10th of April, 2009
It was not going to be just another mundane day for Astoria Malfoy. She wasn't going to go through the motions of being the perfect trophy wife, the perfect mother, or the perfect pureblood for her family. Not anymore. She was the first to wake in the modest three-bedroom home she resided in with Draco and her son, Scorpius, and immediately set to work on the carefully planned out day.
She dressed in one of her best dresses made of blue silk because today was special; it was her birthday, and everything had to be perfect because she was going to finally be free of this life she loathed. Emerging through the door and stepping into the narrow hall, the two doors she faced were still closed and her lips quirked at the corners in knowing the other two were still asleep, it gave her time to quietly slip away outside for a moment without notice.
The witch walked along the gardens path as she lightly brushed her hands over her freshly-bloomed red dahlias she specially planted for this event. It may be a symbol of betrayal, but with its dark red petals tightly knit into its face, how could one not find beauty in it? It had taken her five years to formulate this plan and she set it in motion as soon as she was capable. It was crucial for it not fail now.
The fight the couple had the night before echoed across her mind, it was one they had on the regular for the last three months now, but she was sure they had come to an understanding that they were simply not working anymore. The seeds had been planted, and she hoped they had taken root after last night’s watering.
Ever since Astoria was told she was to marry the ex-Death Eater upon her graduation, she was instantly terrified for her future. The Malfoys had been stripped of their wealth, their very dignity , and it fell on her to mend their mistakes? Why did she have to damage herself for them ? What made her so special that required her to show the world that the Malfoys were reformed and good people that just needed a second –third?– chance? Was it because her family was neutral during the perils of war, or was it because they remained in good standing with everyone who mattered in the aftermath?
Marrying Draco Malfoy was the worst thing to ever happen to her, but she had heard it from both of their families that she would learn to love him, she would learn to take her role as a wife and be happy raising an heir. It was her duty to aid in placing the family in a positive light where it counted for their sake. But she was not happy, and her words fell on deaf ears as she watched her life be signed and sealed away on parchment. Toneless vows were exchanged, her modest dowry offered to the now humbled Malfoy heir was what was used to purchase the home they now lived in, since he had none to offer. She had made sure the deed was only in her name, it was she who paid for it, so why should he have his name on her property?
He had no job, and obtaining one was near impossible without leaving the country – who would want a Death Eater working for them? The lack of personal finances meant the newlyweds needed to find some form of income, so she managed to become a shareholder with her father’s help to supplement them, as well as an adept event planner.
Thankfully, as the job had a high demand for the reformed ministry, Astoria always found herself planning some form of party or important business meeting with out of country ministers. She did all this while continuing to fix Draco’s reputation with the world. She hated it all, and had to find a way out before her entire life was thrown away to the helpless man she never wanted to call husband.
Despite her opinions on them, Astoria made sure to get very close with her in-laws. She humored them, befriended them, and considered them to be the best second set of parents to ever have. She had them in her pocket. They adored her for being the doting wife that their son desperately needed and the daughter they never had. They counseled her during her hardships on conceiving during those long and daunting first few years of marriage, and it all fell into place from there once she managed to give the family an heir. It was unfortunate that that stage of the plan took so much time to get past.
She never really wanted to be a mother, but it was part of the contract that she had to fulfill in order to remain presentable to the public eye. Her image was all that mattered to her. The contract bound Astoria to this nightmare, and she worked tirelessly to seek out its secret loopholes. The only way she found that would free herself from it was if Draco became unfaithful to her. It worked in the reverse as well, but she couldn’t take the heat, or she’d forever be branded as a scandalous pariah. It would ruin her and her family, and that wouldn’t do. It had to be him. He took nine years away from her, and she was going to take it all back and more.
Astoria was the snake in the grass no one dared to want to cross paths with.
Coming through the side-entrance to the kitchen, Astoria grabbed a vase and filled it with some water to place the freshly picked red dahlia in. She flicked her wand to have it lazily float over to become the table’s centerpiece before she went to prepare a lovely breakfast for the three of them. By the time she was almost done, little Scorpius had wandered up to her, his eyes overly bright and curious for just waking up. He peered up at her and what she was doing. Scorpius was always so fascinated by magic.
“Mornin’, Mama,” he mumbled out.
“Good morning, sweetheart. Did you sleep well?” she inquired while swishing her wand at the cabinets, summoning the tableware to neatly set themselves while Scorpius watched with glee.
“Yeah. Twas’ good.” He wandered over to the table and climbed up onto the chair that had a booster on it to help him be properly level with the table.
Astoria followed with a fresh plate of her favourite breakfast: raspberry pancakes, complete with other toppings to compliment the flavor. She helped her son fix his plate before preparing her own.
“Where’s Fatar?” Scorpius glanced around the room as he asked, barely adding the sound of the r at the end of the word.
She had to refrain from letting out an annoyed huff at the question. Instead she gave a stiff smile before preparing to take a bite of food. “He’s not feeling well, honey. He’ll be down when he’s ready. Go ahead and eat, okay?”
He gave a nod before quickly tucking into the scrumptious meal. It was unusual to eat while one of them was missing, but today it didn’t matter anymore. This was her day.
“So what did you do yesterday, sweetie?” Astoria inquired. This was a regular question she asked Scorpius when Draco took him out.
It was a way to gather information, and a normal thing a parent would ask their child anyway. Even if the answers were coming from someone who could barely string a coherent sentence together half the time, she still liked to know what happened in her absence. Draco never told her much of anything.
“Just Dee-gon Alley,” Scorpius replied, kicking his feet in the empty space under the table while taking another bite.
“What did you do there?”
“We stop lots at red shop, ‘gain,” he said with a sigh.
“Again?” she probed, curious as to what he meant.
“Yeah. We do it lots.” He went quiet for a moment as he prodded at his food.
“So you go inside the red shop a lot?” Astoria pressed on. “What does it sell?”
“No, jus’ ouside,” Scorpius clarified. “Um… fun stuff. But Fatar never looks at tat. Jus’ te red people.”
This had her utterly confused, but what did she expect from an almost three-and-a-half year-old? “Red people?”
He gave a shrug, but then she saw that he remembered something and it perked up his visage. “It’s your birfday!”
Astoria gave him a light smile, surprised that he could remember something like that. Children were still so foreign to her, even if she had one of her own. “Yes, it is.”
He got up and went to give her a very tight hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Happy birfday, Mama. You so pretty today. I luf you.”
“Thank you, sweetheart. I love you, too.” She gave him a kiss on the top of his almost translucent blond hair before he went and resumed his seat.
“I got you present to make you not be sad no more!” he blurted suddenly.
Before she could address the comment, a smile graced his face as he continued. “I dunno where, toe.”
Before Scorpius replied, Draco finally emerged from upstairs to join them. He said nothing to the pair about starting breakfast without him. Instead, he just sat down rather abruptly and pressed his face into his hands. He looked utterly terrible, which meant the potion she spiked his drink with last night was working.
“Are you okay, Daddy?”
Draco muttered something incoherent while Astoria already went and retrieved a mug of freshly made coffee to offer him. He accepted it without a single word and all she could do was watch him intently as he sipped at it. Scorpius watched with concern, pushing his mostly finished plate toward his father.
“Here, food make you better,” Scorpius offered, wanting to help him stop feeling sick.
Astoria watched as what little color Draco had slowly return to him as he finally addressed his son. “Thank you, Scorp’. But I’ll be okay.”
He reached over to ruffle his sons hair before sliding the plate back to him. “Finish your breakfast, though. I’ll get my own.”
He glanced over at Astoria, who offered a concerned expression in return. But he didn’t seem interested in properly addressing her this morning, and she was entirely fine with that. What she didn’t expect was the overly observant child that watched his parents like a hawk during the most inconvenient of times, and had a tendency to voice his concerns whenever they arose.
“Mama you sad ‘cause Fatar’s is?”
Her gaze locked onto her son at the question, unsure as to what to say. How could he tell she was unhappy? She made sure her outward appearance was perfect at all times around him, never frowning, never crying, never speaking about anything that would hint at her being upset. What brought him to conclude that she was sad? She had to force herself not to glare at Draco; this was yet another something to tack onto his endless list of faults – exposing their weaknesses to their kid.
“Why do you think we are sad, sweetheart?”
“Cause he love you no more, so you fight,” Scorpius pointed out, looking to Draco then. “You like boys, huh Daddy?”
The air went deathly still in the room. What color Draco did have on his face was gone in an instant, and Astoria was completely struck with so many things at once that she had to mentally tell herself to not split her face open with a victorious smile. This was not part of the plan, but it certainly would work into it very well. Her gaze snaked over to Draco where they settled heavily on their prey, ready for the kill. His head rested in his arms for the longest time, his hand gripped tightly in his hair. She saw Scorpius fidget in his chair in the corner of her eye from the prolonged silence.
“Is tat not okay, Mama?” he asked hesitantly, looking between the two.
“S-Scorpius, son,” Draco stuttered out, barely turning his head to face him. “Could you go upstairs and get–” he let out a labored, pained breath. “–and go find your mother’s gift for her, please?”
Scorpius gave a slow nod, carefully climbing out of his chair before quickly retreating for the stairs. Astoria listened for the sound of him ascending them and waited for the door to creak to a close. Her eyes sharpened to daggers as she got to her feet.
“How dare you!” she spat, slamming her hands down on the table, causing the vase in front of Draco to jump and fall over.
The red dahlia looked up at the blond as he flinched at her reaction. “I have given you everything we have ever needed in order to be happy despite your transgressions, and now this! ”
Draco had no fight in him, he simply stared down that dark red flower and its strange petals while Astoria set loose the core of her plan with newfound knowledge. His lack of defending himself told her plenty; it meant that what Scorpius said was true.
“How could you do this to me? To us ?” She gestured to the stairs as she continued. “And to see that you’ve tainted our own son into thinking that this sickness of yours is okay?”
He stood up suddenly and glared at her.
“Sickness?” He scoffed, running a hand through his hair with a wince. “He doesn’t even know or understand what he’s talking about, and you’re going to accuse me over something he says?”
Astoria’s eyes narrowed even more, reaching for words to say, she let out a hollowed laugh. “Scorpius isn’t stupid, Draco. Clearly he knows something is wrong with you.”
Draco shook his head in disbelief, but she was not going to back down now. He was cornered, she held the power over him. The poison she gave him helped hinder his mindset, the headache inducer was a dangerous experiment to try for risking it to be traced back to her, but it was worth it as it was working quite effectively. Draco covered his eyes and rubbed at his forehead. She clenched her jaw and bit her lip, looking out to the garden where her red dahlias glimmered brightly in the sun.
“I knew we had our share of troubles after the several discussions we’ve had as of late. I thought we came to an agreement on what we were going to do from here. But this–” she swatted the air in front of him, unable to actually say the word that burned on her tongue. “– this makes everything become so crystal clear. I’m glad we found our common ground, our understanding of one another now, because this cannot be fixed!”
Her tone shrieked and he recoiled from it. Her lip twitched at the sight, but she kept her facade up. Another slam of her hand made the table jump, and he sunk back into his chair in utter defeat. “You absolutely disgust me, Draco Malfoy! We’re through !”
Astoria only glimpsed the miniature version of Draco at the base of the stairs before she turned and fled for the side door. She slammed it hard for good measure, and the cruel smile finally escaped her as she looked over her beautiful flowers, brushing a hand over each of them as she walked past with purpose. Her smile only grew as she felt her heart lift, released from this heavy weight she had carried for years.
Her plan worked brilliantly, and the rest of it was already on standby, waiting to be set loose like ravenous dogs. She’d be gone by morning, leaving the papers behind for him to sign that will officially release her of this tragedy. Word will leak of his infidelity, and the public would pounce on it faster than throwing money on the ground. The notice to vacate would be right behind it. She needed to get rid of this home, and she already had a buyer waiting quite impatiently for it.
Not that she needed it, but Astoria even had someone willing to step forward and confirm the story and suspicion if things started working against her. He will be marked as the unfaithful one, that was the story she had carefully spun in her web of lies for so long. Why would the loving and caring wife ever lie? Why would the husband ever want to cheat on someone like her?
Everyone would believe her by now, the fabricated stories told through the years were concrete. This new piece of news will make it all the better; no one in the pureblood society will want him as an employee, his pathetic job he scraped in –that she found him– would be lost because of it. What little reputation he salvaged among them will be stripped clean, and she will watch from afar with a smile on her face as his world properly burned. She supposed she could leave him his heir; she never wanted him, anyway. He was part of the reason why it took so long for her to be free from this life due to her trouble to conceive. It was just another thorn to be removed from her side.
She couldn't wait to be back in Greece with the freedom to start a fresh life and find true happiness. Finding the stone bench placed under the willow tree, Astoria sat down and closed her eyes, absorbing the warmth of spring and the fresh breeze around her. This must be what serenity felt like.
A small voice startled her from her thoughts. Astoria looked to the little boy that stood a couple meters away. He held a lavender colored gift bag in his hands, grey eyes glistened with unshed tears. She held out her hand to him and he hesitantly went to her and sat down.
“I got you present,” Scorpius muttered, offering the bag to her.
She accepted the small gift but didn’t open it right away. “Thank you, dear.”
Astoria wrapped an arm around him and gave him a weak half-hug, she wasn’t sure how much Scorpius had heard her say to Draco, but she didn’t anticipate having to explain what was going on to him at all. It was a small hope that she could get away with it and leave it to his father to figure it all out, but the child still sought her out even after witnessing what happened in the house. She had completely underestimated him, thinking that a child his age would be oblivious to most things going on around him, but she was wrong. He knew –to some extent– something was wrong between his parents despite her extreme measures to hide the rift she created between her and Draco.
Scorpius rested his head against her side, she felt his small frame shake from a quiet sob he released. “A-are you leafing, Mama?”
“Sweetheart, I want you to listen carefully okay?” She lifted his chin up so she could look at him properly.
Tears trickled from the corners of his eyes, but he didn’t look away and seemed prepared to listen.
“Mama and Father are having to work through a lot of things, grown up things, and it is going to be hard for us to do.” Astoria gave his baby fine hair a comforting stroke.
“You say you were tr-ough,” he whimpered out before she could continue. “I brok-ed you and Daddy.”
It was not intended to be a question she knew, he felt responsible for the couple falling apart and she was at a loss on how to smooth that over and ease this weight that he carried. It was the motherly thing to do to try and calm a child’s worries, wasn’t it?
He was holding back another heavy sob, she could tell by the rough tone to his voice.
“I no mean too. I sorry.” Scorpius continued, fresh hot tears gushing from his eyes. “I ca-an fix it! I can, ri-right?”
Astoria took the hem of her dress and tried to wipe the boys face while attempting to find something to say to him to calm his fears. He was quickly spiraling, but she needed to keep him from doing that otherwise she would have to dump the weeping mess on Draco. He was better at calming Scorpius down, but she really didn’t want to hear the harsh scolding from him right now.
“Scorpius, please try and calm down, okay? For Mama, please?”
He swallowed hard, tucking his lower lip under his teeth while squeezing his eyes shut in an attempt to stop the tears. A heavy, stuttering breath shook his little body while she held him, stroking his hair. She waited for him to calm himself.
“This is not your fault, alright? You did nothing wrong at all. Do not think that you ever broke anything between us,” she assured, kissing the top of his head while gently rocking him. “Sometimes grown ups say things they do not mean when they are upset. But you know what you can do? You can help plenty by just being yourself, okay? Can you keep doing that while Mama and Father fix what he broke? It will really help things get better, can you do that for me?”
Astoria already knew what was going to unfold next, but Scorpius didn’t need to know, Draco didn’t need to know – only she was entitled to know what was going to happen in her immediate future. She felt Scorpius give a jerky nod and she hugged him tightly.
“I promise everything will get better, it will just take a little bit of time, alright?”
He pulled away after a while, wiping his face on his sleeves while sniffing hard. He looked at her with puffy eyes, but the tears had finally stopped much to her relief. “Wi-will your present help you fe-eel bedder?”
She gave a weak smile, grabbing the bag and placing it back in her lap. “Of course it would. Will it help you?”
Scorpius nodded slowly, wiping at his face and eyes again to erase his suffering. She carefully grabbed the wrapped item from the bag and removed the paper to reveal a beautiful silver hairpin in the shape of a peacock feather. The metal was embossed with a lovely pattern, small green and blue gems were scattered across it. The largest gem centered near the rounded part of the feather was a large oval shaped lapis lazuli – her favourite stone.
“Der’s anoter,” he informed, sounding a bit apprehensive to tell her.
Giving a nod, Astoria pulled a second wrapped item from the bag and quickly revealed it to be a matching brooch. The peacock was silver with some designs embossed in it, and blue and green gems speckled across its feathers like the hairpin. It’s eye had a smaller lapis lazuli placed in it, along with the center of the feathers as well. The two items matched perfectly, just how she liked to do with these pieces of jewelry.
“They’re beautiful, sweetie.”
“Da–” Scorpius caught himself, worrying his lip some. “I pick tem for you.”
She offered a soft smile. “You chose very well. I love them. Thank you, dear.”
Giving her little boy another kiss on the top of his head, he turned to give her a proper hug. “I hope tey make it all budder.”
“They certainly will, honey.”
He pulled back and got to his feet, looking toward the house with concern. Astoria placed a light hand on his shoulder. “He is not mad at you, sweetheart. You don’t have to be afraid.”
“Let’s go get you cleaned up, sound good?” She placed the items back in the bag and got up, moving her hand to grab hers.
Scorpius nodded and the two walked back to the house, only pausing a moment for him to pick her a dahlia that she then tucked behind her ear. Astoria smiled broadly again when she looked back to the house, remembering that she was finally free from its prison once and for all.