing?”

“There’s a draught in the upstairs lounge,” Narcissa said smoothly. “I think this would go quite nicely with the wallpaper, don't you?”

“It’s hideous,” he said, frowning. He cringed slightly under her quelling look, remembering himself. “Although that could be the light. It’s rather bad on this side of the room.”

“I shall have to get Ditsy to take a look at the lamps.”

“Mmm,” Draco said. He rustled his newspaper again. “I was actually asking about your attempts to corral Potter’s son into a meeting with you.”

“Oh, that.” Narcissa waved a hand, and the needles kept on knitting. Narcissa watched them for a moment, and noticed that the lines became a lot neater without her help. “How did you hear about that?”

Draco’s eyes shifted tellingly to the door, which stood ajar at the end of the room, not far from Narcissa. He crossed and uncrossed his ankles.

“Nowhere,” he lied. “So?”

“Yes, well, that’s all settled now.” Narcissa watched the light under the door shift into shadow, as presumably the person behind it suffered from a cramp in their leg. “We’ve been meeting regularly for the past four weeks.”

There was a squeak from behind the door. Narcissa arched an eyebrow at the remarkably familiar noise and cleared her throat loudly.

There was a rather frozen sort of silence, the kind one finds at funerals, and then the door opened in a resigned fashion.

“Scorpius, darling,” Narcissa said, as a blonde head and a green jumper darted into view. “I had no idea you were home.”

Draco disappeared behind his newspaper. Narcissa sighed at him; no subtlety whatsoever. Scorpius spared his father a betrayed glance, and then crossed the room to kiss Narcissa on the cheek, which she tipped obligingly toward him. She spared a distasteful look for his odd, frayed socks, but couldn’t bring herself to comment.

“I came home about a half hour ago,” Scorpius said, guilt written quite clearly in the lines of his hands as he wrung them together. “I was just… passing by, when I heard you and father talking.”

“You’re a terrible liar, my dear,” Narcissa said fondly. “You get that from your father. He once tried to convince me that the stove simply caught fire while standing unattended. And that the banister on the main staircase was weak and old and ready to collapse at any moment. And that it was the House Elves who had ripped my favourite copy of Treasure Island.”

“This is entirely irrelevant,” Draco said, pink cheeks appearing as he placed the newspaper on his lap.

“As is the fact that you’ve been reading the section of the paper dedicated to the Chosen One’s recent exploits for the past half hour,” Narcissa said lightly. “And yet here I am, talking about it. It’s almost as if people are free to jump from topic to topic, as they please, without prompting.”

“There’s no section on Mr Potter in today’s newspaper,” Scorpius said, frowning. “It would be on the front page.”

Narcissa patted his cheek, ignoring Draco’s outraged splutterings. “He’s reading The Quibbler, dear. It’s just been charmed to look like The Daily Prophet.”

Draco’s exit was swift and dignified, but Narcissa could quite clearly hear him cursing her as he stomped his way down the hall to the kitchens.

“Wow,” Scorpius said, tilting his head to listen. “You really can hear everything that goes on out there from in here, can’t you?”

“Why do you think I always sit in this particular chair?” She patted the footstool in front of her, and Scorpius sat down, crossing his legs, his toes wiggling in time to some tune that only he could hear.

“Are you really taking tea with Al?” Scorpius asked. He sounded nervous.

“Indeed,” Narcissa confirmed. “We started with just Tuesday’s, at lunch, and now we’ve graduated to Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s, and the odd Friday.”

“I can’t picture it,” Scorpius said, with a little laugh. “He’s so quiet, and he doesn’t like people. What do you even talk about?”

“He can be quite the conversationalist when he wants to be, actually, as long as the conversation is about something other than him.” Narcissa smiled. “I’ve found him to be a very intelligent, kind-hearted boy, and I approve greatly. Not that it matters what I think.”

She placed a hand under Scorpius’s chin and tipped it up to meet her gaze. His eyes were the exact same shade as his father’s, but they were open and untouched by the horrors of war and abuse. Bright with curiosity and fierce with knowledge and warm in every sense of the word. The love inside them ran deep. Narcissa felt truly blessed to know him, to love him.

“It matters more than you think,” Scorpius said firmly. “Thank you, Grandma.”

She patted his cheek again, and then sat back to attend her knitting. “And Albus set me right about the two of you, just so you’re aware. I understand now that you’re not dating, but my dear boy, I do hope you don't take much longer. As your Aunt Pansy would say: get on with it. He may not be available forever, you know.”

There was a snap as the footstool collapsed, each of the four legs breaking in half. Scorpius sat in the mess, dazed, his magic still swirling around them, blowing the curtains about and faffing with the tassels on the throw cushions.

Narcissa sighed deeply. Her knitting needles clicked in consolation. Her draught excluder would have to wait, it seemed. She had a Grandson to knock some sense into.

*

Caroline Williams was a smartly-dressed old woman who handed Narcissa a metal flask as soon as she dropped gracefully into the seat at the table. The Bingo Hall was long and narrow, the far end crowded with tables, while the Caller and the stand full of prizes took up the front half of the room.

Narcissa accepted the flask and cast a subtle spell to check the contents. There was nothing harmful inside, merely alcohol, and she tipped her head in gratitude. This seemed like her sort of establishment, after all.

Albus sat beside her and passed her a set of books and markers. Narcissa was rarely overwhelmed, and she refused to allow Bingo to be an event that shook her. She took her books and markers with grace and brushed off her skirts, settling in.

Caroline Williams was not their only companion for the evening. Gathered around them was a man named Wilfred and a younger, petite girl named Shelly. She smiled shyly at Albus when he sat down, and Albus gave her a slightly pained look in return.

Narcissa took an instant dislike to Shelly, and she made that clear with an icy glare.

Albus was not quite chummy enough to elbow her, and she doubted he ever would be, but he did pointedly open her Bingo book, as though she might cease glowering if he just willed it hard enough. She did, if only to stop him from building a barrier between her and Shelly out of empty glasses and stacked books. She would not put it past him.

The game began quite suddenly.

Narcissa had never played Bingo before, but she found her competitive streak rising ever-so-slowly from where she had pushed it down over the years. She remembered hours of board games in dusty attics, hidden away with Andromeda and Sirius, before things turned dark and awful. She remembered trouncing them at chess and scrabble and even the paper word games they had made up on a whim.

This, although different, was just as fun.

She didn’t win, but Albus did. He returned to the table with a mortified look, clutching a hamper of biscuits, jams, tea and scones, and hissed at her when she clapped louder than everyone else at the table. She refrained from cheering, but it was a close thing. Perhaps next time.

She left in good spirits, barely wobbling despite the emptiness of the flask she had pressed back into Caroline Williams’ hands. Albus tucked her hand into his elbow regardless, the Hamper shrunk down and put in his pocket, and took them both back to the Manor.

Scorpius was waiting for them on the doorstep. His hair stuck up all over the place, rather unusually, and Narcissa noticed that his nails were bitten ragged.

“There you are,” he said irritably. “You’ve been gone for ages. It’s dark out!”

“It’s an evening game, Scorpius,” Albus said, rolling his eyes. “What did you expect?”

“I expect for you to have my Grandmother home at a reasonable time!” Scorpius yelled shrilly. He promptly slapped a hand over his mouth, and Albus stared at him, horrified. A few birds took flight from the neighbouring trees as the shout echoed over the grounds, and Narcissa would have shushed him, had she not been too busy holding in laughter.

She ushered them all inside, instead. The door clicked shut behind them, and Scorpius and Albus stood in the hallway, silent and still. Neither of them were looking at each other.

“I’ll be in the sitting room, should you need me,” Narcissa said, stepping smoothly out of their way. “Do try not to maim each other, verbally or otherwise, but you won’t be going anywhere until you’ve sorted this out between you.”

She made sure they understood by way of a stern look, and then stepped inside the sitting room. The door stayed open, just a crack, letting in a sliver of light. She turned to face the dark room, and her heart almost jumped out of her throat when Draco flicked the lamp on. He was seated in her armchair, feet propped up on her footstool, both hands laced under his chin.

“And what time do you call this?” Draco asked silkily. There was an expression of glee in his eyes that Narcissa would like to poke out, but she paused and pressed her finger to her lips when she heard hushed whispers filtering in through the door.

“Don't try and get out of this,” Draco said, with unholy cheer. “You’re never back late. And your cheeks are red, which means you’ve been drinking. Have you been out gallivanting with rich young men?”

“You’ve been waiting to do this for a long time, haven’t you?” Narcissa asked, deadpan. “Do be quiet, darling, I’m trying to eavesdrop.”

Draco snorted, and then both eyebrows flew up to his hairline.

“Really?” He stood when she nodded, fluttering his hands at her to get her to shift aside. “Do make room, mother. I’m sorely lacking in quality entertainment since Scorpius borrowed my latest novel and failed to return it.”

“That wasn’t Scorpius,” she whispered, listening intently. The voices were rising now, one surly and exasperated, the other petulant and hurt.

“What? Mother, that was a gay romance novel,” Draco hissed frantically. “I demand you stop reading. How far in are you?”

“It was erotica, Draco, and poorly-written, as well,” Narcissa snapped back. Draco emitted a noise like a toy mouse being trampled. “You must let me give you some recommendations. Now be quiet.”

Draco’s scathing response was cut off by a loud roar of a declaration.

“Because I love you!

Silence fell over the Manor. Draco stared at the door in shock. Narcissa pressed a hand over her chest, breathless. The occupants of the hallway appeared to be completely frozen.

“Was that Scorpius?” Draco whispered.

Narcissa nodded, her heart barely beating.

“I’ve never heard him sound like that before,” Draco said, and his voice was soft with amazement. Wonder.

They waited with bated breath, and then Albus’s voice rang out, soft and cautious and undeniably hopeful.

“You do?”

Draco’s hand seized upon Narcissa’s shoulder. “Is that Albus?”

Narcissa batted him away, nodding again. Presumably, Scorpius nodded too, because it was Albus who spoke again.

“Oh. Oh, thank Merlin. Me too. I love you too. Of course I do, you prat, now come here.”

There was the noise of pounding footsteps, and then a great shout of laughter, and then nothing. She hoped they were kissing. And then she felt a little odd for the thought, and rolled her eyes at her own idiocy.

“Do you think...?” Narcissa asked.

Draco paced across the room and flopped back into the chair. He looked quite exhausted, and wild-eyed.

“I think I won’t be allowed to enter my own hallway for the next half hour.”

*

“Well, isn’t this grand,” Draco drawled. He looked like he thought quite the opposite, but Narcissa didn’t particularly care. “All of us here, enjoying a spot of tea on the balcony. All of us. The whole family.”

His eyes bored into Albus’s, who inched closer to Narcissa. Scorpius looked a little offended that he’d chosen Narcissa to protect him over his own boyfriend, but she thought it made sense. She patted Albus’s hand reassuringly, and let him pour her tea.

“It is grand, isn’t it?” she said, deliberately misinterpreting her son’s sarcasm. He looked irritated, and then resigned. Narcissa helpfully provided him with a copy of The Quibbler, spelled to look like a regular newspaper, and opened it to page twelve. Draco promptly buried his face in his escape, which took the form of lopsided glasses and stubble.

“And a lovely day for it, too,” she continued, selecting a scone and slathering it in jam. It was nothing like Gregory’s, but it would do in a pinch.

Scorpius kicked his feet happily in his chair, tipping his head back to catch the sunlight. Albus watched him out of the corner of his eye, carefully redirecting his gaze when Scorpius turned to look at him. And then he seemed to remember that he was allowed to look now, and his eyes widened as he turned back towards Scorpius, whose smile softened.

They kept smiling at each other. Draco made a disgusted sound. Narcissa cancelled the disguise on The Quibbler, revealing the flashing colours in all their glory, and sighed happily. She had Bingo this evening, and she could feel it in her heart that she was going to win. The sun was shining, her Grandson was holding hands with a lovely boy under the table, and Pansy had given her a spell to make her get-shit-done shoes more comfortable.

Aptly named, she thought, because she did indeed, get shit done.