Rating: NC-17 (but just)
Warning (highlight to view): For implied animal death.
Word Count: 10,500
Summary: Draco finds his way home.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling, and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made from and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by the posting of this fic.
Author's Note: Thank you, arynwy and lalaith_niniel, for beta'ing. celandineb prompted me with Draco/Charlie: porlock and debarrass. Draco requires help acquiring this magical creature, but doesn't like to ask.
Draco looked at the gorgeous redhead sitting next to him at the tap and chided himself for thinking about him in that manner. Shifting away from him a bit, he asked, "What was I saying?"
"You were about to tell me what your first horse was called."
I was? A sense memory flooded Draco, then, that of a warm, wet snout rubbing against his chin, and he stuttered, "M—Mina," before stubbornly setting his jaw so as not to cry.
"'Mina', that's Czech for 'child of the earth', isn't it?"
Draco made a noncommittal noise and looked away.
His companion persisted. "And rather an odd name for a flying horse."
"Another," Draco said to the barman, thumping the tap in front of him.
He was annoyed with himself to be talking about his Mina to some stranger, but then, Draco was annoyed with himself for a lot of things, and he wasn't even sure where he was. He only knew that he'd spent the past few days Apparating across the continent in search of one more drink. One more drink was all he needed, he was certain, to make him forget his failure, only there didn't seem to be enough liquor in the world to ease his thwarted hopes—which had something to do with his family; that, he could remember.
He hazarded another glance at the redhead, whose face blurred before him. "If there'd been a porlock there, it wouldn't have happened," he murmured, as another Firewhisky materialised before him. "Never should have happened."
The redhead had the temerity to take Draco's drink and sip from it. "What did happen?"
Draco took an unseemly gulp of air, which brought with it from memory the unmistakable scents of the stables. He could hear the frantic neighing, as well, and it was almost as if he were awakening again, nine-years-old and frightened, in the tack room. He looked down at his hands.
"Wasn't supposed to be there, but I sneaked out of bed. Wanted to see Aria's foaling. The Aethonons hadn't been thriving, and Dad had said... he'd said he might send them all away, even Aria, but Aria was mine!"
Draco thumped the tap to emphasise the point, momentarily forgetting his main one. The redhead's hand was suddenly wrapping around his fist, massaging it open with a rough, strong thumb. That calmed Draco somewhat, and he continued.
"When I got to her stall, I saw the filly. She was trying to stand, but the, the afterbirth, she was caught up in it, her hind legs all tangled in the, the slime of it."
"You could tell the filly's sex before she was free of the afterbirth?"
"Er," Draco said, fighting to think through the alcoholic haze of his mind, "no, not until... after."
"After what, Draco?"
How does he know my name? Draco wondered, but stopped worrying about that as he remembered his tale. "My Aria was dis—distressed, and she was, she was trampling the foal, trampling M—ina."
"That's not normal behaviour for a dam," the redhead said, his voice gentle even though the grasp of his hand remained strong around Draco's.
Draco tried to use the warm pressure as an anchor; it had become so very difficult to think. "N—no, no, but she, but Mina," Draco said, his voice dropping to a whisper, "Mina hadn't any wings... and I tried to save her. I did! Even though the stable hand tried to stop me. I got to her, I picked her up and tried to run, and she, Mina, she nuzzled against me, she thought I could save her, but... but..."
"Oh, Draco, I'm so sorry."
Suddenly angry, Draco snatched his hand back. "Who are you to feel sorry for me?" he demanded, rising from the stool and stumbling back.
No one was supposed to feel sorry for him. He was a Malfoy. Being a Malfoy was supposed to make everything right. But it hadn't, had it? It had only made everything that much worse.
Draco would have fallen flat on his arse from the sheer emotional force of his inner turmoil but for his companion, who had clasped his shoulder and was speaking—only the rushing in Draco's ears prevented him from hearing anything as everything fell into darkness.
It was dawn, a few months after Draco's epic pub crawl which had ended somewhere in the Carpathians and cost several hundred Galleons to hush up. Draco remained mortified to have put Astoria to so much trouble, and doubly so to know that it had been his drinking partner who'd apparently contacted Astoria with his location. In the wake of Draco's binge, however, the stranger hadn't attempted to extort money from them in exchange for keeping quiet about Draco's behaviour. The only things that had happened, once Draco had sobered up and begun thinking rationally again, were that he'd finally consented to sign the decree of divorcement, and Astoria had taken Scorpius away to stay with her parents.
"You need some time..." she'd told him.
Time for what, Draco hadn't quite known, but he'd done his best to sort himself out. In the meantime, he'd fire-called Scorpius every night, and eventually, presented himself at the Greengrasses' door to see his son.
That hadn't gone as planned, but it had found Draco feeling rather nostalgic, which was partially why he'd journeyed into Dorset.
He stood on a rocky, grass-blown slope above the Durdle Door, a limestone arch on the Jurassic Coast, and watched the Aethonon foals at play. They were too young to do much with their wings besides flutter them, but that didn't stop the young horses from trying to take flight by racing down the hill and leaping into the air. Draco watched avidly as three foals attempted the manoeuvre at once, marvelling to see the unexpectedly high number of healthy-looking horses.
It's because of the porlocks.
Draco had never seen one, but he knew that porlocks were said to be short, shy, and sweet-natured; they loved horses of any breed and fed on the nourishing grass the same as horses did. Since long before Dorsetshire had become known as Dorset, it had been thus. Porlocks had tread the slopes on cloven-hooves and tended the Aethonons, moving into the stables of men when they had begun domesticating the magnificent animals. Porlocks didn't like people, but their task in life was to care for horses, and that they did. Draco understood, however, that although the Welds—the magical family on whose land he stood—had bred Aethonons for generations and owed much of their great success to the creatures, the Welds had never domesticated even one porlock; porlocks were fundamentally wild and had a general abhorrence of people and a particular abhorrence of anything touched by Dark magic. Because of that, and even though porlocks ranged the entirety of Southern England and all of Ireland, there were no porlocks in Wiltshire—at least, there were no longer any porlocks on his family's estate.
Even he had left it, unable to stand his father's recriminatory expressions or, when she could bring herself to look at him, his mother's pitying eyes.
And so Draco had come to Dorset. He missed his family—Astoria and Scorpius—and he missed the Aethonons, too. As a child, before things had changed, his father had taught him to love Aethonons. It had been a great shock, then, the morning Draco had awoken to discover his Aria gone. She'd been his only winged horse, and he'd never even got the chance to ride her because Aria's first foaling had not gone well. He'd recently been thinking about the incident a great deal. He didn't know why.
It was Lucius' fault, he thought, trying not to dwell on his father's betrayal.
That betrayal had, after all, become his: he'd taken the Mark, too.
If Scorpius is ever to have an Aethonon of his own, I must find a way of persuading the porlocks to accept me.
Scorpius hadn't been pleased by his birthday gift of the charmed winged horse. "Da, for real one?" the three-year-old had asked, before utterly ignoring the toy and Draco.
I've failed Astoria in the only way that matters. I've failed Scorpius in more ways than I can count.
Above the Durdle Door and in, perhaps, the presence of porlocks, Draco silently pledged not to disappoint Scorpius in his choice of pet.
"We could keep them. Mum and Dad wouldn't mind. Of course, we'd need your help in setting up a stable."
"Thank you, Astoria, but that won't do. You know you don't like horses, and I, that is, we, don't want Scorpius to learn your fear of them."
"Oh, no. That wouldn't do at all," Astoria snapped.
Draco winced. "I didn't mean to imply that—"
"Draco, go speak to your son. The party's almost over," Astoria told him, leaving him alone in the Greengrasses' back garden.
Sighing, Draco made his way to the learning paddock that Astoria had set up for the children. One birthday party wasn't enough, it seemed, for their son. The private, family affair had been one thing, but the Greengrasses appeared determined to introduce Scorpius to all the other great families in the neighbourhood.
They want to claim him for themselves, Draco thought bitterly, but the emotion passed quickly.
His former in-laws had always been very good to Scorpius, and more than tolerant of Draco, considering how poorly he'd behaved to their youngest daughter.
The squeals of children brought him out of his reverie as he saw what they were exclaiming over: a baby dragon. Astoria had told him that there would be some entertainment, but he'd never imagined anything so dangerous. None of the other parents, however, appeared to mind the creature. Nevertheless, Draco was by Scorpius' side in an instant, freeing his hand from the nanny whom Astoria's mother had seen fit to employ.
"Thank you, I've got him."
"Sir," the nanny said, standing aside.
"Da! Dra'on! Dra'on, Da!"
"I see that, a fine—"
Draco stopped speaking as his eyes met the dragon handler's. He knew those eyes. He knew that redhead.
Weasley grinned and extended a hand. His other arm was busy supporting a baby Norwegian Ridgeback. Draco tried to remember what young dragons were properly called and couldn't as he numbly shook Weasley's hand.
It was you. I was drinking with you.
If Weasley remembered the night in question, nothing in his attitude or expression indicated as much.
It was you who collected the divorce papers from the tap and left them sealed with the hotel clerk.
Yes, of course he had. Weasley was, well, a Weasley, which implied a sort of selfless decency with which Draco was only passingly familiar.
"Malfoy," Weasley greeted him. "I was just about to allow your clever son to pet Angus, here. Would that be all right with you?"
"But the flame—"
"Actually, our Angus can't make flame. He's got a defect in his throat." Weasley's eyes seemed to soften. "Poor mite's got to live with people because," Weasley continued, pausing to sweep his gaze over the congregating children, "when baby dragons are born different, it's in the nature of their mothers to...?"
"Give them up for 'doption!" several of the children exclaimed, looking for all the world as if this were a normal, happy part of being a broken baby dragon.
Draco's eyes began to burn. He looked down at his son so that Weasley wouldn't see his reaction. He knows. I told him about Mina, and...
Scorpius' hand slipped from his as he moved carefully and quietly forward to pet one of Angus' outstretched wings, only to giggle as Angus belched loudly.
"Yes, that's right. Dragon's breath is stinky," Weasley agreed. "Now then, who else wants to pet Angus? Will you help bring them up here, Scorp?"
Draco looked up and would have corrected Weasley's use of the pet name had it not been for the sheer pride and joy shining from Scorpius' face. Utterly forgotten by his son, he nodded to the nanny and walked back to the buffet.
Weasley approached him not long afterwards and, rather than compounding Draco's mortification by politely pretending that he hadn't seen him while a drunken mess and trying to avoid his inevitable divorce, said quietly, "It's good to see you sober."
"You're very good with children, Weasley."
"Have to be. It's in my blood. And it's Charlie."
"Yes," Charlie said, his gaze dropping down the length of Draco's body and then back up to his eyes.
For one awful moment, Draco thought that Charlie might say something indiscreet, but his fears were immediately put to rest.
"I was happy to be invited here. Your in-laws are keen supporters of the Preserve, and it's never too early to begin teaching kids about the creatures in our care."
"No, no, it isn't."
"I believe that your son is particularly interested in animals. He couldn't stop talking about the voles here."
"Voles—burrowing creatures? Apparently there are a great many on the grounds."
"Ah. Yes." Could you be more useless? Draco chided himself, doing his best to ignore Charlie's thigh-high dragonhide boots, or anything else that fell below his belt.
"It's horses he kept on about the most, but I expect you're more familiar with his love of Aethonons than anyone."
Draco looked up sharply, sure that he was being mocked, but Charlie's expression was cheerful and kind.
"I don't know if you're aware of it, but there's a porlock analogue in Romania. I can't actually pronounce its Romanian name—my tongue gets a little tied when speaking the language even now—but the term translates to 'dragon nurse'. In the caves beyond the Preserve, dragon nurses have been responsible for saving some species of dragon from extinction."
"That's... that's interesting. I've never heard of them."
"Not many people have, but then, there are only a mad few of us who enjoy being so close to the fire."
Charlie's gaze was so steady that it was impossible to ignore the flirtation. Draco swallowed.
"The going theory about dragon nurses is that they increase their own food supply by caring for the dragons."
"They eat them?" Draco asked, momentarily forgetting his desire to sink into the earth.
"Oh, no," Charlie replied. "They like their eggs, so it's in their best interest to see to it that the dragons produce a consistent supply of them."
"In any case, I've been reading a lot about the nurses lately, including their possible connection to porlocks. Some naturalists believe that they're related—Lovegood, for one."
"Lovegood. Oh, Loo—una Lovegood." Shit. Draco couldn't bear thinking about her since she'd been his family's "guest."
Charlie grinned as if he knew nothing about Lovegood's history with Draco's family and said, "I find myself in a position to know more about porlocks than is helpful for any dragon biologist, but that's an occupational hazard when one reads as much as I do."
"Perhaps one day when Scorpius is older, you might want to bring him for a tour of the Preserve—and, of course, if ever you have need of someone with more than a passing knowledge of porlocks..."
Oh, Draco thought, standing a bit straighter. I think he's offering to help me with the porlocks.
The reflexive, momentary pang of suspicion that Draco felt regarding Charlie's motive to help him passed quickly because, while he was staring at Charlie's eyes, Charlie's gaze kept falling to his mouth. Charlie was obviously more subtle than most Weasleys, but he was charmingly upfront in his interest. As Draco had never even kissed a wizard before, however, he felt completely incapable of continuing their conversation, no matter the lengths to which Charlie had gone to debarrass him.
"Thank you for entertaining the children. I... I enjoyed our conversation." Flushing, Draco extended his hand and bit down on his cheek to prevent himself from groaning when Charlie's hold upon his hand lingered. "I'll remember what you said."
As if Draco had said something else entirely, Charlie murmured, "I'd like that."
In the weeks following the Greengrasses' party for Scorpius, Draco wanked himself raw. It was the only sexual release he could afford, really, as he wasn't the sort to take his pleasure with strangers and still found his newly accepted preference for men to be something of a marital betrayal—no matter that it had been Astoria who'd explained to him that he was homosexual.
"You don't fight with Potter at Ministry functions out of habit or spite. You fight with him because you want his arse."
In the entirety of their relationship, Draco had never heard Astoria say "arse," so it had come as a great shock to hear her using even more pointed and descriptive terms about just where his sexual preferences lay. He'd been incredibly offended, and they'd fought, but Astoria had won the fight not long afterwards with a rather disturbingly complex wand-altering charm and some Polyjuice. Was it "pegging" when one's wife wore the... face of one's enemy? Draco didn't care. Potter might have a nice arse, but the idea of fucking the bastard hadn't appealed to him.
What had appealed to him was being fucked by his wife when she was pretending to be Potter, or any of the other men she'd temporarily become for him.
He'd been blissful for months until the morning that he'd awoken to the sensation of breasts pressing into his back and Astoria whispering tearfully, "I can't do this anymore. I'll never be the lover you need."
"I'm sorry," he'd told her. "I wish I knew what I needed."
"And I wish it were me, but..."
Since their divorce and their son's subsequent meeting of Angus, Scorpius' Aethonon fixation had been replaced, briefly, by the desire to become a "dra'on wanger." The cheeky bugger had even managed, one afternoon while pretending to wrangle dragons, to set Mrs Greengrass' rose garden alight in a burst of spontaneous, uncontrolled magic. She hadn't taken it well, but Lucius had been more pleased about the incident than Draco thought decent.
That was only one of many reasons that he continued to avoid his father.
"He doesn't need to invite every female pureblood near Scorp's age over to play with him on his visits, you know," he told his mother, as they observed the impromptu gathering from the back terrace.
"'Scorp'?" asked Narcissa.
Draco flushed. "I'm a little tired."
Narcissa didn't press him about the sobriquet. "I imagine that you are. What possessed you to begin studying the Welds' herd? Mary wrote to me that you're even working in the stables."
Narcissa's tone could have frozen water, and her unspoken sentiment, You're embarrassing me, was clear.
"I like horses."
"I'm surprised that you do after what happened with Aria."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Nothing, dear. I shouldn't have said anything. Why don't you go play with—"
"What. Do. You. Mean. By. That?"
Narcissa sat back, obviously surprised by Draco's tone. "Why, only that she reacted so badly to your presence during her foaling that she kicked her foal to death, and would have, you, had not your father intervened."
Draco froze. His mind blanked. His anger, the anger he reserved for his father and kept buried, pushed out with a sickening warmth from the pit of his stomach to the ends of his tingling extremities. "Mother," he said from behind clenched teeth, "do you never stop to wonder if father has ever been honest with you? About anything?"
Before Narcissa could reply, Draco was out on the lawn where Lucius was giving a horsey ride to Scorpius as the other children looked on. Draco lifted his son off his father's back and strode into the house without a word, and by the time his parents had come in search of them, they were stepping through the Floo.
He'd never brought Scorpius to the cottage he'd been renting on the Welds' land. It was near the Aethonons' stables, and Draco hadn't wanted to get Scorpius' hopes up with regard to real flying horses. But he couldn't have remained at the manor another second.
"Your granfa doesn't like that I'm gay, Scorp," Draco said, before setting his son down.
"Scorp! Scorp, Scorp, Scorp!" Scorpius chanted, rolling around. "Soft."
As he watched Scorpius running his hands over the carpet, which was indeed very soft, Draco wondered, Why did I say that? He hadn't intended to; he'd barely even admitted to himself that he was gay. Well, he thought, running a hand through his hair, at least he didn't pick up on my use of—
Clapping his hands over his mouth in dismay, Draco winced to imagine what Astoria would say about their son's increased vocabulary upon his return to her.
"—so I spent the rest of the afternoon teaching him the words... for everything."
Charlie laughed. Draco liked the sound, deep and not in the slightest self-conscious. He wished he could be as at ease in Charlie's presence as Charlie obviously was in his, but he was rather proud of himself for having made the date with Charlie in a public house.
"So, you do realise that this is where your drinking escapade landed you the last time?"
Draco studied the fingernails of one hand pensively. "Wasn't completely sure, but..."
"Hey." Charlie's breath was suddenly warming Draco's face as he leant over the table. "I wasn't complaining, and I think—"
Me too, Draco thought, agreeing with Charlie's unfinished sentiment by kissing him back.
The kiss was brief but thorough: it made Draco harder than he could ever remember being and, oddly, cleared his mind. When Charlie sat back, Draco no longer had any doubts about what sort of lover he wanted.
Charlie's grin transformed into a satisfied smile. "Been wanting to do that for months—and I figured it might help ease your nerves."
"I'm not nervous."
"But you were."
Draco wanted to protest Charlie's assertion as a lie; it was what he would have done before his divorce. I don't want things to be like they were. I don't want to be like I was. "All right. Yes, I was. Nervous. I'm... I'm not nervous now, though."
"If I believed that," said Charlie, pausing to finish his drink, "then I'd take you back to my quarters and teach you every dragon mating call I know." He set the glass down and looked at Draco levelly. "But you're still a little nervous."
Flushing, Draco leant back in his own chair and tried to grin, but he found that neither the posture nor the expression suited him. Instead, he moved his chair around the table so that he could sit next to Charlie, and smirked when he felt their thighs press together.
If he was to begin a new life, he wanted to begin it honestly and without any posturing.
"Could I persuade you to tell me more about these dragon mating calls?" he asked, glancing sidelong at Charlie.
He was grinning again. "You could, and then if you like, you could tell me everything you've learnt about Aethonons."
"Astoria, Scorpius apes Lucius' behaviour. I can't have that. I don't want our son spending an entire month with the man!"
Astoria raised an eyebrow at Draco.
"Is it because I'm seeing Frederick?"
"No, of course not, but—"
"You don't want him to go to your parents while I'm on holiday, and you're completely opposed to his remaining at Grassington—but you're worried about Scorpius being at the cottage during foaling season. Just where do you think he should spend that time? The summers are yours, Draco."
"I know. It's just..."
"You can have Mavis. She'll look after Scorpius while—"
Astoria placed her teacup on the table and rose. "I don't know what's going on with you, and frankly, I don't care. I've only just started seeing Frederick, so it's out of the question that I bring Scorpius with us on holiday."
"Scorpius knows Charles quite well, however, so I don't understand why—"
"The cottage is small."
"You're a wizard. There are charms for silence."
"Don't look at me like that. You need to spend more time with your son, no matter that it might interrupt your chosen... avocation. Learn to balance things."
"You've only just started seeing Frederick, as you said, so why go anywhere with him? In that great pile, Scorpius would never see him if you arranged for him not to."
Astoria's smile was brittle as she retorted, "I'm sorry that you suffered an unpleasant scene with 'Lucius', but our son is not to be denied his time with you for any reason, especially one that you can't even articulate. If you don't want Mavis to accompany him, fine, but you should expect Scorpius soon."
Draco couldn't argue with Astoria. He couldn't find the words. It was just that with foaling season approaching, he was afraid. It was to be his first one, and even with Barty Weld's assistance, he was worried that he might do something wrong, something terribly wrong. He wanted to spare his son the distress of it. He never wanted Scorpius to see his fear.
Under Astoria's hard gaze—and when had she ever looked at him like that before?—Draco nodded. "I do want to see him."
"I know that you do, and so you shall. Again, it would be decent of you to allow your mother a visit if you won't permit Scorpius to go to the manor. Think on it." Astoria moved to kiss Draco's cheek and then left him without another word.
A mare's birthing groans met Draco's ears as he entered the Welds' foaling stable. "Barty?"
Barty Weld ducked his head out through the open upper door of a stall about halfway into the stable and said, "Come on back." When Draco had joined him, Barty continued, "Aurora's doing well, aren't you, girl? She's got her wings all tucked up nicely, she's drinking water, and she's still, as you can see, amenable to being handled."
"Shall I tend to her tail?"
"Yes, thank you."
Draco carefully wrapped the Aethonon's braided tail into a taut bunch to keep it away from her swollen vulva, which indicated, Draco knew, that she was almost ready to drop her foal. "I'm sorry it took me so long. I had to put Scorpius to bed."
"You left him up at the house?" Barty asked, petting Aurora's nose.
Draco moved to stand behind Barty as the mare snorted and stamped. "Easy, girl. I was going to, but Mum's given Scorpius the early birthday present of a house-elf."
"Really? That must have annoyed your ex's mum."
"Yeah. Er, Barty? Are you sure that I should be here?"
Barty shook his head. "Don't start. I know that your father had some... difficulties with his horses, but you've been working here long enough for me to know that they like you, and you know what to do."
"But the porlocks..."
Barty snorted. "I've never seen one. Hells, I wouldn't even believe in them if not for the state of Aurora's wings."
Draco followed Barty's gaze, noticing the delicately braided strands of straw that had been used to secure the wings. "You didn't do that?"
"No, indeed. Hunter sent for me when Aurora got going and then let her be. It was the porlocks who saw to her wings. I must have interrupted them before they got to her tail, but they're still here, and they'll be here after the birth to watch over our newest little family."
"I suppose that's due to you."
"And you, and every man and woman who tends these animals. Do you imagine I'd've allowed you to work here if it were otherwise? We love the Aethonons. Porlocks can sense that. If you were as bad as you thought you were, they'd have gone by now."
"But here the straw braids are," Draco murmured, running his fingers lightly over them.
Aurora suddenly danced sideways towards Draco, neighing loudly.
"Reckon it's about time," Barty said. "You ready?"
Draco swallowed. Being able to assist in a foaling was a crucial step towards keeping his own Aethonons, and no matter Barty's kind assertions as to his competence, Draco was still nervous. But only, he thought in surprise, a little. "Yes. Yes, I suppose I am ready."
The unexpected sound of something flying through the tack room startled Draco before the object struck his head. "Fuck!" Draco exclaimed, looking down.
It was a periodical. Picking it up, he saw that it was Flights of Greatness, a quarterly publication for Aethonon breeders. Shaking his head to clear it, he couldn't help but smile at himself as he and the other hands waved from the cover behind Barty. His smile faded, however, when he looked up and into Lucius' face.
"You're making yourself ridiculous."
Draco inwardly cringed against his father's disapproval, but he didn't apologise. "And here I thought I was merely taking after you. You liked horses once."
His nostrils flaring, Lucius gave a vague wave of his hand and said, "I wasn't speaking of this little fantasy of yours but the fact that you've allowed yourself to be photographed with him."
"So I have," Draco replied with feigned nonchalance, flipping to the offending picture in question. "At least he's a pureblood. That should please you."
"None of this pleases me!" Lucius shouted, suddenly looming over Draco, one hand squeezing the periodical as if it were a living thing and he were trying to throttle it. "You will not continue in this foolish dalliance of yours. I forbid it!"
Draco could admit it: he was frightened. Lucius in a towering, barely repressed rage was his least favourite Lucius, but the stupid way in which his father was behaving made him laugh. He couldn't think of one threat Lucius might make that would separate him from Charlie. The very idea of it was absurd.
"What do... you forbid? My happiness? Charlie's... Charlie's... cock in my arse?"
"Cease your vulgarity at once!" Lucius thundered. "You're a Malfoy! This behaviour is beneath you!"
Draco did stop laughing then, but only because breathing had become difficult. Wiping his face of Lucius' spittle, he glared at him.
"Don't you dare look at me like that, Draco, not when I've given you everything. Everything I've ever done was to protect you, to prepare you to live decently as befits—"
"Fuck you!" Draco circled his father. "How dare you come here and try to browbeat me about my life? I'm happy! I'm successful! I'm even," Draco continued, moving back in front of Lucius to look at him while pointing at the periodical, "sodding popular!"
The muscles in Lucius' neck corded, but he made no other movement.
"Is that it? Is it that I'm finding success in a way that you never did? No, it's that people like me, isn't it? People only tolerate you—even Mother only barely does."
Draco's last assertion was apparently too much for Lucius; he lunged at him, putting his fingers through the soft cotton of Draco's shirt, so violently did he seize him. "How dare you speak to me of your mother? You've broken her heart, you ungrateful, despicable poof!"
Lucius shook him, hard, and for one insane moment, Draco thought that he might have to kiss him. He didn't have his wand, and there was no way that he could best Lucius in a fair fight—and he knew that the fight wouldn't be fair if it came to that—but the employment of such a shock tactic proved unnecessary as the sound of childish wailing rose from just outside the door. Lucius released Draco at once and went to Scorpius; Draco sicked up and then rifled amongst the objects on the table behind him for his wand.
"There now, no crying," Lucius was saying, as Draco's fingers found his wand and silently applied a haberdashery charm to his shirt. "Crying is for the weak, but we needn't speak of it. I expect that you were startled."
"What's a 'poof', Granfa?"
"Oh, I have missed your questions, Scorpius, but now isn't the time for them."
"Look at me, Father."
Lucius turned to regard Draco, who lowered his wand arm just enough to keep his father's back between his wand and Scorpius' gaze.
Speaking to Scorpius while keeping his eyes locked on Lucius', Draco said, "It's all right, Scorp. Granfa was just upset because I wasn't feeling well. He thought I was being silly for not wanting his help."
"Is it your tummy?" Scorpius asked, his expression doubtful.
His heart pounding, Draco fought to control his breathing. "It was, but I'm all better. Now say goodbye to Granfa. He's going home."
Scorpius threw his arms around Lucius' neck. "Bye, Granfa!"
"Perhaps I should stay," Lucius said. "It wouldn't do to leave your Da without help when he so obviously requires it."
Draco couldn't see Lucius' expression, but he marvelled at the steadiness of his tone, if not its acidity.
"Oh, no. That won't do. What I have might be catching."
"Precisely my point."
"Goodnight, Father." Draco banished his sick and crossed his arms, keeping them relaxed in case the need to move quickly presented itself.
Lucius rose and took Scorpius' hand. "You'll walk me to the gate, Scorpius."
Scorpius giggled. "No," he said, pulling his hand free and walking to Draco. "You're a big boy, Granfa."
Draco wanted to cry as his son hugged his legs, but he didn't. Instead, he forced his expression to harden and flicked his wand at Lucius.
His father obeyed the unspoken order by Disapparating at once.
Oh, gods. Oh, fuck, thought Draco, feeling weak and sick and elated all at the same time as he knelt to embrace his son. "I love you, Scorp. You know that?"
"No, Da," Scorpius said, his expression irritated as he pulled away. "I'm Scorpius, 'member?"
When he'd been Scorpius' age, Draco would never have dreamt of gainsaying his father, not even about something as important as his own name; a tremendous sense of pride filled him. "Of course, you are," he agreed. "How silly of me to forget. I'm sorry."
"You are silly, Da," Scorpius replied, clumsily wiping the tears away from Draco's eyes. "And now you'll show me the horses."
"Please show me, Da?"
Draco smirked at how instantly contrite Scorpius made himself appear, what with the little head bob and upward glance he gave him.
The manipulative little sprite knows that he's adorable, he thought, rising and taking his son's hand. "Well, come on, then, Scorpius Malfoy."
Draco dreamt of horses, of foals slipping from the birth canals of their dams, of foals rising on shaking limbs, of foals stretching their wings for the first, tentative time. None of the subsequent foalings had exhausted Draco as much as Aurora's, whose filly had presented in the breech position. Patient adjustment had seen to it that Rainbow arrived without injury, and Barty Weld had ended up with seventeen healthy additions to his heard by the end of the season. The relief that Draco felt to have helped bring the foals safely into the world was overwhelming; he'd been so excited after the last one, which had occurred after Lucius had left, that he'd fire-called Charlie and talked to him for hours, toasting the success of each foal. He'd gone to bed suspecting that a headache would greet him the following morning.
He was half-right, as it turned out.
"Hey," a soft voice whispered in his ear.
"I said, no," Draco muttered, rolling away from the person bothering him.
"Actually, you said 'nmmh', but I suppose I understand."
Charlie? Draco thought, his eyes flying open. He turned over and peered blearily through dry eyes at Charlie, who was sitting on the edge of the bed holding a steaming mug. "That Pepper-Up?"
"Something like that."
Draco took the potion and drank it down; it made his tongue stop sticking to the roof of his mouth and everything stop hurting. Inexplicably, he said, "I fought with Lucius yesterday."
"What did he do now?"
"Lucius put his fucking hands on me, that's what he did," Draco said, rising and pulling on his previous day's clothing without even bothering with a cleaning charm. "He was furious about the article."
Charlie frowned. "Did he hurt you?"
"No, but he has no right to interfere in my life!"
Some emotion that Draco couldn't define flickered over Charlie's face. "You're not surprised that he tried to interfere, are you?"
Draco stopped buttoning his shirt and stared at Charlie for a moment. "Why are you always so calm?"
"You say that as if it were a bad thing." Charlie grinned and began undressing himself.
Draco was instantly hard. "Do you mind? I'm trying to be angry."
"You're so excited about the Aethonons that you can barely be angry, so let's shag."
By now, Charlie was nude, and Draco, conflicted. "I would love to, but Scorpius—"
"Is with the house-elf chasing garden gnomes." Charlie knelt before Draco and pulled down his denims. "Thought so," he said, before taking Draco's prick into his mouth.
"Mmm," Charlie hummed agreeably.
The unexpectedly loud crack! of an Apparation startled both of them, then; it was followed by a feminine call of "Draco? Where are you? Draco!"
"Mo—other, that's my—"
The bedroom door slammed and locked.
"Need a good fucking. Let her wait." Charlie cast a charm on the door, dropped his wand, and pushed Draco onto the bed. "Boundaries are good."
"What are you doing?" Draco demanded rather breathlessly, as Charlie lay down next to him and began smoothing a palm over Draco's leg.
"Touching you. Checking," Charlie answered throatily, his palm now ghosting up over Draco's hip to his chest. "No one should put his hands on you but me," he continued, tugging at one of Draco's nipples and then the other.
Draco thrust upward. "Oh, please. Please don't talk about my father now."
"Wouldn't... dream... of... it," Charlie whispered, in between nibbling his way up Draco's throat. "Love the way you smell, still musky from work."
Draco tried to touch Charlie, only to find his arms pinned over his head.
"Love the way you feel," Charlie told him, thrusting their hips together.
"Love the way you struggle."
Draco shivered violently.
"Fuck. Can't wait," Charlie muttered, before whispering a series of spells that left Draco tightly bound, fully nude, and thoroughly prepared. "Tell me what to do. I'll make it quick."
Draco almost laughed at Charlie's pretense of submission. "You'll make it good. Fuck me. Be rough."
The intensity with which Charlie went about "obeying" him was entirely unexpected.
"What... what was all that about?"
"Hmm?" Charlie murmured into Draco's hair.
Draco shifted out of the spooning position in which they'd ended up and rolled over. Still pensive, he thought. "You were... different just now."
"You did ask me to be rough."
"I know, but it started before the sex."
Charlie sighed. "You said that you didn't want your father interfering in your life."
"And I don't. Why does that surprise you?"
Charlie's lips twitched. He closed his eyes. "He was angry about the two of us, but..."
"Oh," Draco said, as realisation dawned. "Charlie, I didn't mean to imply that I don't think about us. I mean," he continued, sitting up, "I was just angry."
"I know." Charlie rolled over onto his back.
I don't think that you do. Draco leant forward and brought up his knees to hug them to his chest.
He hadn't thought about it much before, but in all the months that he and Charlie had been seeing each other, they'd never spoken of love. Being honest with himself, Draco wasn't sure what to think about that. He didn't know the... protocol for such things, and he'd been so busy trying to make himself useful and be a good father to Scorpius that he hadn't considered the finer feelings of the man he'd been fucking.
"I... like you, Charlie. You have to know that."
Charlie ran a hand up Draco's back. "Do you 'like' me enough to meet my family?"
"I know your family."
The hand dropped, and Charlie sat up, as well. "You know what I mean."
Silence fell between them; it was broken by a vase falling off the bureau by the door.
"Perhaps this isn't the time."
"Not with your mother shaking the walls, no, I suppose not. Accio wand!"
With a swish and a few flicks, Charlie ended the silence.
"Draco Malfoy, open this door! I know you're in there. Draco!"
Draco sat in bed, paralysed by the feeling that he'd done something wrong, something stupid, and by the fact that Charlie had clothed himself faster than he'd disrobed.
"I could leave by the window if you prefer."
"You just got here. You don't have to leave because of her."
Charlie moved to the window, opened it, and looked out. "Ah, that's some strong-looking ivy. This'll work."
"You don't have to leave by the window—and don't you want to see how the foals are coming along?"
Charlie looked over his shoulder at Draco and gave him a rueful grin. "I want a lot of things, love, but that's not your problem."
With that, Charlie was gone.
"Damn you, Draco! Let me in and tell me what you've done to your father!"
His mother's words shocked Draco into rising. Throwing on his robes, he charmed himself clean and threw open the door—only to catch his mother's fist in one hand.
"Oh!" Narcissa exclaimed, clapping her hands over her mouth as she realised that she'd almost inadvertently struck her son.
"Forgive me for startling you." Habitual politesse, among other things, kept Draco from demanding to know why his mother was taking on. "Would you care for some tea?"
"I've had enough tea today. What I wish to know is what you did to so upset your father," Narcissa said, following Draco into the kitchen.
"Disappointed him, but surely that shouldn't come as a surprise to you."
"Stop that. You have a house-elf," Narcissa said, as Draco went about the soothing ritual of making tea.
"Scorpius has a house-elf, and she's watching him. Besides, I'm not so useless that I can't make my own tea."
"No one said you were—"
Draco spun on his mother. "Stop it, please. We both know that he hates me."
"Nonsense! If that were true, he wouldn't have locked himself away. He wouldn't be..." Narcissa stopped speaking, as though she were about to reveal too much. Taking a deep breath and composing herself, she continued, "The discord between the two of you is breaking your father's heart."
"I don't care," Draco said, placing the teapot on the table and gesturing for Narcissa to sit down with him, which she did not. "I've my own heart to contend with, and I will not allow Lucius to break Scorpius'."
Draco stared at his mother, not even bothering to wipe a hand over his stinging face. She was trembling and near tears, but he couldn't allow himself to care about that, either.
"Your father," Narcissa said, emphasising the last word, "loves you dearly. You have always been his first concern."
"Lucius' first concern has always been Lucius. He's done nothing but lie to me my entire life, lie to me and withhold his affection unless I obeyed him. I've broken his heart? What do you call his forcing me to take the Mark?"
"You volunteered to do that," Narcissa said sharply.
"I was a child! I worshipped him! I was desperate for his approval and terrified that Voldemort would destroy him! What else was I supposed to have done?"
"What else were any of us supposed to have done?"
"Oh, I don't know, but perhaps something more than standing by while Lucius gave everything and everyone he had to a homicidal half-blood would have been nice."
"Ah, you think me a coward, as well."
"I don't know what you are. How can you stay with him?"
"I love him."
"That makes it right?"
"He is my husband. He is my family. Family is everything, Draco."
"You're wrong, Mother. Lucius doesn't have a father's heart. He's a coward—and I won't have him teaching his fear to my son."
"I see." Narcissa wiped her eyes. "What of your fear?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Does your Mr Weasley enjoy being made to hide?"
"I don't hide him! That's why father's so furious with me!"
"Bipsy told me that he was here. Is he still?"
"Well, no, but—"
"Ah, out the window then?"
Narcissa continued, "I don't know Charles Weasley, but I assume that being made to feel as though his lover were ashamed of him isn't going to strengthen the bond between you. You've accused your father of a great deal, but one thing that he has never done is make me feel as though I were unworthy of him."
"I haven't done that to Charlie," Draco protested, although his conscience nagged at him. I didn't try very hard to stop him from leaving, did I?
"Perhaps this," Narcissa said, pausing to sweep her gaze over the kitchen and then back to Draco, "isn't a phase or your way of punishing your father. Perhaps you do enjoy living... casually and among the horses you love so much. I don't care. I know that you don't believe me, but it's true: I don't care how you live so long as you're safe and well and happy, but you'll never be completely happy until you stop making choices that go against what you perceive to be your father's wishes and start making them entirely based on your own."
"I'm not with Charlie to spite Father!"
Taking a deep breath, Narcissa smiled.
Draco shook his head. "Is that what you think I'm doing? Engaging in some sort of silly rebellion?"
"I don't know what you're doing anymore because you don't trust me enough to tell me. I only know that you're angry and hurt and confused, and I hate seeing you like this." Narcissa reached down and smoothed back Draco's fringe from his face before caressing the side of it she'd slapped.
Draco leant into her touch, not certain what to say in response to his mother's unspoken apology; he might tell her that she was forgiven, but he knew that, under the circumstances, she'd never believe him. After a long quiet moment, he sat up again.
Narcissa sighed. "I can see you won't be persuaded upon the subject of your father."
"Well, then I'd best get back to him."
Once his mother had left, Draco found himself wondering how he was going to get Charlie back; there had been something rather final about the way in which Charlie had gone.
But Charlie hadn't gone, Draco discovered, when Bipsy brought Scorpius back to the cottage for lunch and Charlie followed them into the kitchen.
"Da! Charlie's here!"
Draco reached down to ruffle Scorpius' hair. "Inside voice—and go wash your hands."
"Bipsy can spell them clean, Master Draco."
Scorpius rolled his eyes. "No. Washing's a rule."
Charlie chuckled as Scorpius scampered off with Bipsy following him. "Mum never would use charms for that sort of thing, either. Said it encouraged laziness."
Draco smiled and went back to stirring his curry. "You stayed."
"Well, I decided that I did want to see how the foals were going on after all," Charlie replied, sitting down at the kitchen table. "That smells good."
"You say that now."
"Your curries are passable."
"My curries are excellent."
"I just like watching you cook, doesn't matter what," Charlie murmured, as Scorpius came racing back into the room and temporarily altered the conversational direction.
Draco found himself incredibly grateful, over the next hour or so, for Horklumps and garden gnomes.
Nap time proved to be something about which to be grateful, as well, because Charlie spent it with him.
"I like having you here," Draco whispered, running a hand lazily up and down Charlie's bare chest.
"No, truly," Draco said, pushing himself up so that he could look down into Charlie's eyes, "and it wasn't that I didn't want you to meet my mother. I was just—"
"You don't have to explain yourself to me. I'll take what you can give."
For some reason, Charlie's assertion annoyed Draco. "Will you? Even if I'm not giving you what you want?"
"What in Merlin's name makes you think that?"
"Well, you left. Through the window."
"I didn't want to get in the way of a family situation."
"Charlie, you are... you're with me, but why? I know the sex is good, but—"
"Ha! No shortage of self-confidence there."
Sitting up into a cross-legged position, Draco declared, "I'm attempting to have a serious conversation with you."
"All right," Charlie said, sitting up, as well. "Have it."
"Why are you with me?"
"Besides the excellent sex?" Charlie asked, placing a finger against Draco's lips before he could issue an annoyed retort. "Because I want to be. You may have missed it, but I'm a relatively simple sod, and I've arranged my life in such a way as to indulge my desires without respect to anyone else's wishes. I'm selfish."
"Yes, of course you are," Draco replied, feeling vaguely disappointed.
As if he could sense what he was feeling, Charlie told Draco, "Today isn't a day for declarations. You've a lot to consider."
He never pushes me, Draco thought. "I don't deserve you."
"I think I get to decide that, actually."
Draco smirked. "I suppose that you do."
"May I ask you a serious question?" Charlie asked, taking Draco's hand and massaging his palm.
"Did you ever find your porlocks?"
The Durdle Door was as impervious to the crashing waves as ever as Draco walked the slope above it and scanned the horizon.
He still wasn't certain if they existed. He'd read that book of Lovegood's in which she described them in painstaking detail, but the level of detail in Common Unseen British Fauna was the same as that in Lovegood's children's book, Fred the Fragwump Takes a Bath. No matter how much Scorpius loved and believed in the mythical water creatures who helped kind children have fun and get clean in the bath, Draco could hardly credit their existence, either. Of course, Lovegood had proved the existence of the Crumple-Horned Snorkack, but the reality of Snorkacks and some bits of braided straw of unverifiable provenance weren't enough to support the existence of porlocks.
Lucius' furious face rose in his mind. "Stop pestering me about the damned horses! If you'd obeyed me and hadn't almost got yourself killed, we'd still have porlocks about to tend them!"
Oh, yes, it was my fault, wasn't it? thought Draco in sarcastic disbelief; his experience with the Welds' horses had shown him that if, in fact, porlocks existed, they didn't object to him.
It wasn't the porlocks leaving that had so upset Draco as a child; it was the fact that Lucius had all but abandoned him after sending Aria away. Oh, he'd still been present enough in Draco's life to criticise and instruct him, but Lucius had stopped playing with him after Mina's death. He'd never comforted Draco about it, nor answered his questions about where Aria and the other Aethonons had been sent. Mina wouldn't even have had a name if old Hedley, their head groom, hadn't shown Draco where he'd buried her and urged him to give her one.
The trampling incident had been the reason that Draco was never permitted a familiar. "You're not to be trusted with animals," Lucius had said, "and your mother finds them too dangerous for you."
Draco crossed his arms and turned away from the salty wind blowing against his face, blinking to clear his eyes. That was his father, always blaming everything on someone else. In spite of that, however, Draco found that he missed the Lucius who had once told him silly stories. He missed tumbling out of bed and, if his parents' bedroom door would open for him, joining Lucius as he performed his morning ablutions.
Never used a shaving charm, Draco remembered, smiling to recall how his father had taught him to use a magically blunted blade upon his smooth face, sometimes even conjuring faux whiskers for him to shave.
They'd been together every moment of every day that Lucius could spare for the first eight years of Draco's life, and then... and then it had only been for meals and just before bed that Draco had seen Lucius, and not always at those times. His mother had told him—with a bitterness that he hadn't noticed as a child but could easily recognise as an adult reviewing those discussions—that his father was engaging in "important work," but that hadn't been enough to make Draco forgive Lucius for all he'd pretended otherwise; he'd been too busy grieving the loss of his living father. It was as though their relationship had died the day that Mina had.
I miss my Da.
The realisation dawned upon Draco with such startling clarity that he had to sit down; in fact, he had to lie down, and this he did, making himself comfortable in the high grass, which served to protect him from the buffeting wind.
He missed his father, but it didn't matter. Too much had happened. No matter what his mother said, Draco knew that Lucius despised him and that he would never accept Charlie.
And Lucius is still Lucius. He can't be permitted to influence Scorpius the way that he did me.
As Scorpius' father, he forbade it. His son, Draco decided, would grow up to be his own man, not a Malfoy.
Charlie's life in Romania was almost as complete as Draco's was in Dorset. Draco couldn't think how to bridge the lives they'd chosen for themselves any better than they already had. Neither of them would wish to live where the other did; that would be impossible, and they saw each other often enough, didn't they?
No, I don't think we do.
Draco couldn't imagine his life without Charlie. He idly wondered if he would still feel the same way if he and Charlie did see each other every day and decided that he would; Charlie was entirely too accommodating for matters to be otherwise, and the deed was done, wasn't it?
Charlie's family. Scorpius believes that as much as I do. Draco sat up. "Shit."
How had that happened? Just when had Draco decided that he'd known Charlie long enough to make him a part of his son's life? He didn't know; things had just happened so easily. It was as though Charlie had always been a part of their lives—just as Lucius always had been.
Scorpius loves Charlie and Lucius both.
There was no way that Draco could be so cruel as to keep Scorpius away from Granfa.
I've got to find a way to deal with, no, to accept, Lucius, don't I?
What kind of father would he be if he did otherwise?
Assistance with Draco's finding a way to include Lucius in Scorpius' life again came months later and from an unexpected quarter. He and Scorpius were standing in Charlie's house on the Preserve, having just stepped through the Portdoor that Draco had commissioned from George Weasley. Well, he was standing in Charlie's house; Scorpius was half there and half at home by turns by virtue of sticking his upper body through the Portdoor and pulling it back out again to marvel at its magic.
"Amazing thing, that," Charlie said, laughing by the cooker.
"Da!" Scorpius exclaimed, then, as he pulled his head out of the Portdoor for the umpteenth time. "Uncle Barty's here!"
"In our kitchen?"
"Yes. He wants to talk to you."
"Come over here, Scorp," said Charlie. "You can hold the platter for me while I take the sausages out of the pan." He grinned at Draco. "We'll keep breakfast warm for you."
Draco favoured Charlie with a loving smile and then stepped back into his own kitchen to find Barty at the table. "Good morning. Shouldn't you be at the auctions?"
"I was, but something came up. Have you a moment?"
"Of course." Draco sat down and looked at Barty expectantly.
"It's to do with your Aethonons."
"My what? But I don't own any Aethonons."
"You do now," Barty replied, pushing an envelope at Draco.
Draco opened it and pulled out several bills of sale. "Starshine, Moonglow, Zeus' Wrath, Hermes..." Draco stopped reading the Aethonons' names and looked up after counting the receipts. "There are enough horses here to—"
"Allow you to keep and develop quite a healthy herd of your own. Your father was very generous."
Draco's eyes widened and he flicked his eyes to the bottom of one of the bills of sale. The signature of the buyer was indeed his father's.
"Now then, do you wish to keep your horses here, or will you and your father be reopening the Malfoy stables?"
"Barty, I don't know what to say. I had no idea that Lucius was going to—"
"Might I impose upon you to stop saying that?"
"'Lucius' when you mean 'Father'. To say otherwise makes you sound like an ill-bred brat."
"My own father was an abject horror, but he was still 'Father' to me, and in spite of any difficulties we faced with regard to one another's... choices, I was always conscious of what I owed him. But for him, I would not enjoy the life I now lead."
Barty's unspoken implication that Draco would not be in a position to take the next step in his own life without his father's gift was not lost upon him. That gift didn't necessarily mean that all was forgiven, but Draco didn't wish to appear ungrateful to Barty, to whom he owed so much. "I'll try not to offend you in that way again, but I believe that I need some time to consider matters."
"Take all the time you need. I admit, I'll be sorry to see you go if that's your decision, but I'll accept it." Barty rose and extended his hand, which Draco rose to accept. "You're a decent man, Draco Malfoy."
Draco stood there for a long time after Barty had left, not moving until he heard Charlie say, "Fabulously amazing and expensive magical portal or no, your breakfast is getting cold. If I put another warming charm on it, the sausages won't be fit to eat. You all right?"
"He... he approves of me, Charlie."
Charlie slipped the bills of sale from Draco's fingers and whistled. "That's love, that is."
"Do you think so?"
"'Course I do. You're his son."
Draco sniffed and turned to embrace Charlie. "I don't know what to do now. I can't take the horses to the manor, can I?"
"I don't see why not. It would give the porlocks something to do."
"What's a porlock?" asked Scorpius.
"Where's Lu—Father?" Draco asked his mother, when he found her in the library.
"Resting. It's been... difficult for him."
Narcissa closed her book. "Draco, your father's been recovering from the reversal of the Morsmordre since just after your argument."
"What? But that's insane! We were told it would kill us if we tried to remove the Mark!"
"Yes, but your father was under the impression that any breeding of horses could not occur here so long as the outward manifestation of his... mistakes remained, and I believe he would have told you all that himself had you cared enough to see him. When he left me at the auctions with Bartholomew this morning, I thought he might be going to, but—"
Draco's eyes widened. "You were there? With Barty? And Father left?"
Narcissa smiled. "He's here now. Perhaps you'd like to see him?"
Lucius is still Lucius, isn't he? "That's why I've come."
"Well, I'm sure you'll find our door unwarded."
His parents' door wasn't even closed when Draco reached their suite.
"Porlock Place is a fine name," Draco overheard Lucius telling Charlie, as he and Scorpius showed him into the stables, "if a bit silly."
"Yes, well," Draco rejoined, "it was you who introduced me to Portly the Porlock when I was a child." Having finished grooming Rainbow, he led the yearling back into her stall. "And now that construction's complete, I needed a good name for our home."
Barty had sold Draco the land upon which his newly renovated cottage stood, plus several of the surrounding parcels. Malfoy manor had been too small, he and his father had decided, for two masters.
"The porlocks like the name, Da," Scorpius asserted.
"Surely you're too old to believe in porlocks," Lucius said to Scorpius.
"Be mindful of your choice of tone, please," Charlie told Scorpius, ruffling his hair.
"Tones, I have them."
Draco cleared his throat. "Scorpius, if you're not old enough to speak respectfully to your elders, then you're not old enough to go horseback flying."
Charlie laughed, presumably at Scorpius' crestfallen expression. "Be nice and you still can."
Quite recovered, Scorpius took Lucius' hand and pulled him farther into the stables. "Help me decide which horse to ride with Da, Granfa?"
"Very well," Lucius replied, the sobriety of his tone belied by the smirk on his face.
"I can't believe I'm going to let him come up with me. He'll be after his own broomstick next."
"About that," Charlie said, wrapping an arm around Draco. "What with Christmas coming, I've been doing a bit of shopping..."
"Astoria thought it was a fine idea, and isn't it better that he learns from us and not from one of his friends' parents? You know the Notts are allowing Bertram and Beckett to ride already."
"So much for trips to Bertram and Beckett's," Draco answered.
"Why can't I ride Rainbow, Da?"
Lucius answered before Draco could. "You know perfectly well why not. She's not strong enough to support a rider. What did we discuss about the growth of an Aethonon's bones?"
Draco smirked. "That's going to take a while."
"Good," Charlie said, pulling Draco into an empty stall. "More than enough time for a quick snog."
The stall's door closed. A familiar silence descended upon it.
"If you just want a snog," Draco said, his hands on Charlie's arse, "then why are you unbuttoning your trousers?"
"Don't worry." Charlie went to work on Draco's buttons. "I'll make it quick."
"You'll make it good."
Charlie laughed. "Don't I always?"
A little while later as he and Charlie were composing themselves, Draco found that a simple finger brush of his hair couldn't straighten it. "Straw," he said, bending into the light of Charlie's wand so that Charlie could remove it.
"Not quite straw, love. Look." Charlie placed something into the palm of Draco's hand.
It was a braid, a straw braid of known provenance.
"Charlie... we've porlocks!"
"'Course we do. We love horses, and we're home."