He knew she would die before he married her. It wasn't a secret. Or rather, it was a publicly known secret; there to find, for anyone who cared to look. And when they met, it was the first thing out of her mouth.
"I'm going to die," she said, looking straight into his eyes in way of a greeting. She didn't smile, she didn't frown, she did not seem scared, it was just a statement. Like she was telling him there was spinach on his teeth. Not that there would ever be, but he imagines this is how she would tell someone there was spinach on their teeth or a leaf in their hair.
And so it was, she was going to die and there was nothing to be done about it.
He wanted to save her. Not in the long term sense, not in the steal her life from the clutches of death sense. No, that was futile. And if there was something Malfoys did not do, it was silly attempts at changing fate. What he wanted to do was much simpler and much more fickle all the same. He wanted to save her days, make her forget about the cloud of death hanging above her head.
They had a quaint little romance that mostly involved her living vibrantly and him watching. In retrospect, he supposed she lived like she was dying. At the time, he thought it was because he made her forget, but she never forgot. It dictated every moment of her dazzlingly lived life and made him all the more enamored with her. Enough to risk being disowned, enough to disappoint his father who was disappointed for obvious reasons and his mother, because she didn't want him to live a doomed romance. But Mother was wrong, he knew what he was getting into, he knew Astoria would die. He'd guarded his heart against it, and his lifestyle too. He moved them to a beautiful cottage by the sea, retired from all his ambitions, content to live just for her. It was an idyllic life that served multiple purposes, one of which was that the loss of her would not taint the Manor anymore than it already was, with traces of Voldemort lying around every corner.
Against his wishes, she gave him Scorpius. A bundle of pure joy. He thought he wanted to protect Astoria, that feeling paled in comparison to what he felt about Scorpius. He didn't think he would feel that way.
He wanted to spoil Astoria. She would die and he knew she would die. So before she died, he wanted to give her a good life. The Savior saved them all, but Draco Malfoy could save this one girl. And having children with her did not factor into that plan.
He didn't need children yet, he could always have them after. He didn't want to ask for anything, but her happiness. And he didn't think Scorpius would bring her that much bliss, not to mention it was commonly believed a child would shorten her lifespan.
But it didn't. He thought he would have at most a year or two of marriage, but with Scorpius, they had thirteen. It was thirteen wonderful years, even more precious because he lived every moment of it knowing it would end sooner rather than later.
As she got worse, in patches and waves, he moved them back to the Manor. There were Elves to aid in her care, more resources, and his parents wanted to see more of Scorpius anyway. It was useless to try to avoid traces of her presence after her death, she'd written them together through his own blood. Scorpius would be present in his life every moment of everyday before and after her death.
Scorpius seemed to be able to tell when her time drew near, better than him because he had lived each day thinking the time would come. So it all felt the same, impending death. But he was still lulled into thinking it wouldn't come.
Somewhere around the time Scorpius turned ten, the complacency set in. It was stupid. Rationally, logically, he knew it was stupid. She kept getting sick. But she also kept getting better. And every time it was worse, but every time it got better. Until he thought it was a pattern. It would keep getting worse, but she would keep getting better. He thought perhaps the end would be so far in the future it wouldn't matter anymore. That it didn't matter anymore. They could be a family, not a timer ticking down.
But Scorpius could tell, he would come home on the weekends near the end of his second year. Draco should've known. Scorpius did what his mother did when faced with his mother's impending death. He brought home a new member to the family. A little brother in a pre-emptive act to fill the gap. Draco was dead set against it, the boy was of name and unknown origin. And as much as Draco loved Scorpius, Scorpius was an absolute Slytherin, bending the rules however he saw fit. Draco was quite certain Scorpius thought himself above law. For all that Draco knew, Scorpius had kidnapped the boy and Obliviated him to fit him into their little family.
Sometimes Scorpius frightened him. The boy snuck into the closed up rooms, boarded by wood and warded by magic and then came back out of them fit as a lark flitting to and fro. Places that Voldemort had tainted with his noxious black aura did not faze the boy one bit, left over curses and hexes did the boy no harm. He entered the spaces no one else in the family dared to go and came back out like it was a visit to the gardens. If Draco didn't know better, if the very thought didn't revolt him for how it insulted their family so, for how awful it made him feel, how guilty, how disgusted with himself, he would've thought there was merit to the rumors the papers spread about Scorpius being the child of Voldemort. It would explain so well how the boy could throw up a ward stronger than Draco's as soon as Draco had taught him how to ward. How the child. Child. Was capable of wandless magic, how Scorpius never met a spell he couldn't master on the first try. How, after the first time Draco had used Legilimens on his son, every subsequent attempt failed.
Then there was Scorpius' obsession and idolization of a dead man. A dead man who mentored Draco and saved his life and whom Draco greatly respected, but still a dead man.
Scorpius was powerful and young and it was only his love that made him adhere to the rules Draco and Astoria set.
But Draco still loved him and was still his father so he still needed to try and teach Scorpius right from wrong. And possibly kidnapping a child for your own purposes was wrong.
Scorpius claimed the boy was an orphan who had lost his memories from the trauma of it, but it was awfully convenient that a magical orphan child with no memories appeared after Scorpius had mentioned he wanted a little brother. And then Scorpius named the boy after the dead man he was obsessed with.
But Astoria welcomed the boy and so their family of three became a family of four and four months later, Astoria died.
He didn't realize it would hurt. He thought he lived every moment of everyday knowing her death was coming. But he obviously didn't. Because it hurt so much. It felt like he would die. It hurt like he had no reason left to live even though he did. He had so many reasons to live. But it felt like he would die.
He told Scorpius he could stay home for a while if he wanted, but Scorpius just shook his head and took his brother with him to school.
And Draco was left alone in his grief. And he really thought he might die.
Then Neville Longbottom came with casserole.
The idiot who was no longer pudgy, or soft, came with his stupid casserole carried in his stupid strong and sturdy limbs, walked his idiotic no longer soft nor round body into Draco's house. Even though Draco had fully intended to slam the door in Longbottom's face. Longbottom's barbarically fit body stunned him long enough for Longbottom to enter his house. And he wouldn't leave until Draco would eat.
Then Longbottom kept coming, even though Draco kept trying to kick him out. He wouldn't leave until Draco had eaten.
He kept coming.
And he kept coming.
And he kept interrupting Draco's grief.
Draco just wanted to lie down in one spot and not move and not eat and not drink, he just wanted to lie down and keep lying down until the pain went away. But Longbottom would come with his stupid offerings of food and inflict Draco with his presence.
The house elves refused to listen to Draco's orders and kept letting Longbottom in, and kept directing him to where Draco laid.
Draco suffered it and suffered it and suffered it until he could suffer it no longer.
When Longbottom came with his stupid casserole, Draco beat at him with his fists, he lashed at him with his tongue, but Draco's strikes had no energy behind them, from the grief, from the malnutrition, from the despair. They collapsed to the ground together. Or rather, Draco's legs gave out and Longbottom tried to catch him. He screamed as loud as he could and struggled as much as he was able, but Longbottom only held him close and whispered sweet nothings in his ear until Draco sagged with against his chest.
Longbottom had lost Hannah too, ages ago, so long ago Draco didn't remember until now.
He was trying to drive Longbottom away, send him fleeing from the room in revulsion. He swears that's what he meant to do when he tilted his head up, pulled Longbottom's chin down and brings their lips together.
But instead of running, Longbottom kisses him back. Teases his mouth open by running his tongue along Draco's bottom lip. Longbottom's tongue slips in behind the gasp Draco lets out in surprise.
He'd never been with a man before. Granted, the only person he'd been with before was his wife. Pure-blood guidelines and all. He objectively knew men were attractive, but women were equally so and there was no need to add complications to his life so he only noticed attraction as a passing glance.
Longbottom--. Longbottom lights some kind of fire in him. A base impulse, pre-historic, barbaric. Draco lets Longbottom have him in the bed he shared with his dead wife. He lets Longbottom spend the night. He lets Longbottom feed and clothe and bath him.
It was a long and slow and arduous process. He never--. He hadn't quite healed. He didn't think he'd ever really be whole again, not really. It must be the price of loving someone. Even if you didn't plan to, even if you didn't know you did.
Neville becomes his strength. His friend. ...His lover. Neville helps him sleep at night.
Neville tells Draco about what his boys are up to while they're at school. Neville even has Draco visit him. They live out silly schoolboy romances.
He doesn't know what he would've done if he didn't have Neville. Neville was the only person who stood by him. His support when Potter refused to help Scorpius. His pillar while Scorpius was missing. While Scorpius was torn up by Potter tearing him and Al apart. Neville was there.
He knows he and Neville are together because of their tragedies. That they're using each other. It's not a secret that Neville is working out his grief through Draco. Or rather, it is a publicly known secret; there to find, for anyone who cares to look. And when they meet, it's in the things Neville doesn't say.
At least, he thinks he knows these things, but sometimes Neville will look at him like he loves him. The light in his eyes soft and sweet, and then he isn't sure he knows anything anymore.
He doesn't think he'll ever be the same whole again, but Neville adds to him. He's not the same, but he is whole.