Title: The Grief Mistress
Characters: Draco, Luna
Word Count: 2300
Summary: A mother's love never fails: Draco visits Narcissa's tomb and receives an unexpected visitation.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers, including, but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Dedicated to stasia.
The Hall of Monuments was quiet, which was not a surprise, as few people elected to visit their dead save on special occasions. Draco had no occasions at all any more, not since his trial had ended, but he did crave the silence that the glowing stone of the Hall afforded.
The dead did not stand on ceremony.
Draco stood, uninvited, before the memory plaque of his mother, running his fingers lightly over the engraved characters that formed her name and crying softly. He wished that Narcissa's shade would emerge from the ether to rebuke him for abandoning her. He wished that he had done something, anything, to save her.
But I ran away, and they killed you, and now . . . . "Now all I have is regret."
"Oh, that's terribly sad," a feminine, familiar voice said.
Turning abruptly, Draco saw a young witch standing under the lintel of the entrance to his family's tomb. She was carrying lilies and wearing a simple silver robe. Backlit as she was, she reminded him of one of the fanciful illustrations from his childhood story-book about elvish royalty.
Beautiful. "I haven't seen anything so beautiful since before, long before, they threw me in prison," he said, immediately regretting his words.
"No wonder you've been crying," the witch replied, not looking at Draco as she moved to Narcissa's memorial plaque and efficiently placed her bouquet in the iron ring set into it for such offerings.
Surprised by her behavior, Draco took the moment to compose himself. Who are you? he wondered, deciding that the young woman could hardly be a distant relative. If she were, no doubt the solicitors would have heard from her branch of the family when it looked as though the Ministry was going to steal and distribute our property.
"Good morning, Mrs. Malfoy. I'm sorry it took me so long to bring these, but I'm certain you know how busy I've been. You told me I would be."
More confused than annoyed by the novelty of being ignored in such a direct manner—these days, strangers usually had a great deal to say at him—Draco asked, "What . . . what are you doing?"
"Keeping a promise I made," the witch replied, arranging the flowers before turning to look at him.
Draco caught his breath as she did so. He knew her now. At least, he thought he did.
You were never this pretty in school, were you?
"Your mother liked lilies and asked me to bring some for her."
"When? You didn't even know my mother, did you—Miss Lovegood?"
Looking over her shoulder at Draco and smiling in an unexpected, but undeniably friendly way, Luna replied, "How nice of you to remember my name—and while you were in Azkaban and she was ill. Your aunt's wasting hex took its time killing her, and we—Mrs. Malfoy and I—had several long chats, you know."
Draco's stomach muscles clenched. Definitely not elvish royalty, then.
No well-bred being would have been so tactlessly straightforward. Of course, Draco was too polite to mention such a thing.
"No, no, I didn't know that."
"Well, I hope you won't be sad for much longer. She's at peace, now," Luna told him, as she began to leave.
Draco's cry echoed off the stones, which seemed to pulse as they absorbed the sound.
"I don't understand why you would . . . bother with Mother's wishes."
"Oh, it was no bother, Mr. Malfoy."
Luna's gaze turned quizzical.
"Call me Draco—please."
"Really?" Luna asked, her wide blue eyes widening impossibly widely. "How nice of you to offer me your name. We were never friends, were we?" Before Draco could think of a suitable reply, she continued, "You should call me Luna, then, shouldn't you?"
She's nervous, Draco thought, watching Luna smooth down the front of her robes with the flats of her hands. Why should she be? "Why are you here?"
"You were going to call me Luna, weren't you?"
"Oh. Yes. Yes, of course. Luna. . . . Why are you here, Luna?"
"I told you, Draco, I was keeping a promise. Your mother didn't want to be alone, and her request was easy enough to grant, even if it did take me some time because of the others. The lilies are to keep her company. . . . Are you all right?"
"What others? Why were you with Mother during her illness? Why are you being nice to me?" Draco asked, unable to temper his curiosity.
No one ever talked to him anymore.
"The others I helped ease beyond the Veil. I'm a Grief Mistress, now, although I don't suppose you knew that, did you? And why shouldn't I be nice to you?"
Because I'm Draco Malfoy? That seems to be reason enough for everyone else. "What's a Grief Mistress?"
"You have been gone a long time, haven't you? I don't suppose you got much news in Azkaban, and . . . and well, I think people have been unkind to you, haven't they?"
The way Luna spoke these words made tears spring to Draco's eyes. He turned away before she could see them.
"A Grief Mistress or Master," Luna said, quietly and now much closer, as if she had floated—or so it seemed to Draco, who had not heard the fall of her steps on the stones—to a position just behind him, "is someone who helps people who are about to die accept what's to come. Since the war, there are many people without families to do for them. . . . And no one should die alone."
Luna had wrapped her arms around Draco's waist before he even realized he was sobbing.
"No, no one should . . . alone. Oh, gods."
"She wasn't alone, Draco. I was with her. I sang to her, and she was very brave. She asked about you, you know," Luna soothed him. "It was a great comfort to your mother to know that you were safe."
"B—but I wasn't! I was in prison when—"
"Mrs. Malfoy didn't know that. I . . . I had a feeling things would go well at your trial, and I told her that you were free—free and coming to visit her. She was smiling, I promise you, she was smiling and happy and relieved when she died."
"Why . . . ?"
"I told you," Luna said, urging Draco to turn around so that she could embrace him properly, "I'm a Grief Mistress. Mrs. Malfoy's greatest concern was that you should be well." Reaching up to caress away Draco's tears, she asked, "Do you want to cry some more? It's all right, you know, if you do."
Draco had been brought up to know this lie for what it was. A Malfoy never cried, never displayed weakness or strong emotion, but looking into Luna Lovegood's eyes, he could not bring himself to care about such strictures. All he knew was that, for the first time in years, he felt at peace; the knowledge that his mother had not been alone to face her final moments gave him strength.
"Thank you, Luna, for caring for Mother."
"You're welcome," she replied, her expression sincere and open, as she gracefully slipping from Draco's arms. "It will be all right, you know. Everything. Eventually."
Beautiful, and an accomplished liar. How like Mother you are, Draco thought, thought not unkindly, as Luna smiled once more at him, and then politely left him to his grieving.
He wished he knew what to say to make her stay, but words, as had so many other things—and people, too—failed him.
"Which is fair, isn't it, when you consider how you failed everyone you ever loved?"
"Do try not to brood—it's most unbecoming."
Draco snapped his head around toward his mother's voice to stare at her ghost. Narcissa Malfoy stood before her memorial plaque admiring the flowers that Luna had brought. She was smiling.
She never smiles anymore.
"My, these are lovely, aren't they? What a good girl she is. I knew she'd bring them," Narcissa said, favoring Draco with a knowing look. "A child like that always keeps her promises. . . . Aren't you going to greet me?"
"Mother, I've . . . I've missed you."
"That's better. Now, what do you think of her?"
"You make an excellent ghost," Draco said, striving for control. "Had I seen you anywhere other than your tomb, I would hardly have known you were dead."
"Nonsense. I'm positively transparent—and I meant Miss Lovegood."
"Oh, very good. You've exchanged names. That is promising."
"What are you talking about? What does Luna have to do with—"
Narcissa's expression of maternal smugness stopped Draco's mouth.
"It took a great deal of maneuvering to secure Miss Lovegood as my Grief Mistress. She's in high demand. She's also a pure-blood, very pretty, untroubled by the opinions of others, and in great good health. She'll do quite nicely for you."
"You were match-making on your death bed?"
"Don't look so shocked. How else was I going to spend my time dying—by languishing? And are you not going to thank me for looking out for you? Haven't you always wanted an elvish princess of your own? Oh, your father thought the Parkinsons would better blend with our family than the Lovegoods, but I always had Luna in mind for you."
"I never told you? I don't suppose I did, at that. Lucius, again. He's dead, is he?"
"For some time, now."
"I see," Narcissa replied, pursing her lips in disapproval. "How like him to leave before his line was secured. Oh, forgive me. I shouldn't speak ill of the dead, should I?"
"You are dead, Mother."
"True, but I shouldn't be speaking ill of your father, not to you. Forgive me."
"Of . . . of course," Draco said, furrowing his brow as the thought that his parents had not loved each other occurred to him for the first time.
"How awful of me. I've made you worry."
"No, you haven't. Please don't feel as though you have to explain, Mother. It's none of my concern whether or not—"
"Well, of course it isn't. Still, you should know that I did love your father, very much, but love often complicates matters. You're old enough to understand that by now. In any case, you'll want to fall in love with Miss Lovegood. If you don't, your marriage won't last, not with a girl like that, and your situation is very different than mine was."
Draco did not feel any curiosity to know what his mother's pre-marital situation had been. The entire conversation was disturbing. But he did find himself needing to know one thing.
"Mother, just what kind of girl do you believe Luna to be?"
"A complicated one, so loving her would be best, I think."
Draco would have laughed if he could have remembered how to do so. "You can hardly expect me to—"
"You have a duty to your family, my son, and a duty to yourself. I want you to be happy. I know that Miss Lovegood will make you happy—and my Arithmantical calculations tell me that you and she will have many children. I expect you to begin wooing her at once. Be a good boy and promise me that you will. Oh, and have the stone-cutters down to fix my plaque at once. The 'Black' has been left out of my name. That won't do."
"No, of course it won't," Draco said, relieved that his mother had finally finished speaking.
His head was spinning.
"Have you been eating decently? You look a bit pale."
"I look pale."
"You do," Narcissa said, turning back to admire her lilies. "I can't tell if an enchantment's been cast to keep these fresh. Do you know if . . . ?"
"You'll never need worry about that, Mother."
"How sweet you are."
"I thought you favored orchids?"
"You were mistaken. Do bring me more lilies when next you come," Narcissa urged, as she began to fade, "and bring news of your courtship's progress, as well. I'll be waiting."
Of course you will be, Draco thought, standing very still with his eyes trained on the lilies until the last echo of his mother's voice died away. "Arithmantical calculations," indeed. Only my late, not quite departed mother would care about such things. "But she does care, doesn't she? And what else have I to do with my time?" Luna Lovegood might deign to spend at least an evening with me, despite my reputation.
With this in mind, Draco Apparated back to Malfoy Manor, making for the nursery library. There was a book he wanted to read. He found it easily, sitting neglected on the cushions of the window seat in the room in which he had passed his early childhood.
The Court and Traditions of Elvish Royalty: A Picture-Book for Young Children was a favored book for pure-blood children, being as it was a thinly veiled lesson in both the proper etiquette and politics of their class. While Draco no longer believed half of what was written in its pages, he found that he remained enraptured by the book's illustrations.
"Dear gods. The elvish princess does look like Luna, doesn't she? How bizarre that Mother should have remembered how much I liked this picture."
Closing the book, however, Draco decided that it was not so very odd, after all. Narcissa had read to him every night when he was a child, often from Court and Traditions, and she had always taken notice of the things which pleased him.
"I've let Mother down in so many other ways . . . . The least I can do is to try and secure my elvish princess," he whispered, finding that the idea was beginning to be quite a welcome one.
After contacting the stone-cutters as his mother had requested, Draco spent the rest of his evening contemplating just how he might go about courting a highly in demand Grief Mistress.