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A New Beginning

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Narcissa wakes with the certain feeling that something is terribly wrong.

This is very strange, because the last ten years of her life have been predominantly wonderful. She has survived much and thrived greatly, and there have been no signs of her fortune possibly changing – she would know, as she watches closely even now. For something to be wrong, it must be unpredictably extraordinary, which is dangerous.

Narcissa stares unseeingly at the ceiling, tense despite the golden, early morning warmth and comfort of the bedroom, and searches for the origin of the abnormality. She is the wardmaster of Malfoy Manor and knows every inch of her home from the hidden vault under the drawing room to the peacock pens outside the little kitchen. Every enchantment circles back to her in the end, and if there is someone or something out of place in her home, she will find it.

When the source of the wrongness is revealed to be coming from her son’s room, her heart panics through several beats. She calms herself quickly, but a chill has already settled in her chest and the wards, which have been skirting around the sudden abnormality, buzz unhappily in distress.

She extracts herself from Lucius, gently but firmly removing her husband’s arm from her waist, and slides out of the warm sheets, silently securing her wand as her slippers hop out from beneath the bed to meet her bare feet. Lucius mumbles nonsense and curls around her pillow as she flicks her wand at her dressing gown, which slides over her arms and wraps around her tightly as she is already striding quickly towards the door.

The bedroom door opens for her without a gesture and clicks quietly shut after she steps into the dawnlit hall. As soon as the door is closed and therefore its silencing enchantments in place, Narcissa is immediately confronted by the intimidating figure in black who has been waiting for her.

“Honestly, Narcissa! Couldn’t you have put on more clothing than that?” Miriam Abbott-Malfoy snaps from the landscape painting opposite the door, her voice dripping with distaste. Narcissa’s mother-in-law sniffs disapprovingly, her perfect painted nose raised high. “You hair is a mess. In my day, sharing a bedroom like a pair of village magicians was unheard of, you k-”

At the first word, Narcissa spins on her heel and hurries down the hall, leaving Miriam to scurry through various portraits and landscapes to keep up and rant. It is the favorite thing of the portrait of Lucius’ late mother to follow Narcissa through the manor and provide commentary, and Miriam is excellent at navigating through the paintings by now – scolding away while making sure to stomp on the foot of a sleeping Septimus Malfoy as she passes through.

“How is Draco?” Narcissa demands, interrupting the portrait’s familiar speech.

Ordinarily, a disrespectful interruption would see Miriam pouting for days, but if there one thing even an impression of a witch understands, it is a parent’s concern for their child. Narcissa learned at her mother’s knee to make allies of the voices of a house, and she has long-since earned the portrait’s loyalty. Harmless and useful things when loyal, portraits are, and all the paintings in Malfoy Manor know that family comes first.

“He woke in a terrible fright, without any sign that he’d been having a nightmare,” Miriam reports, lips pursed at the idea that her beloved grandson is anything less than perfectly happy.

But a nightmare wouldn’t set the wards abuzz, Narcissa thinks worriedly, hurrying on.

“He was perfectly quiet until just now – sleeping soundly! So excited about shopping today that he stayed up two whole hours past bedtime, you know, so he should really still be sleeping at this hour!” Miriam continues, pinching a sleeping Sextus Malfoy as she skirts through his frame. “I didn’t think he’d be awake until eight at least! He’s never awake this early normally.”

Narcissa nods, because Draco sleeps as heavily as his father. He really shouldn’t be up, even from excitement, especially if there were no signs of nightmares.

And Miriam would know about these things. The watchfulness and detailed reports are what make Miriam the perfect portrait to watch over Draco at night, peering in on him from a jungle landscape near the ceiling because Draco would protest at having a babysitter at his age.

The volume of the wards’ distress intensifies as Narcissa reaches Draco’s room, but the abnormality has faded to nothing and their distress has mostly calmed with all feelings of foreignness gone. The bright light of Draco’s magic rests within his room without any peculiarity to it.

Narcissa pauses in front of the door for a moment, suddenly uncertain. Now it seems as though the buzzing wards were spooked by nothing at all, even though that has never happened before. Perhaps it was just a burst of accidental magic, even though the abnormality felt nothing like Draco’s magic. Something was terribly wrong, she knows, but it does not feel so now. The return to normality is jarring.

Well? Go on!” Miriam hisses from where she’s elbowed Quintus Malfoy out of his frame.

But something was wrong, so Narcissa steps forward and the doorknob turns so that the door can swing open for her. It does so as quietly as possible and Narcissa slides silently into the room to find out what might have happened to send her son into a terrible fright.

Draco’s room is as it was yesterday when she put him to bed, toys tidied away by the house elf and curtains drawn so that the dawn light won’t wake him in the morning. But the green and silver sheets of his four-poster bed are in disarray and Draco is missing whilst his slippers still skitter until the bed. Draco is not hard to find, however, because as Narcissa’s eyes adjust to the darkness, she finds her son standing in front of the full-length mirror by his wardrobe.

His eyes meet hers in the mirror’s reflection, and Narcissa is stunned. Draco does indeed look like he’s had a terrible fright. He’s paler than usual, his eyes are wide, and he’s trembling slightly, the shaking especially noticeable in the hand he has resting just above the mirror’s surface.

“…M-mum,” Draco says quietly, voice breaking.

Narcissa rushes into the room, Draco spins around, and she snatches him up into an enormous hug as he throws himself almost desperately into her arms. Her wand falls to the floor and then she follows it as she sinks to her knees, enveloping Draco as much as she can. He’s a little too big to fit into her lap now, something he’s protested often this past year, but neither of them pay that any mind as she holds him tight and makes soothing sounds as he shakes.

She doesn’t know what’s wrong, but she knows without a doubt that something is terribly wrong. If his heartbreaking expression weren’t enough, Draco has spent the months since his eleventh birthday trying to be as “grownup” as he can – failing adorably, of course – and he has been trying to call her “Mother”. If she is “Mum” again, then he must be upset.

“Shh, shh, it’s alright, Mum’s here, it’s alright,” Narcissa murmurs again and again in the dark bedroom, focusing on her son and her home. “Shh, it’s alright.”

The wards are perfectly calm again, strong and unwavering, and she is their master. They are safe and everything is fine. Narcissa draws on this feeling and assurance of protection, and she wills it towards Draco so that he too can feel the sanctuary and safety of their home. They are safe here.

They stay there for a while, with Narcissa rocking back and forth and running a soothing hand down Draco’s back again and again. Draco’s shakes have turned to sobs – Narcissa can feel the wetness on her breast through her dressing gown – which slowly turn to hiccups and trembles. Eventually those too disappear and Draco just holds her tightly, curled up in her laps, letting out a few shuddering breaths.

Narcissa presses her lips to the top of his head. “What happened, darling?”

Draco stiffens slightly, then relaxes suspiciously fast. He shakes his head, draws back slightly, and mumbles without meeting her eyes, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Narcissa frowns but relents. At the moment, she assumes Draco had a nightmare and an outburst of accidental magic – perhaps there was a mistake in the wards that caused the abnormality. If it was a nightmare, she won’t press him to relive whatever put him into a terrible fright. Draco is easily embarrassed and sensitive about it, like his father, and only becomes more stubborn and belligerent if his resistance is pushed, also like his father.

She pulls him in again to press another kiss to the top of his head. “Would you like to come sleep with us for the rest of the morning?” she asks after drawing back. It is barely dawn and breakfast typically would not be for a couple more hours at least.

Draco’s brow furrows slightly, then he looks her over, and says, “Father won’t be dressed, will he?” Then he seems to realize what he said and implied, and goes wide-eyed, then stares determinedly at the floor and flushes pink.

Narcissa is also slightly wide-eyed. Yes, she’s only in her dressing gown, which is quite thin and usually worn over a nightdress of some kind, so it’s fairly obvious that she wasn’t sleeping in a nightdress, but Draco’s question is a leap of logic that she really hadn’t expected her eleven-year-old son to make. Dear Morgana, he really is growing up, isn’t he?

“Um, no, thank you,” Draco mumbles, now even pinker than before.

Narcissa can’t help but smile and leans in to press a third kiss to the top of his head. “That’s fine,” she tells him, kindly passing over the question to spare him from expiring of embarrassment. “Are you going to go back to sleep here, then?”

“I, um… probably.”

“Would you like me to keep you company?”

Draco shakes his head, meeting her eyes again. “I think… I need some time to myself,” he says.

Narcissa does not show how this statement frightens her, because Draco means it. Draco does not reject comfort from her, especially when it is just the two of them and Lucius is not watching. After being so heartbreakingly shaken as to break down into tears, Draco should be clinging to her instead of pushing her away. This is not like him at all.

But no matter how terribly worried she is now, Narcissa just smiles and leads him back to his bed to tuck him in. She does not frown as he goes through the motions slightly awkwardly, as though he isn’t used to this treatment despite how she does this every night. She simply kisses his brow and bids him good resting until a more reasonable hour, picks her wand off the carpet, and leaves the room with his stiff farewell still ringing in her ears.

Miriam is waiting for her in Quartus Malfoy’s frame in the hall, the man himself having fled to share his twin Quintus’ frame next door, both of them glaring at Miriam to no effect. The portrait of Narcissa’s late mother-in-late waits for the door to click shut behind Narcissa before speaking, and Narcissa has no doubts she was listening in.

“Something is off, you mark my words,” Miriam says immediately.

Narcissa agrees, but she doesn’t say so, because she just doesn’t think she can say anything aloud. “Keep watching him closely, please,” she asks Miriam, before directing her attention to the other two painted people awake and paying attention. “Please spread the word to the others in the house to keep a constant eye on him – subtly of course.”

Quartus and Quintus Malfoy nod and scurry off to inform the rest of the inhabitants of Malfoy Manor’s paintings. They’ve done this before, with certain guests of Lucius’, with the aid of the statues and the elf, and it worries Narcissa terribly that she has to use the house to spy on her own son.

Draco doesn’t tell her everything, of course – he’s an eleven year old boy and recently determined to become more independent – but this was strange. He acted differently, even his speech sounded slightly off now that she considers it, and he just sobbed into her dressing gown for at least a quarter-hour. The bright light of his magic in the wards remained the same, he looked the same, but he was definitely acting… abnormal.

“Thank you for keeping me informed, Miriam,” Narcissa says, slightly distantly. “I will be returning to my room now.” Lucius won’t be waking any time soon, but Narcissa finds herself needing the golden comfort of their shared bed in the early morning at the moment. “Do not hesitate to disturb me if there is another incident.”

Miriam nods, blessedly subdued for once, and slips away to return to her watching post in Draco’s room.

Narcissa takes a deep breath, focuses on the calmness and strength of the wards, and sets off back towards Lucius. It will be easy to slip back into bed, into the warmth of her husband’s arms, but she doubts that she will be able to slip so easily back to sleep as well.

Not with the certainty that something is terribly wrong.

 

Narcissa spends the next couple hours worrying next to Lucius, unable to return to sleep, more or less just waiting for it to reach an acceptable hour to rise. She’s almost dizzy with worry when it’s finally time to dress for the day, and moves through taming her hair and dressing for breakfast on memory more than consciousness. She thinks the same circle of thoughts at her vanity as she did in bed.

Perhaps they shouldn’t go to Diagon Alley today. Draco has been excited for more than a week to buy his school supplies, which is a Hogwarts experience that Narcissa would never deny him, but the day is hardly off to a good start. Draco might need another day to recover.

Today was supposed to be a perfect day, after all, and it’s practically ruined already.

Still, she smiles beautifully up at Lucius as her husband comes up behind her, leaning into his arms and humming as he presses a kiss to her neck. There’s no need to worry Lucius yet, especially as he’s been encouraging the idea of Draco being left to fend for himself more.

“Good morning,” Lucius murmurs.

“Good morning,” Narcissa replies, turning her head to meet him for a kiss.

For Morgana’s sake, Lucius wanted to send Draco to Durmstrang. Her husband is not and has never been the expert on the needs and behaviors of children. Draco is only a boy and as his mother, Narcissa will see to this… this… abnormality.

As Lucius moves away to dress, Narcissa applies her cosmetics and recounts the agenda for the day as though nothing at all is wrong. Making certain the details of their daily agenda is a morning ritual that has saved them several times from social and business mishaps, and it is important that Lucius know where to find her and Draco if something should come up.

After breakfast, Narcissa and Draco will tour the grounds together while Lucius takes several scheduled Floo Calls in his office, which will provide an opportunity for Narcissa to remind Draco of how he is expected to present himself. Then they will depart for Diagon Alley and visit Gringotts, where Lucius will impress upon Draco the Malfoys’ wealth and the associated responsibilities before gifting him with a small trust vault for personal spending at school.

Narcissa has then made lunch reservations for them at Corbett’s, which serves a higher clientele and many of Draco’s favorite foods. Potentilla Parkinson and Delphine Travers recommended it highly and this will be a good opportunity to see if the new restaurant is a suitable location for Lucius’ business meetings and further Malfoy patronage.

After their meal, they have the rest of the afternoon for shopping and any socialization depending on whom they encounter. Narcissa has left their schedule there fairly open, waiting to see where Draco’s whims fall and efficiently collecting the school supplies he ignores, although she may push him to get his school robes fitted first before he tries to run off to more exciting things like broomsticks and wands. Broomsticks especially, if his persistent wheedling these past weeks is anything to go by.

It really was supposed to be the perfect day, and Lucius won’t like it if they suddenly have to cancel because Draco is acting slightly strange. Hopefully Draco has recovered from the effects of whatever nightmare or accidental magic happened to him, the abnormality will have been a passing thing, and this day will be as perfect as Narcissa hoped it would be.

Lucius escorts her down to breakfast, telling her that he plans to invite Absolon Bertrand of the Wizengamot Administration Services to supper sometime late next week. Narcissa almost feels as though everything is normal and will be fine again, as she informs him that Friday or Sunday night would be a preferable date. They will be attending the Greengrasses’ annual Moonless Masquerade on the Saturday, which absolutely cannot be missed.

But then she catches sight of Miriam waving at her from Tertius Malfoy’s frame, of out Lucius’ line of sight. The portrait of Narcissa’s late mother-in-law shakes her head, lips pursed and expression tight, and Narcissa feels her heart skip a beat again while Lucius makes some dry comment about the Greengrasses’ neutrality and how it relates to their powerful position in the herbology and magical agriculture market.

Narcissa laughs at the quip, ignoring the chill in her chest, and makes one of her own about how the Greengrasses won’t be able to hold their neutrality much further if they want decent matches for their young heiresses.

The doors to the terrace swing open for them, and the dining table and open pavilion waiting there is exactly as Narcissa has demanded it be when dictating their needs to the elf. The table is comfortably small, as it is nice to be close when it is just the three of them, and covered in a delicious and artfully arranged assortment of Draco’s favorite foods, with less sweet breakfast plates waiting for Narcissa and Lucius.

The pavilion would keep them warm and dry regardless, but the morning is warm, the clouds are white, and the gentle breeze from their flower gardens is sweet. It would have been the perfect start to a perfect day, if not for whatever happened just past dawn.

Narcissa and Lucius take their seats at either end of the table, reaching for the periodicals waiting next to their plates. Narcissa opens her copy of the Daily Prophet and Lucius chooses the international Economic Augurist paper. Narcissa helps herself to grapes as she reads, keeping an eye on the door, while Lucius disappears entirely into staying informed of his European business assets, allies, and rivals.

It is not long before Draco makes his appearance. He is fully dressed, without a single fold of his robes or a hair out of place, and he’s wearing a newer set of robes that he has frequently claimed to hate. He steps almost cautiously through the doors. Draco is holding himself differently, Narcissa immediately notices out of the corner of her eye, restrained in a way that is nothing like the boy who slides down the bannister at every chance and should have hurdled down the staircase in his excitement for Diagon Alley today.

But what is most appalling is his expression as he lays eyes on Lucius, who has yet to notice that their son has joined them. Draco has that same heartbreaking expression that he had when he called her “Mum”, like he’s in pain, like he just had some terrible fright again. This is not the expression of an eleven year old boy who thinks the world of his father. Narcissa does not know what this expression is.

What is just as frightening is the way Draco swallows the expression, masking it in the same moment that it appears. Narcissa sees her child exchange heartbreaking agony for a mature calm that should be years beyond her eleven year old boy. The wrongness of it terrifies her. Draco should not know how to hide his emotions like that, nor should he have a need to.

Still, she pretends to look up as he steps farther out into the terrace and the doors close behind him. She smiles warmly at him, folding her paper and placing it aside, and greets him as usual. “Good morning, darling.”

Draco smiles back at her, and the chill in her chest grows sharper. “Good morning, Mother,” he says brightly, taking his place at the table between them. “Good morning, Father.”

Lucius folds his paper and places it aside, smiling fondly at their son. “Good morning, Draco.”

They tuck into their breakfast without further ado. Narcissa cannot help but notice how little appetite Draco displays for the assortment in front of him – how her boy takes some of the least sweet foods instead of the cakes and pastries that he normally begged and pleaded for.

“How did you sleep, darling?” Narcissa asks. A normal question, one she asks of him often enough, one of the few she can ask without Lucius getting suspicious and to be expected after the scene this morning.

“Well, thank you,” Draco answers easily, and to her annoyance doesn’t elaborate further.

To her confusion, he doesn’t seem at all embarrassed about the reminder of what happened earlier. It would be just like Draco to pretend that the whole affair never happened, but it is not like him to not even have a brush of pink on his cheeks over it.

“We’re going to Diagon Alley today, aren’t we, Mother?”

“Yes, after your father makes a few Floo Calls. I thought we could tour the grounds together in the meanwhile, visit some of the greenhouses and stables while the weather is nice. One of the Abraxan mares has a week-old foal. Doesn’t that sound lovely, darling?”

Draco nods, still only nibbling at his food. “It sounds great.”

Narcissa’s smile freezes on her face and even Lucius gives Draco a bewildered look. No matter how kindly Narcissa made the suggestion, she was expecting some resistance, some whining from her son about having to wait for his long-awaited trip to Diagon Alley. Easy acceptance and patience is... unlike Draco.

Things only get worse as Draco is fairly subdued during breakfast, still speaking brightly but not filling the breakfast table with his usual chatter. Narcissa has to do most of the talking and prompts Draco to speak more often than he volunteers something on his own. His speech is constantly... off... slightly.

Unlike every other day for the past week, Draco does not once mention broomsticks at all. This of course immediately alerts Lucius to something being strange about Draco, much to Narcissa’s internal despair, even though she thought she would be ecstatic if Draco even momentarily ceased with his Quidditch obsession. There are no pouting rants about the unfairness of first-years not being able to have racing brooms, or not-at-all casual comments about how he’s gotten rather big for his current broomstick, or wheedling about how other boys’ fathers help them sneak broomsticks into Hogwarts. If this is a new tactic for getting a broomstick, it is a surprising one.

Narcissa keeps smiling as her worries get worse and Lucius acts normally too, although he keeps sending her questioning and confused glances over Draco’s head. Narcissa is forced to gesture back that she doesn’t know what’s going on and asks more casual questions to try to parse this change in Draco, but his bright but brief responses give them no answers.

Nothing about Draco’s behavior gives Narcissa any reason to suggest they stay in today. Lucius would listen if she demanded they stay in for no reason at all, but then she would have to explain herself and she cannot predict what this changed Draco’s reaction would be. Ordinarily, he would throw a fit, but now? Narcissa is now worried that he’ll be able to put up a mask of some kind if he thinks she suspects something is wrong, and she’s never really been one for a direct assault anyway.

Narcissa dislikes the situation greatly and the chill in her chest grips her tighter, but she resolves to keep watching her son carefully. Should this situation continue and worsen, she will find her answers directly, but for now, she will wait.

Breakfast concludes as it normally would and Narcissa bids Draco to change into his boots so that they may visit the stables and greenhouses. Draco nods and excuses himself from the dining table, leaving in that same unfamiliar walk instead of his usual scamper. The elf, remaining unseen, vanishes the dishes off the table as he leaves. As soon as the terrace door clicks shut behind him, after the last pop of vanishing plate, Lucius turns on Narcissa with an expression that demands answers.

“I believe he had a nightmare early this morning,” Narcissa tells him. “I do not know what about.”

Lucius frowns but accepts this answer, for now at least. He reopens one of his periodicals and Narcissa silently slips away from the table to change her own shoes for a tour of the grounds.

 

Throughout the morning, Draco’s new maturity and quietness does not change. Every moment of this changed child worries Narcissa more and more.

Draco listens silently as Narcissa details what is expected of him as the Malfoy heir and the scion of two great pureblood houses, his expression very serious. Ordinarily Draco is proud of his lineage and nervous about living up to it, but he simply nods as they walk through the gardens and doesn’t speak.

Narcissa tells him about the plans for the gardens and what the gardeners have told her of the greenhouses’ progress, about the stables and how the breeding program for their winged horses is getting along. She is proud of Malfoy Manor and its grounds and her keeping of them, and usually delights in sharing the details of their home with her son. But the conversation is much more one-sided than it ought to be. Draco asks no questions and makes suggestions only when asked for them, and his suggestions are not nearly as childish as Narcissa would expect of him. They are simple and brief, but also insightful and sensible.

Narcissa feels like she has to drag words out of him, asking question after question to get him to speak not even half as much her beloved boy normally babbles. She asks him what he wants of his school supplies, what classes he’s looking forward to at Hogwarts, what houses he thinks various children his age will be in, and nearly every little thing she can think of, but Draco’s answers remain lacking and off despite his brightness and excitement, which Narcissa almost suspects to be a mask. She even deigns to mention Quidditch and Draco seems to perk up momentarily, but he does not at all go into his normal exuberant, usually endless chatter about the subject.

What kind of nightmare could have changed her son so much? He certainly looked as though he had a terrible fright, but what kind of fright could distance her darling from her like this? What kind of nightmare could take away his childishness like this? Narcissa is worried and frightened and confused, because the wards were not pierced last night, but Draco is not at all himself.

By the time they return to the house, Narcissa’s nerves are straining and the chill in her chest has settled in deep. She and Draco part to change for a public outing and even Miriam is respectfully quiet as Narcissa readies herself with trembling hands.

They meet Lucius is the great hall, next to the chimney so that they may to Floo to Diagon. Lucius goes first, Draco follows without any apparent nervousness at all, and Narcissa follows last.

Their visit to Gringotts is no different to their tour of the grounds. Draco has visited Gringotts before, but he doesn’t look awed or curious by the bank as he should and his nose doesn’t wrinkle at all at the sight of the goblin workers surrounding them. Draco doesn’t like goblins, but he doesn’t frown or stare at them or cling to Narcissa’s hand like he normally would. He ignores them mostly, which Narcissa and Lucius do themselves around the greedy beasts, and it is unlike him.

He listens seriously as Lucius lectures him on the importance of the Malfoys, the vastness of their riches, and details of their business dealings. He nods along and asks few questions, even though Draco has always been curious and proud about all the important things his father does, and Lucius frowns both at him and at Narcissa when Draco is not looking. Lucius enjoys it when Draco fawns over him and is interested in family financial affairs, so of course Lucius notices when Draco’s interest seems more passing and dutiful than excited and true.

At the very least, Draco acts excited when Lucius surprises him with the gift of a trust vault for personal spending. He thanks his father profusely and promises that he’ll be responsible, and that no, he won’t waste a ridiculous amount of money owl-ordering silly things. This seems to placate Lucius for the time being, but Narcissa isn’t convinced.

Draco doesn’t once ask how much money the vault contains, for one.

And the strangeness continues still as they exit the bank into Diagon Alley. Narcissa expected Draco to strain and whine about getting his school supplies now, to moan about having to eat at some boring restaurant instead before nearly gorging himself on his favorite foods, and to gape and stare hungrily at all the vibrant wares and colorful shops. But he does not.

Draco looks all around, yes, but not like he’s trying to see every newt and owl of it at once. He doesn’t seem very surprised or enchanted by it, although he dutifully looks interested as they make their way to the restaurant.

At Corbett’s, he doesn’t complain once. He sits down with the same reserved movement that he’s had since he walked only the terrace, holding himself oddly, moving with more natural grace than Narcissa’s eleven year old boy has ever managed before while trying. He lets the napkin tuck onto his lap without poking at it and flips open the children’s menu without once trying to peer at the adult ones.

Lucius is shooting Narcissa bewildered and concerned looks again, which she has no answers for. She doesn’t say a word as Lucius orders a bottle of wine with their lunch, and Lucius doesn’t send her a smug look as she too comforts herself with a glass.

Narcissa can usually predict what Draco will order easily, but she fails here. He orders a dish she wouldn’t have chosen for him and she has to urge him to finish all of it, reminding him that he didn’t eat much at breakfast. A parent is permitted to be watchful over how much their child eats, so Narcissa can safely urge him to eat more and wonder aloud what’s become of his appetite for certain things. Draco doesn’t really answer her, but she can ask, and he does eat.

By the time lunch is over, Narcissa is inwardly furious at her lack of progress and the wine is buzzing a bit in her head. Lucius appears to be in a displeased mood too, but he’s behaving himself. Narcissa can’t tell if he’s picked up his clues from her or genuinely doesn’t want to ruin this day for Draco.

When the shopping begins is when things begins to get interesting. Draco begins behaving more like himself, deciding on a whim that he wants to get his potions ingredients now or go look at telescopes. But in contrast, Draco also seems to have a clear schedule in mind and his browsing in shops appears more forced than genuine. Narcissa would say that he already knows what he wants when they walk in, because while he browses, he doesn’t dither over wares at all.

Watching over Draco is almost captivating enough to make Narcissa unaware of the rest of her surroundings, but the presence of mudbloods and half-bloods permeates Diagon Alley and Draco’s reaction to them is abnormal too.

She cannot help but take notice of and frown at the occasional Muggles and obvious plebeians gawking over every piece of magic like a trickster’s entertainment show; Lucius too grows increasingly displeased as they are forced to share space with bloodtraitors and squibspawn in magical establishments.

But Draco does not stare in disgust at the working class filth shrieking and shouting, and seems to go out of his way to ignore them instead. Rather pointedly, even though he has absolutely never seen or associated with these degenerates before and Narcissa would expect him to stare with a wrinkled nose like he should have at the wretched goblins.

What is further bewildering is when Draco himself suggests, quite apropos of nothing, that he go to Madam Malkin’s and be fitted for his school robes. He asks Lucius to fetch him his books in the meanwhile because he knows his father will choose the best books and handle the clerks best, which is true and stated with the easy and confident assurance of a boy who thinks the world of his father. Lucius agrees but shoots Narcissa a sharp look as Draco leads her towards the tailor’s shop.

Draco lets Narcissa take over once they enter, which is really child’s play as Malkin appropriately fawns over Malfoy patronage, but as soon as Narcissa has placed the order for Draco’s school wardrobe with the express stipulation that everything be of superior material and quality, Draco insists that she doesn’t have to watch over him like he’s a baby. He actually whines about it and calls her embarrassing, which is the most Draco-like behavior he’s exhibited all day really, and Narcissa must exasperatedly agree and placates that she will leave him to his fitting and go look at wands at Ollivander’s.

She imperiously orders him to behave, and he damningly nods instead of calling her embarrassing again, then she palms her wand and, when he’s not looking, shoots a silent Eavesdropper’s Charm on the footstool a shop attendant is preparing for him. Then she leaves the store and moves out of sight of the windows, loitering just outside Ollivander’s. Whatever is wrong with Draco, he is far too young to think that he can get the best of her.

At first, the happenings inside the shop are incredibly dull. The shop witches chatter to one another and Draco is silent, and Narcissa is left to wonder if there is something to be seeing instead of listened to.

But then she catches sight of the half-giant groundskeeper sending a small, black-haired boy into Madam Malkin’s and there is finally something to listen to:

“Hogwarts, dear?” the distant voice of Malkin asks seconds after the door shuts and the half-giant wanders off down Diagon Alley. “Got the lot here – another young man being fitted up just now, in fact.”

There are more shop sounds and the chatter of shop witches, but then Draco’s voice cuts through that useless nonsense.

“Hullo,” Draco says, and Narcissa almost doesn’t recognize it from the soft friendliness in her son’s voice. “Hogwarts too?”

“Yes,” a young, male voice quietly replies. The black-haired boy, certainly.

“My name is Draco Malfoy, I’m going to be a first-year too,” Draco says, and Narcissa has never heard her son so open before. “I’m looking forward to it. … What’s your name?”

“…Harry Potter.”

Narcissa gasps. Aloud, much to her shame. Just like the shop witches inside.

The Boy-Who-Lived? The child that brought about the downfall of the Dark Lord? He was smaller than Draco and looked like a mudblood beggar! Especially accompanied by Dumbledore’s pet fool!

“Nice to meet you, Harry,” Draco says, sounding rather pleased.

Had Draco known that the Boy-Who-Lived would be in Madam Malkin’s at this time? Great Morgana, how?

“You too,” the Potter boy answers quietly.

There’s a brief moment of silence before Draco says, “Is this your first time visiting Diagon Alley? It’s quite incredible, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it’s amazing,” the Potter boy agrees, voice brightening. He pauses for a moment, then adds more hesitantly, “I’ve been wishing I had about eight more eyes to see everything all at once.”

“…That’d look a bit strange, but I guess a ten-eyed boy wouldn’t be the strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” Draco says, voice droll but good-humored. “What’s your favorite part so far? I like Wormius’ Cabinet of Curiosities, for all the potion ingredients. They have some really rare stuff there.”

Narcissa is beginning to wonder if Draco has actually forgotten the existence of broomsticks entirely.

“I don’t know,” the Potter boy hedges. “I’ve only been to Gringotts Bank so far.”

Draco takes the admission in stride. “Did you like the cart ride?”

“Yeah, it was great! It goes down really far!”

The boy sounds so surprised, but of course his vaults are deep. The Potter wealth is well-known, with Sleekeazy’s Hair Potions regularly appearing in every other home, along with various other Potter potions and inventions. It will be years before the boy can inherit, but the royalties still flow.

“Nobody really knows how far down it really goes,” Draco says in a confiding voice, “or how wide it stretches either. The goblins won’t tell anyone anything – for safety reasons, they say. People can only guess about everything that’s down there.”

“I thought I saw a burst of fire at the end of a passage,” the Potter boy says in an equally conspiring voice, “but I didn’t get to see if it was a dragon or anything.” He then asks in a quiet voice, “Do they really have dragons guarding the high-security vaults?”

“Mmhm,” Draco answers. “I’ve never seen one, but my mother says that my aunt’s vault is guarded by a Ukrainian Ironbelly – that’s the largest and heaviest kind. They’re very dangerous.”

“I’d expect that most dragons are,” the Potter boy says, almost wryly.

Draco laughs, the short and surprised sort of laugh. “That’s true. So what classes are you looking forward to?”

“I… I don’t really know much about the classes. I met the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in the Leaky Cauldron. He seemed, um… nice.”

Defense Against the Dark Arts is a subject invented by bloodtraitors and mudbloods to feel better about themselves and disparage perfectly legitimate forms of magic that simply scare them. Draco hears this truth often at home and has mocked the subject himself, especially recently as Lucius learned through his position on the Board of Govenors that the subject was going to be taught by the previous Muggle Studies professor, a stuttering fool.

“Quirrell, right?” Draco asks, no mockery at all in his words, just knowing and friendliness. “I’ve heard of him. Not particularly brave, apparently. It’s hard to get good Defense teachers, though, with the jinx on the job.”

“Jinx?”

“No Defense teacher has managed to stay longer than a year for decades – they have accidents or emergencies or quit themselves to avoid something horrible happening – so rumor has it that there’s a curse. I think it’s fairly certain after so long, but no one’s done anything about it.”

“That’s terrible,” the Potter boy says, sounding horrified. “Why hasn’t someone done something?”

“I don’t know. If I were Albus Dumbledore, I would have hired a team of cursebreakers or cancelled the position and invented a new class. It’s rather dangerous to just let lie, isn’t it?”

“Even if there isn’t a curse, it probably couldn’t hurt,” the Potter boy agrees warily. “What’s Defense Against the Dark Arts about anyway? Professor Quirrell seemed... scared of his own subject.”

“Well, it’s not really defense against the Dark Arts, more just general defense against anything dangerous, like learning defensive spells or how to survive various creatures or avoid cursed objects,” Draco explains. “It’s a really useful subject with everything out there, so it’s pretty bad that they can’t get someone competent and regular to teach it.”

“Huh,” the Potter boy says, then hesitantly asks, “Is it… is it a very hard subject?”

“For some people, but everybody’s got their bad subjects,” Draco says and Narcissa can hardly believe what’s coming out of her son’s mouth. Malfoys, just like Blacks, are not allowed to have “bad subjects”, and Lucius has impressed high expectations onto an anxious-to-succeed Draco.

“But don’t worry about it,” Draco continues. “It starts off real easy – all subjects do. A lot of people enter Hogwarts knowing no magic at all, and the rest probably don’t know anything about at least one subject, so they start from the very beginning. If you pay attention and try hard, you’ll be great.”

“I guess,” the Potter boy says uncertainly.

“I bet you’ll be great at Defense,” Draco says with bewildering sureness. “And if you’re confused, you can just ask for help from the professor or an older student or prefect in your house. That’s what they’re there for.”

“House?”

“Oh. Hogwarts students are sorted into four houses at the Welcoming Feast, one for each of the four founders of the school: Slytherin, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff,” Draco explains. “All my family has been in Slytherin. I’ll probably go there too.”

“Does your house depend on your family?” the Potter boy asks.

“Oh, no,” Draco assures him. “Well, a little bit. Houses are generally trait-based – what sort of traits you have and value – and people are usually a bit like their families. People say Slytherin is for Dark witches and wizards, but it’s really about cunning and ambition.

“Gryffindor is for bravery and chivalry, Ravenclaw for wisdom and knowledge, and Hufflepuff for hard work and loyalty. But anyone from any house can have any trait, and there’s good and bad people in any house. It’s all a bit silly, really. Being from the same family doesn’t stop people from going to different houses, and being in different houses doesn’t stop people from being friends.”

Narcissa wonders if someone has replaced her son when she wasn’t looking, because she recognizes none of this. She does not recognize his behavior, the tone of his voice, or the words coming out of his mouth. If this boy speaking did not have Draco’s voice, she would never guess it to be him and it frightens her terribly.

After a brief silence where this information sinks in, Draco says, “Your parents were Lily and James Potter, weren’t they? I’ve heard your story and… I’m sorry for your loss.”

“…Thanks.”

“I’m sorry for mentioning it, but… they were both in Gryffindor, if you didn’t know. I don’t know anything else about them, but I do know that. Everybody says that they were very brave people.”

“…Thanks,” the Potter boy says again, much quieter than before.

Draco has certainly never heard that at home. Narcissa will acknowledge that they were both talented individuals, but they were both fools, and Lucius certainly has nothing good to say about the Potters. Their social circles say much of the same. Where has Draco heard people saying that?

“That’s you done, my dear,” Malkin says suddenly.

There’s a brief scuffling and a quiet thump, presumably as Draco hops off the footstool. There are no robes to collect, as Narcissa arranged to have the wardrobe delivered to Malfoy Manor because their order will take some time for quality, but Draco does not immediately leave.

“It’s been nice meeting you, Harry,” Draco says. “I’d like to stay friends at Hogwarts. Would you mind if we shared a compartment on the train to Hogwarts? Or… or if I owled you?”

“Oh, um, I’d like that too. Lots. But, um, I don’t have a… an owl?”

“That’s alright, I don’t know if I’d be allowed to reach you, since you’re quite famous and all. If you do get an owl, you can send me a letter at Malfoy Manor in Wiltshire. I’ll see you on September 1st regardless, of course, but I’d love to hear what you make of your schoolbooks and such.”

“O-okay. Um, it’s been really nice meeting you too, Draco.”

“I’ll see you at Hogwarts!”

“See you,” the Potter boy repeats, sounding stunned.

 

Narcissa is still frozen for a few seconds, but then she quickly cancels her Eavesdropper’s Charm and moves back towards Madam Malkin’s to make it look as though she is coming to fetch Draco. There is no time to slip into Ollivander’s and make it seem as though she has been there the entire time.

Draco seems to skip out of the shop, and his eyes light up as he lays eyes on Narcissa. He hurries towards her, practically beaming, and Narcissa completely forgets to interrogate her son as to where he heard such opinions and what he was doing. She forgets her worries and the returned presence of the half-giant oaf, who seems appropriately nervous at the appearance of a Malfoy, because Draco seems to be glowing and she’s been worrying that she’d never see such a genuine smile out of him again.

“Mother!” Draco says brightly. “I thought you were looking at wands!”

It takes Narcissa a beat, but she manages to smile down at him. It’s not as hard as it should have been after such a worrying morning, because Draco looks so very, very happy. She cannot remember a time when she saw him so happy.

“I came to fetch you. After all, I can’t pick a wand for you, darling,” Narcissa reminds him, voice becoming more fond and sure in the face of… this. “Your wand needs to pick you.”

Draco agrees easily and grabs her hand to tug her into Ollivander’s, still brimming with excitement. Narcissa, still slightly stunned, watches carefully as Draco seems to know a hawthorn wood and unicorn hair wand is meant for him the moment he lays eyes upon it. The match takes only three tries, a far shorter time than it took either Narcissa or Lucius, and Draco seems more utterly content than excited at finally getting his wand.

Ollivander gives Draco a strange look a few times, but Narcissa dismisses it at her forcing her perspective on a meaningless action. Ollivander gives everyone strange looks and ominous statements, as people often say is a wandmaker’s prerogative, strange people that they are.

Draco’s happiness and exuberance continues for the entire rest of the afternoon. They find Lucius outside the bookshop and he stares at Draco in bewilderment for a moment before masking it, then continues giving Draco and Narcissa bewildered looks when Draco is not looking as they finish the rest of Draco’s school supply shopping.

He even pulls Narcissa aside with another expression demanding answers at one point, when Draco is distracted by a handsome silver cauldron. Narcissa has no answers to give him, because she doesn’t know at all what to make of Draco’s uncharacteristic and unexpected friendship with the Boy-Who-Lived. So Lucius spends the rest of the afternoon frowning at the incredibly delighted Draco behind his back or shooting Narcissa increasingly confused looks.

Narcissa and Lucius are both exhausted by the time they are finished, but Draco is still flying high on boundless, happy energy. As soon as they return to Malfoy Manor, the elf takes their cloaks and Draco excuses himself to his room with his new school supplies. Lucius makes straight for the parlor brandy and Narcissa goes to lie down on the nearby sofa, where Lucius serves her a glass of brandy before collapsing into a chair with his own glass. 

They stay like that, for a good while, without either of them daring to broach the subject of Draco’s strangeness and apparent mood swings. Lucius loves Draco dearly but is not nearly as involved in caring for him as Narcissa is, and Narcissa feels as though her head is spinning from how the ground seems to have switched places with the sky.

“Draco was acting… differently today,” Lucius says finally, awkwardly.

“Yes, he was,” Narcissa agrees.

Should she mention the disturbance just past dawn? How does she even begin to dissect how Draco is acting abnormally? Whose words was Draco repeating in Madam Malkin’s? And how is she to at all understand the sudden and kindly friendship between Draco and a ragamuffin, incredibly ignorant Boy-Who-Lived?

“Perhaps... he is growing up…?” Lucius wonders, still awkwardly.

Narcissa was wondering that much earlier today and the idea frightened her. Now, she cannot at all believe that this is simply Draco growing up and she is more frightened than the chill in her chest can possibly contain. Growing up cannot change a child so much in a single night. It can’t. She would think him another person entirely if not for the familiar bright light of him in the wards.

“Perhaps,” Narcissa says, which startles Lucius some. He knows how much she dislikes the idea of Draco growing up and apart from them, and suspects why, although she doesn’t say it.

Like Dromeda did. Like Bella did.

Will Narcissa have to confront Draco about this? It is beginning to seem like she must. Waiting and watching is leaving her increasingly confused, and waiting and watching did her no favors when it came to her sisters. She does not want to lose her son because of an unwillingness to act, a desire not to press, a lesson at her mother’s knee to always stay silent and subtle and cautious.

It feels as though she is losing her son.

How did it come to this in less than a day?

Narcissa rises from the sofa and walks over to Lucius’ chair. He places his brandy on a side table, she sits down on his lap, and his arms immediately come around her, all without a word. He presses his lips to the top of her head and takes her brandy to place it on the side table too.

They stay that way for a good while.