“And there he goes again,” Astoria murmured, watching in amusement as her son chased after the Malfoy peacocks. The air was full of the sound of his laughter and the poor birds’ squawks, which were accompanied by the rapid pat-pat-pat of their feet as they sprinted to the other end of the garden. It was a harmless game, but the poor peacocks were getting more exercise than they were used to and they didn’t seem to appreciate it.
“Doesn’t he get tired?” Draco wondered.
She snorted. “Scorpius? Never.”
They watched him in contented silence for a few minutes, lying next to each other on the sun-soaked grass. The first day of May had dawned unusually warm, so they’d decided to spend the whole morning in the manor’s garden, making the most of the weather and taking a much-needed break. It was nice, just lying there and enjoying each other’s company and keeping an eye on their son, who occasionally wandered over to say hello and give them a kiss or a hug.
After a while, however, her eyelids began to grow heavy. She’d had a rough few nights, so she found herself instinctively seeking out Draco. She snuggled closer to him and rested her head on his chest, sighing deeply.
“What are you doing?” he asked, amused.
“Taking a nap.”
“You could just summon a pillow, you know.”
“Being my husband means you have to fulfil pillow duties. It’s in our marriage contract somewhere.”
He huffed out a laugh. “I don’t remember reading that bit.”
“Well, now you know. And it’s too late to change your mind. Now shush, I’m sleeping.”
He laughed again, but said no more as she settled comfortably against his chest and closed her eyes. He started to stroke her hair, like he did every night because he knew she found it soothing. His gentle touch and the sound of chirping birds, rustling leaves and a strong, steady heartbeat soon had her drifting off.
She was in that halfway point between the dreaming and waking world when she felt something tickle the tip of her nose. Her fingers twitched reflexively, grasping Draco’s shirt, but she didn’t open her eyes. She felt that tickling sensation a second time, and then a third. With a disgruntled sound, she buried her face in Draco’s chest, but that just made the tickling move on to the tip of her ear.
“If you’re trying to be funny and interrupt my beauty sleep, husband,” she began warningly, her voice muffled, “just know that it won’t be worth—”
“I’m not doing anything, wife,” Draco said dryly. “I’m afraid we’ve been invaded.”
She opened her eyes, blinking against the sunlight, to find her son standing right next to her, a hand pressed against his mouth to smother his giggles. When he realised that Astoria was awake, he beamed at her, and he looked so unfairly adorable with his bright grey eyes and rosy cheeks that she had to try very, very hard not to melt.
“Hello, Mama,” Scorpius said sweetly.
“Scorpius,” she said, sitting up and struggling to sound just a little bit stern, “do you think it was nice to tickle your mother while she was sleeping?”
Scorpius’ brow furrowed slightly. He glanced at Draco, then back at her. “Dada said I could,” he said innocently.
Astoria narrowed her eyes at her husband, who was making no effort whatsoever to conceal his smugness. “Oh, did he?”
“As if you wouldn’t have done the same, Astoria,” Draco shot back immediately.
He was right, of course, but she couldn’t admit that, so she simply she stuck out her tongue at him and turned to face her son. Scorpius looked back at her, uncertain, his bottom lip sticking out slightly.
“I’m in trouble?” he asked quietly.
She shook her head, reaching up a hand to smooth down his windswept hair. “Of course not, darling.” She’d never been angry at him or had to scold him. He was curious and playful and a little bit exhausting sometimes, but he was better behaved than Astoria had been at his age.
“Dada’s in trouble?” Scorpius pressed.
She couldn’t see him, but she knew Draco was trying not to laugh. Her lips twitched. “Lots and lots of trouble. But we’ll talk about that later.” She booped Scorpius on the nose, and he giggled. “Let’s talk about what you’ve been up to. Did you manage to catch Gustave?”
Scorpius cast a rueful look at the peacocks, which had gathered some distance away, near the pond. His favourite, Gustave, stood out among the rest thanks to his snow white plumage, which he wore with pride. Unfortunately, Gustave didn’t seem to like Scorpius half as much as Scorpius liked him and absolutely refused to let him get close enough to stroke his feathers.
“No,” Scorpius said mournfully, looking down at the ground. It was then that Astoria noticed he was holding something. A feather, perhaps? Had he used it to tickle her?
“What’s that, darling?” she asked, gently tapping the back of his right hand with her finger.
Scorpius followed her line of sight and looked at his hand in surprise. He raised it to eye level, blinked a couple of times, and then let out a soft ‘oh!’, apparently remembering something. Astoria watched in confused amusement as he took a step back, squared his shoulders, and held out his hand to present her with the mysterious object.
It was a flower. A daisy, to be precise, with perfectly shaped white petals and a bright yellow centre. It was obvious where Scorpius had picked it up from, since the grass in that part of the garden was overflowing with them.
Astoria’s eyes flickered from the daisy to Scorpius. He stood with his back straight, watching her intently, looking much too formal for a boy his age. His posture was oddly familiar and, with a jolt, Astoria realised he was copying Draco. Scorpius had noticed what his father did whenever he gave Astoria a present, and now he was doing the same.
She glanced at her husband, and his stunned expression told her they were thinking the exact same thing.
“For you, Mama,” Scorpius said sunnily. “The prettiest flower. I looked and looked, and I found it.” He was clearly very proud of himself.
Something in her chest tightened, and she felt a rush of bubbling warmth. She took the daisy gently and admired it, brushing the petals with her fingertips. It really was pretty. How long had it taken Scorpius to find it? She knew her son didn’t do this sort of thing halfway. He liked to pick the best of everything: the smoothest pebble to skip across the pond’s surface, the greenest apple for the pie he wanted to help bake… and now, the most beautiful flower so he could gift it to his mother.
“It’s lovely, Scorpius,” she said, smiling at him. “Thank you.”
Scorpius’ face lit up. “You like it?”
“I love it,” she corrected, tucking the daisy behind her ear. She then pulled her son into a hug, which he happily returned, wrapping his arms around her tightly and letting out a contented hum. Merlin, he was getting tall—she was constantly surprised by it. It felt as if mere months, not years, had passed since the first time she’d held him in her arms. “And I love you,” she added, pressing a kiss to his cheek and leaning back.
Scorpius reached up a hand to lightly poke the daisy, beaming. He was constantly fascinated and delighted by the simplest things, even something as ordinary as a flower. He looked almost exactly like his father, but he took after his mother in that respect.
Astoria let her gaze wander, taking in the daisies and dandelions that had recently bloomed, and that gave her an idea.
“Scorpius,” she said, turning back to her son. “Can I give you a present?”
“Yes!” Scorpius said immediately. “Is it sweets? Is it a book?”
“It’s a surprise,” Astoria said, grinning. “And you’re going to have to sit very, very still. Can you do that?”
Scorpius nodded solemnly. In no time at all, he was sitting cross-legged on the grass next to his mother and frowning in concentration, determined to do as he’d promised and be as still as a statue. He watched curiously as she plucked a handful of daisies from the ground. So he wouldn’t get bored while he waited, Astoria started to sing some of his favourite songs, a mix of wizarding and Muggle music and melodies of their own invention, and he eagerly joined in. One by one, Astoria weaved the daisies through his hair, careful not to tug. It had been almost as curly as hers when Scorpius was younger, but it had straightened over the years. It still felt as soft as dandelion fluff, though.
Half an hour later, Scorpius was sporting a neat little flower crown. The light of the midday sun seemed to make his silver-blond hair glow, but it was nowhere near as bright as his smile.
“There we go,” Astoria said softly, brushing a lock of hair out of his eyes. “A lovely flower crown for my lovely son.” She turned to look at her husband, who appeared to have his nose buried in one of his alchemy books, though she knew he’d been glancing at them every now and then. “Draco, doesn’t our son look handsome?”
“Of course he looks handsome, he looks just like me,” Draco said dryly before looking up. His eyes flickered to Scorpius’ for a moment, and he gave him a small smile. “Flowers suit you, Scorpius.”
Scorpius’ smile was now more radiant than it had been on Christmas Day.
“They do, don’t they?” Astoria said casually, plucking up another daisy and twirling it with her fingers. “Flowers suit Malfoys in general, I think.”
Draco rolled his eyes, already aware of what she was hinting at, and went back to his book.
“It’s such a shame that Scorpius has short hair,” she continued, sighing heavily. “I could have made a crown braid if it were longer, just liked I used to do with Daphne, and it would have looked so nice…”
“A real shame,” Draco agreed, turning a page.
“Oh, if only there was a Malfoy with long hair that can be braided nearby…”
“If only.” He was deliberately not looking at her, as if that would somehow discourage her.
It wasn’t the first time she’d asked for this, or even the fifth. She’d been trying to convince Draco to let her play hairdresser for years, but the most revolutionary thing he’d let her do so far had been a slightly more elaborate version of his usual style. Every time he turned her down, she informed him that it was probably illegal to have hair like his and waste it on something as dull as a ponytail. Draco just rolled his eyes at her.
But she was going to have her way this time, even if it meant playing dirty.
“Scorpius,” she said sweetly, turning back to her son and tucking one of his daisies more securely into place. “Should we put flowers in Dada’s hair too? And give him a pretty braid?”
Scorpius stared at his father with wide eyes, as if the idea of Draco wearing anything but his ever-present ponytail had never even occurred to him. His lips formed a perfect ‘O’, and Astoria was able to pinpoint the exact moment in which confusion and surprise gave way to excitement.
“Yes!” he cried, clapping his hands together.
Draco was watching him too, trying to remain as impassive and dignified as always, but Scorpius’ joy was a powerful thing. Like ice under the sun, Draco melted. He could say no to Astoria, but she knew he would never, ever deny his son anything. With a resigned sigh, he closed his book, sat up, and levelled an accusing look at his wife. She grinned at him triumphantly.
And now Draco was the one who had to sit cross-legged on the grass while Astoria knelt behind him. She started by getting rid of the ponytail. Draco’s platinum hair cascaded down his back, straight and silky and almost glowing in the sunlight. She ran her fingers through it, like she always did when Draco let it down at night, and let herself enjoy the feel of it before she started to work. With careful precision, she parted it neatly in the middle, took three strands from his left side, and began to weave them together, starting at the nape of his neck and crossing one under the other in a familiar pattern.
“Is it really necessary to pull my hair like that?” Draco complained.
“Oh, don’t be such a baby.”
It was slow, methodical work, and they bickered throughout most of it, with Scorpius occasionally chiming in and making them all laugh. After finishing that first braid, she moved on to the second one, changing her position and kneeling in front of Draco this time. Her legs ached, but at least she could shoot smug little smiles at him now and giggle at the unimpressed looks she received in return. Draco could whine and act as grumpy as he pleased—he’d always liked making a fuss over the silliest things—but she could tell that deep down he was enjoying this, even if it was just a little bit. He even chatted with Scorpius in French for a while, teaching him new words and flower names, which Scorpius chirped back to him in a flawless, melodious accent.
Once the two braids were secured with a few bobby pins (she hadn’t brought any with her, so she’d transfigured a few blades of grass, much to Scorpius’ awed delight), the crown was finally done and the only thing left to do was decorate it. Scorpius insisted on helping, so he plucked daisies from the ground and, one by one, Astoria tucked them evenly into the braids.
When they finally finished and she could sit back to admire her handiwork, she was momentarily breathless. She’d known this look would suit Draco because her husband could pull off just about anything, but she hadn’t expected… this. With his pale skin, high cheekbones and stormy grey eyes, combined with the soft glow of his silver-blond crown braid and those flowers, he looked like a fairy prince straight out of the Muggle storybooks they read to Scorpius at night. Regal, ethereal, enchantingly beautiful.
There was only one thing still missing…
“You could smile, you know,” she chided.
“Are you ever satisfied, Astoria?” he countered, determined to cling to his disgruntled façade until the end.
“Just one smile,” she pleaded. “A small smile. A tiny one.”
Scorpius had been busy watching a ladybug crawl up a daisy’s stem, but he perked up at that. “I don’t know that word,” he announced. “In... incrigi…”
“Incorrigible,” Draco enunciated clearly. He raised his eyebrows at Astoria, as if daring her to intervene. “It’s the word we use when your mother’s being silly.”
Scorpius mouthed the word to himself, frowning in concentration. “Incrigible,” he said after a few attempts.
“Right, I think that’s enough new vocabulary for today,” Astoria said, rolling her eyes when she noticed Draco’s smirk. She stood up, brushing the grass off her robes, and held out a hand to Scorpius. “Let’s go back inside, darling. I want to take pictures of you two. Lots and lots of pictures.” Shooting Draco a smirk of her own, she set off towards the manor, chatting animatedly with her son.
Once they were inside, Scorpius and her set out to look for her camera, which she frequently misplaced and was found in Draco’s study. Then they had to decide where to take the photos and eventually settled on the library, which was the brightest room. Leaving Scorpius on his own for a few minutes, Astoria went to fetch Draco, who had lingered on the landing between this floor and the one below. He was gazing at himself in a floor-length mirror, looking interested.
Astoria bounded down the stairs and wrapped her arms around his waist, resting her chin on his shoulder. “What’s the verdict?”
His eyes flickered to hers in their reflection, then back to the crown braid. “Acceptable,” he said after a few seconds.
“Acceptable?” she huffed. “Are you using the O.W.L. grading scale? Because it’s an E at least—”
“You sound confident.”
“I’ve literally exceeded your expectations, Draco. Go on, admit it.”
For a second she thought he’d keep being a stubborn idiot; to her surprise, however, his features softened. “You have,” he finally conceded. “It looks nice. Absolutely ridiculous, of course,” he added, “but… nice.” He reached up a hand to touch the crown braid, but she took hold of it and threaded their fingers together.
“You’re not allowed to mess up my masterpiece yet,” she said playfully. “I need to immortalise it first.”
“I expect you’ll use the photos as blackmail material?”
“I’ll think about it,” she teased, kissing him on the cheek. “It does look nice, though. Flowers suit you too.”
“Is this your way of asking if I’ll let you do it again?” he said dryly.
Draco’s lips twitched. He took one last look at the crown braid and the daisies before untangling himself from Astoria’s embrace and turning to look at her. His eyes bright with amusement, he raised an eyebrow at her and said, in a perfect imitation of his wife’s cheekiness, “I’ll think about it.”
Astoria gaped at him for a second before she burst out laughing, and she didn’t stop for a while. She was still slightly breathless and when they walked into the library, where they found Scorpius sprawled on the carpet reading a storybook. Astoria watched as Draco scooped him up from the floor and murmured something that made him gasp in delight. They looked identical with their platinum hair and daisy crowns.
Her boys and their flowers, she thought fondly. Her family.
Feeling as light as air and smiling softly to herself, she went to find her camera.